Harnessing the power of both sea and wind, five kite-surfers are attempting to cross the Bristol Channel in a world’s first, while their competitors aim to reach the same destination overland by car.
The team’s unique kitesurfing boards were produced by 3D printing using a Fortus 3D Production System by Stratasys. The former students leveraged their product design expertise to completely re-design and manufacture a one-of-a-kind kitesurfing board for greater control, speed and technical reliability using 3D printing.
“The use of 3D printing in product design, and especially in the extreme sports market, is revolutionizing the manufacturing process and the speed to which companies can bring new products to market. We wanted our students to witness this first hand,” said Ross Head, Product Design Manager for Cerebra at the University of Wales TSD Swansea, and one of the challenge kite-surfers.
To improve performance for the task, the team overhauled traditional kitesurfing boards and redesigned from the fins up with unique details to stand up to the anticipated strength challenges.
3D printed parts on the redesigned boards include the board fins, with the team having adapted their size, shape, angles and fixings to better suit the sea and wind characteristics. Wrapped in carbon fiber for stiffness, the 3D printed fins are considerably lighter than traditionally manufactured parts, enabling the team to travel at increased speeds as they take on their land opponents. The kite-surfers also used 3D printed inserts to attach the foot straps to the board, designed to achieve the maximum strength possible as they are glued into the foam core.
“Stratasys 3D printing was essential to our ability to undertake this project at all. We would literally design, 3D print, fit and test the parts on the boards – all in one day. We would then tweak the designs as necessary and have another set of parts 3D printed overnight,” Head said. “The fact that we could 3D print end-use parts that could perform in the harsh sea environment, quicker and cheaper than any other manufacturing process, takes product development to a new and higher level for us.”
Producing a total four custom-designed boards, the team 3D printed their parts on two Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D Production Systems in collaboration with Stratasys reseller, Laser Lines. Utilizing the systems’ ability to pair fine layer resolution with a large build envelope, the kite-surfers were able to fine-tune their designs and quickly print final parts for faster, more effective product testing and development.
“We redesigned the boards’ fins using a quad configuration with parts 3D printed using PC-ABS material. These new fins provide us with improved lateral grip in the water and the ability to make quick turns,” Head said. “On the underside of the boards, we also designed a very flat rocker line, which means that the board planes easily and achieves much higher speeds. When you put all of these improvements together, they contribute towards considerable performance gains.”
The kitesurfing challenge is planned is take place this weekend, Oct. 25 or 26, depending on the weather, with a successful channel-crossing expected to take roughly three hours. To be competitive, the team calculates that they need a sea state of five or less and a wind speed of 20 knots. If they get these conditions, then it would be possible to beat the auto team driving the University’s hybrid Honda Civic, which will be contending with local Devon country roads and traffic.
“We are very excited about what 3D printing means for our industry and our course – essentially, anything our students can dream up can be made reality,” Head said. “I predict that 3D printing will play a huge role in the design and development of almost all final-year projects for many years to come.”
“We are seeing more and more educational establishments embrace 3D printing within the curriculum,” said Simon Brandon, Marketing Manager for the UK, Scandinavia, Benelux at Stratasys. “This is a great example of a university equipping the engineers of the future with the skills to push the boundaries to new possibilities using Stratasys technology.”
Follow the progress of the event and watch the race live via GPS tracking here: https://www.facebook.com/TheBristolChannelKitesurfCrossing