Making Future Industries

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3D Printed Fins for Surfboards 

The Project

GC Crinkle cut finsSurfing is an iconic sport that is extremely popular in coastal regions, including the South Coast of NSW in Australia. The Illawarra is a hotbed of surfers and surfboard makers.

Current surfboard fin manufacturers produce high end products using an expensive injection moulding process to create hydro-foil shaped fins. This process, however, does not allow for easy customisation or rapid prototyping. Creating custom fins is a time consuming and costly process that is difficult to commercialise.

This project addresses the Global Challenge of Manufacturing Innovation by developing surfboard fins using a performance feedback loop. This loop involves the unique combination of computational fluid dynamics, computer aided design, 3D printing, stiffness/flex testing, ocean testing (surfing the waves), embedded sensors / wearables, the Internet-of-Things, machine learning and surfers’ perceptive experiences.

We have already established that additive manufacturing (3D printing) is a viable alternative for manufacturing surfboard fins. For example, it allows for the rapid prototyping and testing of new fin shapes, including optimising fin shapes on a daily cycle.

The expected outcomes of this project include (but are not limited to) creating a product cycle that allows for rapid testing (including performance analysis) of surfboard fins, enabling the design of fin shapes with improved performance relative to those commercially available.


Macaronis Surf Resort - Wollongong University Research Team

The team stayed at Macaronis recently to test a range of new 3D printed surfboard fins. Macaronis was chosen as the ocean laboratory due to the mechanical and consistent quality of the wave. This video explains the design and the science behind it.


How 3D printing could revolutionise the sport of surfing

As UOW researchers bring additive manufacturing to surfboard design, surfers could create their own custom fins. Researchers have designed a performance feedback loop to test fins in real life conditions in an 'ocean laboratory', find out more in the following video.

3D printed fins tested on surf break in Indonesia

Ever dreamed of surfing some of the world best surf breaks all in the name of research? That’s exactly what the team did on a recent trip to Macaronis in the Mentawai Islands located off Sumatra in Indonesia.

The task for the team of six surfers and three researchers was to surf test new shapes of 3D printed surfboard fins.

3D printed fins take surfing to the next level

Professor Marc in het Panhuis on how 3D printing surfboard fins can help researchers rethink current surf fin designs and manufacturing techniques in order to create new shapes, sizes and materials that are more efficient and tailored to the individual surfer’s needs and the waves they ride. Video courtesy of Paul Jones, UOW 

Materials researchers hit the surf with 3D printed fins

Within a matter of hours, the research team can dream up and build an entirely new fin design using materials that match the properties of mass produced fins, the team can make functional parts on demand and test them almost immediately on the NSW South Coast.


Chasing the perfect surfboard through data collection

Surfers spend a lifetime chasing the perfect wave. But what about the perfect surfboard with the perfect, customised fins? Hear how 3D printing is revolutionising the sport through the collection of data. This podcast was created as part of the SMART Podcast Series.

In The Media

3D Printed Fins Revolutionising Surfing, 3dimensions (South Korea), July 2018

3D Printed Surfboard Fins Help Surfers Optimise Performance and Capture Additional Waves, MakerGo 3D Printer (India), July 2018

3D printed surfboard fins help surfers optimise performance and capture extra waves, 3Dsishu (China), July 2018

3D Printing to Convert Surfing, News RND (Vietnam), July 2018

3D Printed Fins Help Surfers Catch the perfect Wave and May Signal a Revolution in the Sports Industry, Centrum Druku 3D (Poland), July 2018

Surfboards printed in 3D help surfers optimise performance and capture the best waves, Print in 3D (Italy), July 2018

Kiama surfers set out to Indonesia to combine wave riding and research, Kiama Independent, July 2018

3D printing, the future of surfing, The Stand, July 2018

Crinkle cuts and the great Macaroni fin experiment, Swellnet, July 2018

3D printed surfboard fins help surfers optimise performance and catch extra waves, 3ders, July 2018

'Crinkle Cut' And 3D-Printed? Surely It Ain't Surfing, Stab Magazine, July 2018

You can forget chips. Crinkle cut fins are the next best thing, Win News, July 2018

3D printed fins to transform surfing, Sydney Morning Herald, July 2018

Surfers hang ten with 3D printed fins, Sun Herald (page 17), July 2018

3D-printed fins to transform surfing, Canberra Times, July 2018

Radio Interview, Mornings with Nick Rheinberger Program, 8.30 am news bulletin, ABC Illawarra Radio, July 2018

Test run for 3D-printed fin, lllawarra Mercury (front page and page 7), July 2018

UOW Fin Research, Waxheads, July 2018

Surf, 9 News Illawarra, March 2018

3D Printed Fins for Surfboards, Digital Living Lab, Oct 2017

3D Printing looks to grow with Digital Living Lab, UOW EIS News, Oct 2017

Using Math to Make More ‘Uplifting’ Surfboard Fins, Inside Science, 31 Aug, 2017

3D printers are taking surfing to the next level, with researchers from UOW printing fins for surfboards, Channel 9, August 15, 2017

Radio New Zealand, ThisWayUp, Technology Program, 29 June 2017

ABC Radio South East, Breakfast with Simon Lauder, 26 June 2017

Talking Lifestyles radio station, Talking Technology Program, 21 June 2017

Surfing the 3D printing wave: the changing face of surfboard fin production, The Conversation, 16 June 2017

Customized 3D printed surfboard fins by the University of Wollongong researchers - 3D Printing from Scratch, May 18, 2016

Personalised 3D printed surfboard fins - Springwise, May 17, 2016

3D printed surfboard fins take surfing to the next level - UOW Newsroom, May 4, 2016

Wollongong Uni's Marc in het Panhuis researches science of surfboard fins - The Australian, May 4, 2016

Australian researchers create 3D printed surfboard fins - The World Industrial Reporter, May 4, 2016

3D printed customized surfboard fins will help surfers optimize performance and catch extra waves, 3Drs, May 4, 2016

University of Wollongong Researchers Plan to Ride the Waves with 3D Printed Surfboard Fins,, May 4, 2016

Aussie scientists print new surfboard fins - Australian Geographic, May 5, 2015

DP Surfboards working with UOW research team - Illawarra Mercury, May 5, 2016

3D-printed surfboard fins shape the future of customized rides - Gizmag, May 3, 2016

3D-printed fins help surfers fine tune performance - GrindTV, May 6, 2016


Additive Manufacturing, Modeling and Performance Evaluation of 3D Printed Fins for Surfboards,Volume 2, Issue 16 (Processing and Manufacturing) 2017 , pp. 913-920, Reece D. Gately, Stephen Beirne, Geoff Latimer, Matthew Shirlaw, Buyung Kosasih, Andrew Warren, Julie R. Steele and Marc in het Panhuis DOI:  

The Researchers

3D Fins_Researchers2This project brings together experts in materials science, human geography, engineering, biomechanics, 3D printing, computer aided design, computational fluid dynamics, Internet-of-Things, data mining and surfing.

Professor Marc in het Panhuis
is the leader of the project and is in the School of Chemistry and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials, and a Professor of Materials Science

Professor Julie Steele is the deputy-leader of the project and the Director of the Biomechanics Research Laboratory in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health

James Forsyth is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Julie Steele in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.

Paul Jones is a photo-journalist and is in the UOW Media Unit.

Dr Andrew Warren is a lecturer in Human Geography in the faculty of Social Sciences

A/Prof Buyung Kosasih is the School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering in the faculty of Engineering Information Sciences.

Dr Alhoush El-Shahomi is in the School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering in the faculty of Engineering Information Sciences and was part of the project during 2017.

Dr Stephen Beirne is a Research Fellow at UOW's Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI)

Grant Barnsley is a Fabrication Technician at UOW’s Australian National Fabrication Facility node. He is responsible for CAD and 3D printing of the fins and associated materials.

Professor Pascal Perez is the Director of UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.

Dr Mehrdad Amirghasemi is an intelligent systems design specialist and is in UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.

Dr Benoit Passot is an Internet of Things Coordinator in UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.

Dr Johan Barthelemy is a data specialist and is in UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.

Fletcher Thompson is the lead Additive Fabrication Officer at UOW's Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI). Fletcher was part of the project during 2015.

Dr Reece Gately completed his PhD under the supervision of Prof Marc in het Panhuis as part of this project. Reece worked on 3D printing and was part of the project during 2015-2016.

Dr Matthew Berryman is a data specialist at UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. and was part of the project during 2017.

Hugo Henris is a student at the University of Namur (Belgium) and is part of the project during 2018 working on data analysis.

Matt Shirlaw is a software developer and was part of the project during 2015-2016.

Geoff Latimer is the coordinator of the Illawarra Sports High School Talented Surfing Program and was instrumental in the conception of the project. He was one of the main testers for the first 3D printed prototypes.

Surfboard partner: DP Surfboards (Thirroul, NSW, Australia) DP Surfboards began as a backyard operation in the 1990's and has grown to become one of Wollongong and the South Coast's elite surfboard brands.


Surfing Team Members:

3D Fins_Surfers

Last reviewed: 26 September, 2018