Switzerland can hardly be described as an ideal location for developments in surfboard applications, since it is a landlocked country, far from prime marine surfing locations and a high wage-cost economy.
But that didn't prevent Rapperswil, Switzerland-based IWK institute for materials technology and plastics processing at OST Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences from developing high-performance, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite surfboard fins, which are now sold to surfing equipment suppliers throughout the world.
IWK developed the fins with Buchs, Switzerland-based molder Kunststoffwerk AG Buchs' "Svismold." The company produces the new H4 fins on a tie-barless injection molding machine from Engel Austria GmbH, equipped with a Kuka articulated robot, for the Newport, Australia-based company FCS Fin Control Systems Pty Ltd.
Key to cost-effective production is a fully automated injection molding process with the Kuka robot laying two ultrathin 0.2-millimeter unidirectional carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic tapes into the mold for molding onto the H4 fin's injection molded thermoplastic frame, as well as removing the finished moldings from the mold.
The process is economically justified, having replaced laborious tape-reinforced fins made by hand. And there is greater supply chain reliability with production closer to the European market and Svismold determination to source materials from European suppliers, as far as possible.
H4 fin project leader Gion Andrea Barandun heads the IWK fiber-reinforced composites and lightweight construction department and says the fully automatic process has fewer errors than with Asian manual production, ensured with integrated of camera-based part inspection.
Svismold Managing Director Martin Rudolph says of the development that as FCS "demanded more consistent quality and higher precision than achievable in manual production, our goal was a fully automatically manufactured high-tech product."