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World-leading kayaks are 3D-printed in Värmland
How did a single IT guy start producing the world's most beautiful kayaks in Torsby? The innovator Pelle Stafshede started a kayak manufacturing that is local, sustainable, and circular. With the help of ABB, he got the flow in his business.
Outdoor life and paddling have always been a big passion for the Karlstad-based entrepreneur Pelle Stafshede. The interest was also an outlet in the hectic life he lived earlier, as a business developer and innovator in the IT and advertising industries. It was endless travels and presentations.
"I thought it would be more fun to have a lifestyle job and take advantage of what I really feel for and can," he says.
After a paddling trip in Norway, he decided: he will start building kayaks. He founded the company Melker of Sweden in 2015, with the high-set goal of completely changing the outdoor water sports material industry.
"I wanted to make the most beautiful kayaks in the world and make them as sustainable as possible. The interaction between the environment and ethics is just as important as the economy," he says.
First milestone in 3D printing
ABB has been along for the ride since 2018, they have together with Pelle Stafshede developed the robot that 3D prints the kayaks.
"For ABB, it has been a research-related project. We have received great support along the way and have been able to work close to their development team. We have been able to demand a lot, which has been good for both parties," says Pelle Stafhede.
In 2018, he printed the first kayak. It was in three parts that were fitted together. He remembers the night when he stood and joined the parts with fiberglass to the first prototype. The next morning, Karolina Skog - then the environment minister - would come to Värmland and test paddle the newly glued boat.
"I had a little pulse, because we hadn't had time to test it. It had just dried when she paddled away," he says and laughs. That was the first milestone in this project.
The composite kayak can be recycled
Besides ABB, Torsby municipality and the forest company Moelven are also collaboration partners. The material he manufactures with is a composite made of 'up cycled' fishing nets and wood fibers.
"The composite is also used to produce prototypes of kayaks. It's under development and I would guess that within two years we can mass-produce kayaks with the right weight and strength. Completely circular and 3D-printed in one piece," he says.
The advantages of manufacturing in this way speak for themselves, he says. Part of the circularity is that the waste generated in the process can be recycled.
"The entire kayak can be recycled and repurposed. It's a closed cycle, with as little waste as possible," he concludes.
Sustainable production for real
With Melker of Sweden, the innovator Pelle Stafshede wanted to work locally. And if it's going to be truly sustainable, you can't manufacture on the other side of the world, he reasoned.
"Transporting a kayak across the world means you're transporting more air than material. It's completely crazy. It's also about being close to the customer in production," says Pelle Stafshede.
It only takes four people to run a production cell, making it easy and efficient for Melker of Sweden to start local productions that can be based on local waste.
"We can look at what kind of waste streams are available in an area where we want to manufacture. It can be corn fiber, bamboo fiber, or coconut hair. We can use this in our composite," Stafshede says.
Innovating further with print on demand
Innovator Pelle Stafshede already has several ideas on how he can use print on demand technology for further development of the kayak. On the one hand, he can tailor kayaks for passionate practitioners who want their boat adapted to their needs, and on the other hand, for people with functional variations.
"The tailored kayak will be an enormous advantage for as many people as possible to be able to practice their sport or hobby. The exciting manufacturing opportunity in combination with serial production, I think that's the thing," Stafshede says.
He quickly adds,
"And of course, having fun along the way and really doing what we love together with friends, family, and partners who share our philosophy."
The full article is available here (in swedish);