Machine Design

Surfboard industry not "wiped out" yet

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., have developed a low-density, energy-absorbing foam that could help save the nation's $200 million surfboard industry.

A Sandia researcher shows off a small surfboard blank made from TufFoam.


TufFoam was originally created by Sandia materials scientists for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) as an encapsulant to protect electronics on weapons from severe impacts and harsh conditions. The foam is a water-blown, closed-cell, rigid polyurethane that can be as light as 2-lb/cu-ft density.

"It can be used for thermal and electrical insulation, and as a core material for the automobile and aerospace industries," says Scott Vaupen, a business associate at Sandia. "TufFoam might not only be ideal for surfboards, but also for car bumpers and airplane wings. The potential market could be staggering."

Clark Foam, the leading manufacturer of foam for surfboard construction, unexpectedly closed its doors late last year because of ever-tightening environmental regulations on manufacturing polyurethane surfboard blanks. This led to nearpanic, particularly in California, by manufacturers and sellers of surfboards who fear they will not be able to find the high strength-to-weight ratio blanks necessary to make the boards.

The new foam does not contain toluene diisocyanate (TDI) — an environmentally unfriendly chemical used in the production of the polyurethane foam surfboard.

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