Finalist 2023

Rift Snowboards - Sustainable Snowboard Design

Harvey Edmanson / RMIT University

A method of snowboard construction for recyclability, repairability and modularity to prevent material waste in the snowboard industry.

Rift develops a sustainable snowboard for material recovery and closed product lifecycle, impossible with standard snowboard design which uses a resin lamination technique. The desinged board uses mechanical fasteners allowing for modular disassembly of the layers while maintaining riding quality.
The product's construction allows modular components to be disassembled into separate materials. This allows for material recovery and recycling through careful material choices, repairability of individual parts and customisation so the board can change with the rider by changing the board's flex.

Design Brief:

The snow industry has a large environmental impact yet relies heavily on cold weather and snowfall. Each winter sees less and less snow in the mountains and the industry is required to reduce its environmental toll to ensure the sport's longevity. Skis and snowboards all eventually go to waste with most riders replacing their equipment every year with no after-usage life. Any inevitable damage to the equipment also causes the product to go to a landfill. Since all layers of current skis and snowboards are permanently bound with epoxy resin, repair is very difficult and material recovery is infeasible, meaning all materials go to waste.

The Rift design ensures each component of the snowboard can be easily separated and recycled to feedback into the manufacturing stream. Further, the design uses modularity, allowing part repair through simple replacement and customisation through different component configurations.

This project was developed by:

  • Harvey Edmanson

Design Process

The design process started by stripping back the current materials and properties of a snowboard to determine the required performance attributes. This led to material testing and scale prototyping through 3D printing of structures to ensure the right riding flexural qualities. Iterative sketching and consequently CAD models also guided scale and section prototypes of potential layer assembly options. This tested various methods of layer fastening with slots, heat sinks and screws as well as welding techniques to prevent base warpage.

Finite Element Analysis simulations informed flexural properties of the board before manufacturing, and injection molding simulation presented model feasibility if the design were taken to the mass market.

A full-scale prototype was developed using nut and bolt fastening. This tested two iterations of topsheet structure where one included a tapered shape which poses a higher cost. The full-scale prototype was tested on snow for riding quality and tested amongst users for ease of assembly and disassembly. The snowboard performed well on snow and in the assembly test. Lab tests of the board's flexural properties and durability, including ISO standards, informed the scope for future development of material choice and assembly options.

The design works by developing a method of snowboard construction that uses mechanical fasteners to combine each layer, without permanent bonds between different materials. This allows for full component disassembly and part replacement. Bolts pass through the topsheet to the nuts on the base to combine the layers. The bolts act against the shear force between the layers as the board bends and therefore stiffens the whole system. Once separated each material is recyclable and recoverable.

Design Excellence

Rift Snowboards uses design for disassembly principles to develop a modular solution to snowboard sustainability. Each component can be easily disassembled using a screwdriver, meaning the board can be taken apart and recycled anywhere around the world without the need for additional transport. Each material can be recycled where the board uses, and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) topsheet and core, aluminium stiffeners and a stainless steel base. This means all components can be recycled and fed back into manufacturing.

Product life is extended through repairability and modularity. Individual parts of the snowboard can be repaired and replaced to to prevent the product going to waste. Further through interchanging components the user can customise their ride. The board can then grow with the user with different stiffnesses and flex profiles as the rider progresses.

With simple components this can easily be assembled and changed at home by most users. This is proven in user testing where all participants were able to disassemble and reassemble the board in under 10 minutes.

This method of snowboard construction sets out to change the way skis and snowboards are made and therefore setting a new global benchmark for manufacturing and design. Designs are therefore forced to make conscious decisions about the material and consider the whole product life cycle.

Design Innovation

Rift uses design for disassembly principles allowing for full material recovery and part replacement, impossible in traditional sandwich snowboard construction. The mechanical fastening system of bolts locking the layers together means the materials can all be separated and recycled separately.

The design allows for modular stiffness control through interchangeable stiffening rods allowing the snowboard to grow with the rider's abilities where more advanced riders require stiffer boards. This consequently extends product life.

Each material used in the snowboard is recyclable and can be fed back into board manufacturing. It can be disassembled using just a screwdriver and recycled anywhere in the world without excess transport. Parts can also be replaced when damaged meaning the other components can continue in use.

This changes the product's life completely when compared with current snowboard manufacturing which uses adhesives, permanently binding all the materials making material recycling and part replacement infeasible, these products are destined for landfill.

This design responds to the snow industry becoming more aware of the need for sustainable products to ensure the longevity of the sport. Users can take responsibility for the products they use and can be involved in and understand the process of feeding materials back into the economy. Further, it allows users to interact with the board on a deeper level through optional self-customisation of stiffness and flex preferences.

Design Impact

Rift Snowboards has the potential for significant social and environmental impact on the perception of snow products. This design pushes discussion around what products are truly sustainable and the effect of all traditional snowboards going to landfill.

Through design for disassembly, this snowboard eliminates waste in the snowboard industry and allows all materials to be recovered and fed back into the manufacturing system. Where each individual part of the board can be recycled individually.

The project develops a solution to material wastage and ultimately protects the fragile Victorian and worldwide winter alpine environment. Doing this directly through products the users are able to interact with and make a difference with to the environment.

This project has the scope to develop this design further so this snowboard can be implemented and set a new standard in the snowboard industry. Further product development will include material changes to improve riding performances and reduce weight. As well as improvements to the fastening system for faster manufacturing. This concept can be applied to any size and shape of snowboard, as well as using the same technology in skis to have a widespread impact on the industry. Rift Snowboards can prevent waste in the snow industry and ultimately protect the future of the sport.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Rift Snowboards are designed and focused on circular economy and sustainability.

The snowboard is made using design for disassembly principles, ensuring each material can be separated and recycled individually and further fed back into the manufacturing stream without waste.

This is done by not permanently binding any materials. All layers of the snowboard are joined via mechanical fasteners in the form of bolts. These can be undone and disassembled using simple tools meaning the board can be recycled anywhere around the world without the need for specialised machinery or additional transport.

Each material selected for this product are individually recyclable and can be fed directly back into the manufacturing stream.

This product can set a precedent for the way the industry considers sustainable design.

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