Gary Elphick is CEO of Disrupt. a digital start-up based out of Bondi Beach, Sydney that specialises in using 3D printing design technology to help people design their own 100% unique surfboards. His background is in marketing for global tech companies from Microsoft to BlackBerry, he is an avid surfer and snowboarder – and loves nothing more than geeking out making apps in his spare time.
Hey Gary, what’s been happening – where and how are you right now?
We’re going really well, been operating for just over a year now. We’re based out of Bondi Beach so our morning ‘board meeting’ is normally quite fun. We’ve sold a decent amount of items locally and into Sri-lanka, Indonesia and Europe. We’re also hoping to have a presence in Europe and the US in time for summer. We’re focused on product improvement and development of the digital platform.
Disrupt Surfing is really unique. We’re KEEN to see 3D printing technology applied to surfboards – can you tell us how you came up with the concept?
The initial point was walking out of our local store with my new $1000 board only to find 3 of my mates had recently board the same board, we literally were sheep buying what the media told us to. Why have we been forced to buy boards from a shop that have been mass produced and then marked up 3-4 times before it gets to us?
We’re geeks at heart, most of the team have a digital or design background and we thought what if we could design our own boards so they reflected our personality?
One of the guys jumped on his kids 3D printing software and mocked something up, printed it out, refined it and reprinted until he had a small model of what he wanted, he brought it to us and we had an ‘ah ha’ moment, this was the future of retail, .
It’s awesome that everyone can now design a board. It opens up unlimited creative opportunities for enthusiasts and would-be designers. What’s your vision for 3D printing and the evolution of surfing?
Our vision is that the industry will move like the music industry and become more focused on digital files, those files will be available online and that local machines will be able to print in full I.e if I want a board from a shaper in Bondi, I can buy that file and print it in France or Cali.
How do current 3D plastics compare to traditional PU or Epoxy? Is performance and strength comparable?
The challenge for us at the moment is two-fold, educating people on how they can get involved with designing their own boards (hence why we’re starting now and still using traditional epoxy). Secondly, its the availability of materials for the full scale printer – currently it’s far from perfect as the weight is more than we’d like, without as much buoyancy as we’d like. This means that it’s not commercially viable for full run, however we’re excited by the working with Australia’s largest 3D printing company to bring a new material online in the coming months. it will be lighter, more bouyant and durable. We’re pretty confident that they will be as strong if not more strong that traditional materials, however, like most things, there a lot to learn and iterate still.
Using the modelling software can people design absolutely anything? Is imagination really the limit?
We’ve made boards shaped like an arrow, we’ve embedded someone’s ashes into a board, build a board with an iPad and inductive charging, built a 3ft board to be used as wedding signage. You name it we can do it, we’ve had some strange designs and we’re always here to advise, however we want people to experiment, to learn and to create. There are a few limitations but nothing we havent been able to solve yet.
How else do you foresee 3D technology shaping the future? Will everyone have a printer at home, pay for product blueprints and then just print them off? Or will we see an open source revolution?
3D printers in the home make sense for designing, creating, iterating but having one in the home to make full scale goods almost defeats the objective (to reduce wastage). I forsee a much bigger focus on customer-centric design: one day all of our goods will be made bespoke for us or by us. There’ll be a much stronger focus on digital 3D files and this in turn will turn up the open source nature of product, however this will bring the challenge of IP ownership and to how to keep companies investing in R&D. .
Back to surfing… what’s your favourite board? And place to surf it?
I’m on the 4th full scale iteration of my own model ‘G4zza’, its a single fin bright yellow egg with a lot of rocker in the nose. Otherwise I love the ‘Disrupt Hidden’ one of our base 3D models. My Local break is Bondi but its far too crowded, I love Bronte in East Sydney, Bude in the UK and anywhere in Costa Rica.
Any advice for entrepreneurs looking to create disruptive technologies?
Don’t focus on the technology, concentrate on the market, the unbearable pain points that people have and what you would need to have or do to resolve that, then move into technology build. (same as in the water).