Eco-friendly surfboards printed in 3D from recycled plastic.
Passionate surfer since his youngest age, Romain Paul was confronted with the “paradox of the surfer”: there is a major contradiction that opposes the environmental convictions of the practitioners of this sport to the toxicity of the material they use. After having worked for several years at Exaprint, and thus having witnessed the commercial development of 3D printing, the idea matured in him to design surfboards in an eco-responsible way thanks to this machine, in order to propose a more ecological alternative.
During 2 years, Romain and his three associates do research to develop this product and launch in 2018 in the Yuyo adventure. They make their commercial launch in the summer of 2019 following a crowdfunding campaign which allows them to finance the first production series. This same campaign also allowed them to be well publicized by the media. The 4 partners have complementary roles within the team, with Romain, notably in production management, or Thibault, in charge of managing the marketplace. They actually sell surf related products such as natural wax, anti-slip cork pads or sunscreen alongside their boards. It is an activity of trading and reselling eco-responsible products, consistent with their own values. Knowing the suppliers well, and familiar with their approaches which they know are respectful of the environment, they are assured of the eco-responsibility of the totality of their activities within Yuyo.
As for the main activity of surfboard manufacturing, in order to design a product from recycled plastic, the team starts looking for a source of plastic waste production. They quickly realize the astronomical amount of waste generated in the medical field, due to the unique use of their equipment for health reasons. By launching their production, faced with this frightening observation, Yuyo decides to recover this material to give it a meaningful second life.
Since Yuyo has considered all the production methods for their surfboards in order to reduce their environmental impact throughout their life cycle, their project is entirely in line with an eco-design approach.
Indeed, the surfboards are not only made from recycled raw materials, but their production, thanks to the 3D printer, does not produce any waste, contrary to the classic method called “shape”, where the shape of the board is cut out of a loaf of foam and then sanded. Manufacturing with the 3D printer makes it possible to manufacture on the spot, use the materials you want and avoid material waste (no scrap or discarded material: you only use what you need to make the desired product).
Moreover, Yuyo wants to be more consistent with the social and environmental values of the surfing community. We must preserve nature and be exemplary as a user of the natural environment. It is also a change in behavior that Romain observes on the part of consumers: there is a real willingness to consume more and more locally, and the same goes for sports equipment. Buying less, but of better quality and personalized products. “There is a real change of industrial paradigm, one returns towards the local and towards small local actors“.
As the raw material of the surfboards produced by Yuyo is natural and/or recycled material, we can also confirm their commitment to sustainable sourcing. Their trading activity is also in line with this approach since they resell eco-responsible surfing products from local suppliers they know well. In addition, in the long term, Yuyo plans to recycle local waste, so that each consumer can come with a quantity of waste that can be transformed into his or her own surfboard.
Listen to Romain talking about the project in the video down below !
The traditional manufacture of surfboards is very polluting because it uses materials that are often toxic and not recyclable. There is therefore a real contradiction between the environmental convictions of surfers and the boards they use. A board is made of polyurethane or polystyrene foam, fiberglass and polyester resins. 
To quote the analysis made by The Green Session, “waste production is the hidden face of the iceberg. You don’t necessarily realize it, but to make a surfboard weighing about 2.5kg, you generate 6kg of waste, or 2.5 times the weight of the board. And unfortunately for a classic PU foam board, this waste is not recycled and it ends up being incinerated or buried”. 
If we study the life cycle analysis of a surfboard, we realize that between the materials used and the CO2 emissions related to transportation (80% of the surfboard manufacturing market is located in Thailand, China and Taiwan), a conventional surfboard is not a sustainable product at all. Feel free to take a look at the very complete analysis made by La Green Session on this subject.
The same manufacturing methods have been used since the 1960s. The mindset has only been changing for a while now and surfers, more and more aware of their impact, now want to reduce it on their environment. Hence the development of projects like Yuyo.
The first step is the drawing of the board ordered on a software from a questionnaire sent to the customer. The variables are multiple: the place of practice, the frequency of use, the level of experience, the weight and size of the surfer, etc. At the end of this work, we obtain a 3D file representing the board. The 3D printing software used allows to adjust the parameters. The printing is then launched, followed by the assembly, the addition of layers made of fiber and resin, and finally the decoration and glazing.
The 3D printing machine was designed specifically for Yuyo for their specific needs with Tobeca (company located in the Loire region) . The filament reel goes into a mechanism that will extrude it, then the material goes through a cooling system to glue the different layers together. This system makes it possible to print objects with a maximum size of 60x60x120 cm.
What differentiates this method from traditional manufacturing is also and above all the materials used. The foam cake is replaced by a hollow 3D structure made from plastic waste. On top is added basalt fiber (molten rock from Belgium, transformed into filament and then fabric, whose mechanical performance is equivalent to that of kevlar (a thermoplastic polymer)) and vegetable resin (made from linseed oil from the Martigues in the mouths of the Rhone and Lunel in the Hérault). The fiber and resin allow the mechanical resistance and watertightness of the board.
The plastic waste used during the manufacturing process comes from the medical field. As a reminder, 1 hospital produces as much waste as a city, i.e. a production of 700,000 tons per year of waste of all kinds. The medical environment is therefore an inexhaustible source of plastic waste, hence the interest and urgency of finding a solution to recycle it. Yuyo thus recovers single-use trays used to sterilize surgical tools. They are made from PET (a saturated polyester polymer, easily recyclable). 4] The PET recycling process is as follows: the material is crushed into flakes and dried to dehumidify it. It is then extruded to form the filament. The plastic is melted down to make it more malleable and to give it the desired shape. It is finally stretched and then cooled to harden.
For now, they buy the filament coils made from this plastic waste from a supplier who also manufactures the trays sold to hospitals. This same supplier also recovers its own waste for recycling. 
However, Yuyo plans to manufacture their own filament coils within a few months after acquiring their own machines (1 grinder, 1 dryer and 1 extruder) from their supplier 3devo to transform plastic into filament. They also have the long-term will to create their own local reprocessing industry by working directly with local hospitals in Montpellier. Today, hospital waste is either buried, incinerated or sent abroad, so there is no local solution yet.
In addition, there are two challenges for the recycled material: it must be of high quality to ensure the regularity of the material as well as the mechanical performance of the surfboard. It also requires transparency with customers: Yuyo must and wants to be able to tell where each material they buy comes from.
The prices of Yuyo boards are equivalent to those of an artisan shaper who makes custom-made boards: the price of the boards vary between 700 and 800 € and can go up to more than 1000 €.
It is impossible to compete with the big board producers taking into account that half a container of boards can resell boards at $150 a piece.
However, the raw material alone to make a Yuyo board costs €250. To this price we have to add the cost of labor and the cost of using the 3D printer. It is therefore not possible to work with magazines that take between 40 and 50% margin. In response to this barrier, Yuyo works on a made-to-order basis, customizing for each of their customers, which allows them to establish themselves as a reference in a niche market.
Consumers of yuyo boards today are curious, pioneers in the field of eco-responsible surfing. The boards are mainly sold in the region (most of the sales are in Aquitaine, Landes and the Basque Country) but also in the Mediterranean basin (including Italy and Spain) and on the Atlantic coast (from Portugal to the United Kingdom). In short, all the surfing spots in Europe. Montpellier is therefore a key location to access all these markets.
Yuyo thus aims to minimize their impact on the environment, particularly marine ecosystems.
Such a project requires a significant investment in its early stages to get a 3D printer. It is therefore necessary to be able to make the purchase and amortize it. Making surfboards also requires a high level of expertise in the field to ensure the performance of the products.
However, it can be said that there is a growing demand for eco-responsible sports products and equipment. There is a change in consumer behavior, which points to a great potential for replicability.
Yuyo also plans to replicate their currently unique production facility in several strategic locations to ensure more local production and use of more local raw materials as well. As plastic waste exists in abundance, there will be no competition for it.
This meeting is so far our biggest discovery since none of us is surfing (yet!). We were absolutely stunned by the amount of waste produced by the traditional surfboard industry! We have never been sensitized to this cause, which has particularly shaken us.
It is all the more incredible that this discovery in this matter was made through Romain, who first presented us with his solution to the problem. We are delighted to see that people like the Yuyo team are committed and propose such innovative and groundbreaking solutions!
Congratulations to this project which we find absolutely great and we can’t wait to see how it evolves in the years to come!
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