Product Design

Rad Snowboard Arrives On the Slopes

8 Nov, 2006 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Designer uses CoCreate's OneSpace Designer Modeling to build the next snowboard

Several years ago, ok, on my 40th birthday, I decided to learn a new winter sport -- snowboarding. I enrolled in a day-long snowboarding class, but was intimidated by the fact that I was by far the oldest student in the class. I think the next oldest student was 14. That first day did not go well, and I knew it. In fact, the instructor pulled me aside and told me that I might want to pursue other winter sports. Although I was very discouraged after that first day, I was more determined than ever to get the hang of it. After countless painful crashes and tumbles since then, I’m now able to board on just about any slope in Colorado. I don’t do the pipe or the park, but I do like to cruise and carve.

So, what’s this got to do with mechanical design? Well, while to the uninitiated, snowboards may look like rounded slabs of wood with upturned ends, they’re actually quite sophisticated in terms of design, materials, manufacturing process and, of course, graphics. While there are some gimmicks in regards to snowboard design, nothing truly revolutionary has come out for several years. That is, until I heard about Deuce Snowboards and its aptly named product Deuce.

Where does the name come from? Just take a look at the snowboard and you’ll see -- it’s actually a hybrid product that has not one, but two, boards.

The Deuce is built on what the company calls multi-edge snowboard technology and is made with two boards.

According to the company, the Deuce snowboard provides the several technical advantages over conventional snowboards, including:

  • Tighter turns and faster stops,
  • Improved grip on hard pack and ice,
  • A more forgiving leading edge,
  • Increased tip-to-tip flex for more bounce,
  • No toe and heel drag and
  • Smoother ride.

Breaking into established markets, such as the snowboard market, requires products with a new twist and Deuce Snowboards has successfully accomplished that goal. I was intrigued, so I set out to see what the Deuce snowboard was all about.

The Inspiration

Todd Belt, Deuce Snowboards’ executive manager, found inspiration on a chairlift above a black diamond run as he watched a snowboarder attempt, over a long distance, to avoid a downed skier. The snowboarder was unable to stop or change direction and he hit the downed skier -- luckily nobody went to the hospital.

The unfortunate collision was a “light bulb” moment for Belt. As a skier, Belt knew he would have had no problem avoiding that collision. The simple difference between skiing and snowboarding is the benefit of two edges with skis versus one with a snowboard for tighter turns and faster stops. Could the best characteristics of skiing and snowboarding be combined?

What began as a mental exercise quickly led to something more. Belt said, “I originally started out playing with the idea for the multi-edge snowboard just to see if it could be done. As the design started to materialize, the concept quickly turned from engineering experiment to viable product.”

Belt invented an entirely new category of snowboard termed MES (multi-edge snowboard) because the snowboard is made of two smaller boards connected by a riding platform that fits standard snowboard boots and bindings.

Transforming an Idea to Reality

With his unique product idea, Belt formed the company. To support the detailed development and launch of the product, he realized early on that it would be essential that he use 3D CAD for design. Belt considered three criteria when evaluating CAD systems:

  • User friendliness,
  • Affordability and
  • Software vendor viability and future direction.

The buying decision to go with CoCreate’s OneSpace Designer Modeling took approximately two months. During that time, Deuce Snowboards conducted a 30-day evaluation of a history-based system. Belt had previously used CoCreate in a full production environment and was experienced in how OneSpace Designer Modeling would support his development needs.

CoCreate’s OneSpace Designer Modeling was used to design the Deuce snowboard.

“In the end, the value of CoCreate’s subscription licensing tipped the scales,” said Belt.

CoCreate’s subscription licensing allows companies to rent software rather than buy a traditional license. By offering a low start-up cost, subscription licensing makes product development software affordable for new businesses. Plus, it keeps cash available to feed other parts of the company.

“It is very important to keep costs low and retain financial flexibility under short-term planning horizons,” said Belt. “I have a two-year planning window when making financial decisions. CoCreate’s subscription licensing fits my company’s timelines.”

Designer Modeling has also proved to be a good fit with Belt’s innovation process of exploring and learning. This process started with a first-generation product that the company prototyped digitally with 3D CAD. A second-generation product followed and was tested on the slopes of Lake Tahoe, California, resorts. The third-generation product developed during the past off-season is currently scheduled for early production runs.

Once on the slopes, Belt gathered market reaction and design feedback by having different snowboarders ride the Deuce prototype. While the Deuce is a new category of product, he said that experienced snowboarders adjusted to the differences very quickly.

The Details

The Deuce provides a smoother ride over rough terrain because the two boards move independently, similar in how an independent suspension on a car smoothes a bumpy ride. Plus the mechanism makes it easier to move from edge to edge and easier to control both heel and toe edges. Overall, the design can make you technically more proficient and less fatigued.
As Belt worked through development, the design progressed as new information came in from the field, or in this case, the slopes. The design evolved by simply adding or subtracting material in different locations based on engineering analysis, as well as field-testing.

The boards are standard construction with a few notable exceptions. For example, each board is narrower than a conventional snowboard and do not have hole patterns in them for mounting boot bindings. More significant is the different profile of the board -- it’s thicker in the center to provide a complete tip-to-tip bend for the rider. The snowboards are made of standard construction materials, such as a wood core with fiberglass on top. The boot platform is primarily made of aluminum.

The product’s design faced continuous and unpredictable changes through the development process. As a result, Belt couldn’t predict the upfront sequence of 3D modeling steps that he would use to create the design. This is a key advantage of CoCreate’s Dynamic Modeling approach over history-based 3D CAD systems. While history can be useful in some situations, it isn’t in others.

“I would take a copy of an existing part that was close to what I wanted and change it,” said Belt. “Designer Modeling makes changes easy for complex parts as the design progresses from variation to variation, because you don’t have to deal with trying to rebuild from some point in a history tree.”

It’s interesting that Deuce chose OneSpace Designer Modeling as much for the licensing model as the technology, but it seems to have made good sense in this case.

Try It Out

Look for this product to hit the slopes near you in the coming months as multi-edge snowboarding steps into winter sports. I’m pretty excited about the prospects for the upcoming season and the potential opportunity to try a Deuce out for myself.

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