Written By Kira Via 3Ders.org
Kitesurfing, the ultra cool, high-octane water sport that combines wakeboarding, windsurfing, paragliding, and gymnastics, is about to get even more extreme thanks to a 3D printed fin that measures only 0.4mm thick and easily propelled pro-surfer Sylvain Hoceini to 51 knots (95 km/h) during its first tests. The fin was designed by French kitesurf manufacturer PC² in collaboration with SLS France, and used titanium 3D printing technology to achieve unprecedented thinness, strength and rigidity.
Commonly referred to as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), 3D printing with titanium involves fusing titanium powder into a solid form by melting it with a laser beam. The object is built layer by layer at 20 microns each, and allows for extremely the accurate printing of complex geometric figures with excellent surface quality and durable properties. It is also significantly faster than other 3D printing methods. Currently, DMLS 3D printing technology is used in the medical, dental and aerospace sectors.
To design the game-changing fin, Phil Carbon, the man behind PC² and renowned windsurf and kitesurf designer for award-winning athletes including Hoceinie, Benoit Gaudiot, Rob Douglas and Alex Caizergues, began by shaping a hand-carved carbon prototype with a distinct, asymmetrical profile. He then contacted SLS France, a company in Rennes that specializes in manufacturing dental prosthetics with DMLS technology. “Metallic powder is deposited on a plateau that slowly descends towards the fusion process,” explained Alex Dubois, founder of SLS France. “The laser fuses the metal grains at 1400 degrees, and then they are quickly cooled to 200 degrees, which allows us to achieve the stability and rigidness of the material. The casing, metal frame and threading are directly integrated during manufacturing. Through this method we arrive at the finished product.”