One of the best situations in which 3D printing shines is when it can solve a problem — pretty much on demand — that is otherwise unsolvable. Now don’t get me wrong it is not a cure-all solution to the world’s problems, and this following story by no means portrays a problem that would have lasting repercussions had it not been solved, however, it is representative of one of the cool advantages of the technology — building replacement parts for common products.
This particular story comes from 3D Innovations, the team from which I consider to be amongst the luckiest people I’ve come across in 3D printing land as they are full-on 3D printing enthusiasts and they live and work in Hawii! One of the favourite past-times of those fair islands is, unsurprisingly, surfing, and the problem here arose from the need to source replacement parts for a surfboard ahead of a weekend at the beach full of Stand Up Paddling (SUP). The surfer in question was prepping his board only to discover that his fins were badly damaged and no longer fit for purpose. Having tried his local surf shop — out of stock of the fins and currently on back order — he tried other shops with similar results. Weekend plans seemingly frustrated, surfer boy remembers a friend that told him about 3D printing….
Local 3D printing service providers can be a Godsend in many situations, and so it proved in this instance, backed by the necessary design skills, 3D printing experience and materials knowledge. 3D Innovations was able to design and build customised fins for the SUP Board — the fins were designed using 3D CAD and 3D printed using production grade thermoplastic material on a Stratasys machine.
Once the 3D printing process was complete, the fins were removed and installed onto the paddle board. To ensure the durability and strength, these fins were actually tested in waters off Oahu (Hawaii). And while it is hard to measure a difference in performance, the fins did provide an alternative to off-the-shelf parts, were easily customized to fit the specific model of the SUP board and were produced on an industrial grade 3D printer.
However, as my conscience dictates, I will yet again refer to a couple of opinions I share on this subject, as to when and why it is not always advisable to use entry level 3D printers for replacement components — one by Graham Tromans and one by Al Dean. These have been around a while, but as of today, they still hold a great deal of weight!
Source: 3D Innovations