3D printing the skateboard of the future

The recent Innoskate event supported by Formlabs and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge served to remind us that skateboarding is still waiting for the great 3D printing revolution. Alongside Paul Schmitt, the ‘Godfather’ of skate deck manufacturing, Rodney Mullen, a professional skateboarder, was one of the key speakers at the event.

Back in the days when skateboarding wasn’t much more than an extension of surfing, Mullen founded the flatland ollie and the kickflip which are now considered the bare basic tricks of skateboarding. As the sport is constantly evolving, the shape, materials and set up of the boards are moving with it. In order to keep moving forward, the skateboard manufacturing industry will be watching to see to what 3D printing can bring to the game.

Gif above shows skateboarder Nigel Jones performing a trick on a fully 3D printed skateboard by SD3D Printing. Clip is taken from YOU MAKE IT WE SKATE IT EP 43 by Braille Skateboarding Oct 5, 2016.

In 3DPI’s article from August this year, we took a look at the 3-year history of 3D printing for skateboard wheels, finding that a simple wheel printed in plastic just isn’t strong enough. From there the technology has developed to integrate 3D printed gears that serve as bearings, and modify the materials used to make the wheels ‘squishy’ and capable of withstanding the pressure of an ollie. Still, it seems that a 3D printed skateboard that functions as well as one manufactured the conventional way is almost possible.

A Metal 3D Printed Steel Skateboard Wheels from Imperial & Machine Tool Co
Metal 3D printed steel skateboard wheel (right) from Imperial & Machine Tool Co. compared to a typical wheel (left). Right shows wheel with movable bearing parts.

Innoskate events are tied around the idea of inspiring the next generation of innovators. The trophy for the best trick competition in October was a 3D print of ‘The Skateboard of the Future’ drawn by an 8-year-old at the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, Formlabs weren’t able to make it fly through time.

The Skateboard of the Future designed by a child alongside its 3D digital render Image via: Formlabs
The Skateboard of the Future designed by James, aged 8, alongside its 3D digital render. Image via: Formlabs
(Center) Winner of the Best Trick Skateboarding competition holding his 3D printed trophy.
(Center) Winner of the Best Trick competition holding the 3D printed trophy.

When speaking to Schmitt who has been making skateboards for over 40 years, Formlabs heard how the future of skateboards sits in children’s hands;

They’ve got to be willing to work hard enough. It’s not just the fantasy of ‘let me push the button and my magic part that I imagined is going to come out.’ They’ve got to figure out how to make that 3D file, and they’ve got to build good surfaces, and it’s not so easy as you want it to be. But at the same time, it is very easy, if you’ve developed those skills and you want to develop those skills.

If you fancy a go at 3D printing one of your own skateboards there are wheel models available on MyMiniFactory, and a model for a Penny Board by Simone Fontana, the plastic skateboard equivalent that has had decidedly more success. Additionally, if you think of any ways to improve on these designs, it also isn’t too late to enter Autodesk’s Design by Capture competition – though entries for round one close tonight!

The 3DNA [Penny] Board by Simone Fontana. Image via: MyMiniFactory
The 3DNA [Penny] Board 3D printed by Simone Fontana. Image via: MyMiniFactory
Featured image shows Paul Schmitt the ‘Godfather’ of skate deck manufacturing at the Innoskate event in Massachusetts, via: Formlabs.