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How 3D printers made a motorcycle, skis and snowboard

Lucas Mearian | May 22, 2015
Large production parts can be commonplace now with 3D printing.

The 170 centimeter skis couldn't fit into a single printer, so they were produced in two parts -- front and rear. Additionaly a metal edge was applied so that, as with every ski, the edge can carve turns in the snow.

The various layers of materials -- the P-Tex, four layers of Ultem and the metal edges -- were clamped together and bound using a 24-hour drying epoxy.

"A day later, you pull the clamps off... and you have a fully laminated ski," Mannella said.

The skis were tested at Lake Tahoe in Nevada by Stratasys CEO David Reis, and they performed nearly as well as top-of-the-line commercial skis, Mannella said.

Skunkworks' principal engineer, Kevin Johnson, inspired by Mannella's ski project, decided to create the company's first printed snowboard.

The task was more difficult than the skis because the snowboard turned out to be more complex to build, Johnson said.

The board was made entirely from Ultem 9085 polymer filament. Johnson had intended to use a printable nylon to create the board's bindings, but chose instead to simply purchase bindings to make the build go faster.

While creating a snowboard that must have more flexibility than skis was difficult, Johnson said one advantage even over traditional manufacturing is the ability to manipulate a myriad of variables. For example, the board's length, weight, camber, and stiffness can all be manipulated independent of each other through the printer's CAD software.

By using the semi-porous Ultem 9085, Johnson was able to simply wax the board instead of using P-Tex polymer for the base.

The snowboard took three days to print, and it was produced in three layers, all bound together by epoxy. A metal edge, like the skis, was also added post printing.

Next up for Stratasys' Skunkworks, according to Mannella? You guessed it: ski boots.

 

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