The latest partnership announced by the SMART Infrastructure Facility and the Digital Living Lab aims to help transform the sport of surfing.

SMART is working with Professor Marc in het Panhuis, from the School of Chemistry and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, to transform his development of 3D printed customised fins for surfboards.

Though the market is flooded with cheap Chinese boards, serious surfers are particular about finding a board that is customised to their individual style, and the unique conditions of their favourite surf.

When it comes to surfboard fins, however, it’s a different story.

Fins are aerodynamic foils that act like rudders while surfing, usually attached to the rear bottom of the surfboard. Fins were once permanently glassed into the board, but these days almost all boards have a removable fin system.

Manufacturers of removable fin systems make exceptional products, but the current manufacturing process involves injection moulding, which is very expensive. This pushes it out of economic reach for most surfers looking for a customised fin.

Enter 3D printing.

Professor in het Panhuis and his team of scientists and surfers have developed, designed and 3D printed surfboard fins made from composite materials, and have built and trialled prototype fins with flexibility similar to those available in shops (using funding from UOW Global Challenges).

The problem is the sheer volume of data that quickly accumulates.

‘Every time we surf, each surfer generates five spreadsheets of raw data plus a unique data file for each wave that is surfed,’ Professor in het Panhuis says.

‘Typically, a single surfer can easily ride 30 waves in an hour, so that’s a lot of data that I currently have to process manually.’

The team is now working with the Digital Living Lab to upload the data through the cellular network and develop software that will process the raw data and deliver the analysis for the perfect fins to suit the beach, the surf conditions and the surfer.

Once developed, the application will massively decrease the time spent sifting through raw data, and will speed up the process of creating the perfect combination of fins and board for the surfer, the beach, and the surf.