Zachary Ostroff and Imperial College London’s Dr. Nathaniel Petre. The board they designed is made from different materials including recycled plastic panels (near the fin) combined with algae and resin panels. Photo: ©Imperial College London

A3D-printed surfboard that is comparably cheaper to make, more durable and more sustainable than most conventional surfboards has been developed at the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London.

With seed funding from NASA, Imperial researcher Dr. Nathaniel Petre and his colleagues in the USA created the surfboard from a material derived from an invasive diatomic algae, along with a nontoxic resin made of lactic acid derived from plant sugars. The material, manufactured by Algix, can be used with Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) type 3D printers to make objects like a surfboard.

“It is really satisfying to think that we can take an invasive lake algae, which is literally sucking the air and life out of lakes in the USA and use it as a sustainable material for surfboard manufacture,” said Dr. Petre. “What is evident from this pilot project is that not only is there a potential future for printed boards, but that there’s an opportunity to print more things from waste or compostable material provided you have a big enough printer.”

The team dubbed the prototype surfboard the Dolphin Board of Awesome. Dr. Petre’s colleague Zachary Ostroff is currently trialing the Dolphin Board of Awesome along with the beaches in northern and southern California.

Using 3D printing to make surfboards, says Dr. Petre, opens up new possibilities to make more complex surfboard designs that mimic qualities of aquatic creatures. For instance, the physical factors that give dolphins the ability to glide and surf waves could be incorporated into designs to optimize how a surfer controls their board in different conditions.

For the current prototype, sections of the board were printed and then later assembled. However, Dr. Petre recently won a grant from the Imperial College Hackspace as part of their Enterprise Boost funding initiative which will enable him to develop a 3D printer that can manufacture bigger items.

Ultimately, this will enable Dr. Petre and the team to print a surfboard in one go, which has advantages in terms of speed and ease of construction.

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