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Skateboard Part 1: 3D Printed Wheels

If you haven’t watched the YouTube channel Braille Skateboarding, it’s worth checking out. They are a group of skilled skaters who make very entertaining videos, along with extensive how-to’s if you’re interested in learning. What we found particularly interesting, though, is their “You Make It We Skate It” playlist. Essentially, this playlist features the crew taking any setup that is sent to them and trying to skateboard with it. Three times now they have been sent 3D printed wheels to skate. The first, made from PLA, unsurprisingly shattered. The second set, printed in what looks like TPU, rode like flat tires. the third set, which looked like densely-infilled TPU (or a similar-but-harder rubber), worked pretty well, but still deformed more than a typical wheel. Enticed by this, we decided to try our hand at making resilient 3D printed wheels.

We chose to print in Nylon reinforced with Kevlar because of Nylon’s flexibility and Kevlar’s abrasion resistance. We tested two designs that were only slightly different in their infills and surface textures. One had a textured surface so that it was less slick on the pavement as well as less Kevlar reinforcement to see if it would deform.

‍‍First test, with more Kevlar and no texture on the outside.
‍Second test, with less kevlar and a bumpy outside surface.

In short, both wheels held up pretty well. I am definitely a novice when it comes to skateboarding, but I slid the wheels around a parking lot and Ollied as well as I could to give them some high impact and abrasive loads.

It was a pretty hot (~90F) and surprisingly, the only failure of the wheels was the nylon deforming from excessive heat. The outer layer of nylon started to delaminate and eventually tear, but the Kevlar underneath didn’t wear at all and nothing fractured. The wheels weren’t squishy or particularly slick, but rather close to a typical polyurethane wheel. The design could clearly take a little more refinement, but it held up very well for a first prototype.

That’s all for now, but keep your eyes peeled for future updates on printing high strength 3D printed skateboard parts!

And if you want to print your own skateboard wheels, download the STL file here: StreetWheel.stl

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