Last month Home Depot the department super store for all your hardware needs announced a strategic partnership with Makerbot 3D printers. While this might seem like insignificant news to the snowboarding world, it actually marks a turning point in the do it yourself culture that has helped drive innovation in snowboarding.
3D printing isn’t anything new. Burton has had one in their prototype facility Craig’s for years. What is new is that these are now being made readily available to the consumer market. Currently Home Depot has chosen select cities to host Makerbot printer demonstrations in store and has them available on their website.
Cost is still going to be a barrier to entry for most hobbyists as the basic model costs just shy of $1,400 and the bigger model is $2,899.00. What this does offer though for those that aren’t put off by the price is a faster way to get prototypes made. Instead of having to source out a third party company to do this or find a way into an academic institution mechanics lab they can purchase a printer and get right to work on their designs.
Now imagine the possibilities of a 3D printer coupled with a 3D scanner. You can suddenly scan in your already existing binding and start tweaking the design of it. For example lets say you want more flex on the outside of your high back, you take yours off scan it in, tweak the flex points on the highback inside the design program and then print it off and you have a working prototype. Although I will note that the current level of plastics available for consumers are not going to be as strong as what manufacturers are using in their injection molded bindings. Also at this time there are only two plastic choices PLA and ABS with each having their own set of pros and cons.
Could you make a binding? Yes. Would it last a whole season? That’s highly debatable, but for prototyping tests this is a huge possibility.
Now on the other side of the do it yourself movement is the potential for shops to get in on this. Have you ever gone up riding and broken one of those obscure plastic parts to your binding that is 100% specific to the model you ride? I think everyone has at some point or another. So after you realize your day is having a rough patch because of this you trek down to the repair shop or local snowboard shop to get the part you need, only problem is they don’t have it, or they have something that will kind of work. Well imagine if they could just make you that new part right on the spot? This is a possibility and with Amazon now entering the 3d design market. The potential for companies to sell the schematics for these miniscule pieces is there. Then there’s the whole open source design movement that exists as well which could also expand on parts or over all binding designs.
As I previously mentioned the cost barrier is currently high, but with all new technology as more of it becomes readily available the costs will drop. This article on Bloomberg.com gives some insight from Makerbots CEO Bre Pettis and others on how in the future we will see more 3d printers in households.
For any do-it-yourselfers out there that have tinkered with the idea of binding construction, do you feel this is a viable option for you to test out?