Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some Thoughts About Manufacture in Windsurfing

Before I deal with the 7.8m sail question, here is a technical post looking at the future of manufacture in our sport.  

The way boards and fins are manufactured has not changed since modern surf boards were made back in the 60’s.  Anyone looking around at modern developments in manufacture has to be questioning the way our industry continues to operate.  Despite the appearance of high tech scanners, 3D printing, unbelievably strong and light composites, we continue to design and manufacture fins, boards, masts and sails using the same methods used at the birth of windsurfing.

The business model has also become obsolete.  Take boards for example – a model is designed, tested and finalised.  The dimensions and material specs are then given to a central factory where the board starts off as a milled foam blank, composite and carbon fibre layers are applied using vacuum packing, heat, pressure and finally, labour intensive hand blocking to approximate specified shapes and dimensions.  The finished board is then shipped to a foreign country to be sold.
What should happen in a modern world is that the approved design is scanned into a file which can be e-mailed anywhere.  The file is used to produce the board where it is needed.  3D printing makes this possible.  The sticking point for me has always been that you cannot print with carbon fibre.  Without carbon fibre I am not happy.  Well a guy called Greg Mark has invented a method of printing with carbon fibre and with his team, has produced a printer to do this.  Yay!
Control/Click on the link below:

Their initial printer looks too small to print a whole board but the technology has been nailed so upscaling should be easy.  Just imagine being able to print off a few fins from your desk.  With this technology each fin will be exactly the same as the original, providing the recipe used is exactly the same.  You could have one shape with a few recipes - each giving a range of bend/twist/stiffness ratings.  Download the file and print the fins of your choice.  Awesome!

The moral dilemma around all of this is ensuring that designers get paid for their designs.  We have to retain the great designers and developers of our sport and will only do so if they can prosper within a new order.   Windsurfing without the likes of Kashy, Fagerholm, Vollenweider, Green, Zajicek, Spannier, Ezzy, Wentzel  etc, etc, etc would be very sad indeed.

Some food for thought

Talk to you soon         

No comments:

Post a Comment