Once the board is designed, MADE's 3D-printing process takes over, constructing the board out of two aviation-grade thermoplastics -- ABSm-30 and Ultum -- with a bamboo substrate. MADE uses an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) process on a Fortus 900mc 3D printer made by Stratasys. "The (Fortus 900mc) can print a wide range of materials from metals to plastics," Marks said. "It's capable of printing materials no other machines can, as well as having the largest build envelope out there."
Once the boards have been printed, they are then shaped, glassed, and epoxied -- finished with fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber wraps.
After attempting a Kickstarter campaign earlier this summer -- in which the company sold some merchandise but didn't reach its fundraising goal of $450,000 -- MADE Boards is currently looking for funding. Marks and Laughlin also are working with shapers, modelers, and printers to refine and test the boards, the prototypes of which Marks said "out performed any board I've ever had the chance to ride."
"We're in partnership talks with a Hawaiian-based R&D shop that can give us access to shapers, riders, and world-class conditions," he said. "We will start selling once the boards are proven to be the absolute best product they can be."
Pricing for the boards will vary between $1,399 to $1,499 for windsurfing boards, and $799 to $899 for surfboards, which is fairly competitive for custom boards that are hand-shaped and produced. MADE also plans to offer a different value proposition. Marks said:
It's not about dropping a board on a doorstep and walking away -- it's a move towards a relationship between riders and boards, with MADE facilitating the conversation. We operate like a startup and feel that a closer relationship with the brand will fundamentally shift the way people perceive these sports. We believe that the sea is in our blood and that all should be out having fun on the water.
Marks said that rather than displace custom board shapers who craft the board from start to finish, MADE aims to work alongside them and give them a wider audience for their designs. "This is the dawn of a new era for shapers -- where their shapes can reach millions," he said. "The challenge we face today is geographical. If a rider isn't near a shaper it's difficult to find custom-made equipment -- and we want to change that."
While that's certainly a positive sentiment, Marks may have a harder time convincing shapers that 3D printing is the way forward for surfboards. I spoke to the shaper of two of my surfboards, Dan Costa, owner of The Retro Movement in southwest Portugal, about the topic.
His opinion? More science, predictability, and machine-printing of boards will be a detriment to the craft of the custom hand-shaping and building that's been a part of the sport for decades. It also takes away a certain mystique associated with riding a board that's been built by hand, Costa said.
"It is killing the art of shaping surfboards and ending the feeling of having a new board without knowing how's it going to be in the water," he told us. "That's something that other sports don't have -- the unknown and the thrill of riding a new craftsman-built board."