Published: Thursday, 16 July 2015 03:54
Written by Super User
I now consider myself an industrial designer after many years pursing a single dream. Sophisticated brakes for high speed downhill skating. Thanks to Kickstarter that dream became a reality.
An obsession over 14 years has finally saw the Brakeboard trucks come to life. It has been a long twisted road we would never have imagined at the outset. From a few sketches in 1999 to the near finished product today, it has been a long haul.
Those years saw 8 house moves, one interstate, 5 girlfriends, 4 career changes, 3 design awards, and a large amount of cash outlaid. (Mostly from our long suffering Mum and Dad, bless them.)
Someone once said “If you have an invention idea, sleep on it. With any luck you’ll have forgotten about it in the morning.” I never did forget, and the project remained haunting in the background for the entire time. It was simply a device we wanted to use; a way to commute on my skateboard down my home-town hills with control and ease.
We must have spent thousands of hours picturing possible configurations, jotting them down when the ideas were fresh. Solutions that seem so obvious in hindsight took years to perfect.
I started with a hobby lathe in my bedroom and armed with a rudimentary knowledge of metal work and technical drawing from high school, we machined components in the evenings and the weekends outside of my regular working hours as a graphic designer.
The first working brake was like an on-off switch, putting the board into an uncontrollable skid, destroying wheels in the process. These early brakes always stopped me but it was a controlled, smooth braking I was after. I wanted one that didn’t eat your wheels and that could cope with speed and long steep hills.
As a perfectioniss, I needed the design to be flawless. We were never satisfied. If there was a little quirk that arose, each would have to be overcome.
Over time, I began to learn the language of machining and metal casting. I used local machining workshops to make the things that we couldn’t with my home lathe. In the beginning, access to the tools and training materials for things like CAD software was not really affordable. Talking with local workshops and foundries was the only way.
The early prototypes were crude hand-shaped hangers from modelling putty. Then we cast one-offs in sand moulds, followed by sintering of cast-iron gravity die blocks, using simple geometry by an experienced old-school machinist. CNC milling was only in its infancy and out of our financial reach.
The next stage was to tool up for full production, but we needed outside investment. This went wanting. Longboarding was an unknown market for investors it seemed.
For a number of years it lay dormant for a lack of funds. Large-scale manufacturing production was completely foreign to us. We’d convinced ourselves that only experts could manage this next stage, and experts don’t come cheap.
2006 saw another push for funding by entering various design competitions, resulting in 3 awards and winning a small amount of cash. Also I appeared on a TV inventors program, winning that episode. But more importantly the recognition fueled the drive to keep going. Full funding was still elusive, particularly when the global financial crisis hit in 2007.
Out of necessity and an unflappable desire to continue we decided to teach ourselves ‘AutoCAD’, in particular ‘AutoDesk Inventor’. It was now 2010 and these tools are easily accessible within the miraculous world-wide web.
Over six months we ploughed into ‘Inventor’ and remodelled the trucks from scratch. We found a CNC milling factory and they produced my first new prototype which worked perfectly! All for relatively small change! This was a huge step. I’m now proudly proficient in CAD, loving nothing more than 3D modelling in a virtual space.
Our first day out on this newly reborn prototype was captured on video: YouTube “Longbo ard Gentle cruise”. Over 50,000 hits.
Realizing the potential of self-propelled knowledge gathering and the web, I sourced a reputable manufacturer on my own. Travelling to Shanghai and various industrial regions of China I found excellent sources.
After a year or more of negotiating the transition from prototype to production, overcoming cultural and language barriers, I have seen the birth of the first Beta run of the new Brakeboards in Jan 2013.