Manufacturing Innovation

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3D Printed Fins for Surfboards 

The Project

3D Fins_AboutSurfing is an iconic sport and particularly popular in coastal regions, including the South Coast of NSW. The Illawarra is a hotbed of surfers and surfboard makers.

Current surfboard fin manufacturers have high end products based on an expensive mold making based on injection molding to produce conventional hydro-foils with straight edges that have limitations associated with performance. This process does not allow for any customisation. Creating custom fins is a time consuming and costly process that is difficult to commercialise.

This project addresses the Global Challenge of Manufacturing Innovation, through the design and development of surfboard fins inspired by nature.

It aims to: (1) establish additive manufacturing (3D printing) as a viable alternative for manufacturing surfboard fins; and (2) investigate the association between surfer’s subjective perceptions and quantitative biomechanical data on how the fins affect their performance. In other words, are surfers’ subjective opinions on fin performance consistent with the quantitative measurements provided by biochemical data taken from sensors placed on the surfers.

The information gleaned from this experiment will help to create custom fins with improved performance relative to those commercially available. Bio-inspired design considerations will be central to this project. 


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 

The Researchers

3D Fins_Meet the researchersThis project brings together experts in materials science, human geography, engineering, biomemechanics, 3D printing and surfing. 

Professor Marc in het Panhuis is in the School of Chemistry and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials, and the Associate Dean (International) for the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health

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

Dr Prabuono Buyung Kosasih is the School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering in the faculty of Engineering Information Sciences

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

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

Fletcher Thompson is the lead Additive Fabrication Officer at UOW's Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) 

Geoff Latimer is an external partner in this project. Geoff is the Surfing Program Co-ordinator at Illawarra Sports High School 

Last reviewed: 6 December, 2016

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