A question we often receive is "how do you go about designing your frames?"
We typically go through a lengthy development and testing process for all Endless frames. In general, we believe that the best product designs are born from a combination of careful analysis and extensive real-world use testing. Typically there are multiple prototype iterations before we arrive at the final design. We do not believe in rushing products to market just to keep up with what our competitors may be doing. Doing so would be antithetical to our design ethos (learned over nearly two decades designing spacecraft hardware as a mechanical engineer) and the high end experience we want our customers to have. We try to synergize physical performance with the the industrial / aesthetic design. The ultimate production model should not only provide an exceptional ride experience, but it should make your skates look so good that you and others are inspired to skate.
All of our designs begin their life as a 3D CAD model. We use PTC Creo as our design tool of choice. As we create the design we consider wheel configurations, wheelbase, rocker, weight, stiffness, shock absorption, ride height, and mounting adjustability. Assembly models are created to evaluate the fit and clearances of wheels, frame bolts, and axles. Once we have a workable design concept we print out paper mockups to check against our growing collection of skate boots. Not only is it important that the wheels clear the boot, but we want the flow of the frame to feel integrated with the look of the boot, and to enhance the aesthetics. We meticulously fine-tune to placement of every edge and angle to make the whole skate look like the best version of itself. This process is very iterative especially as we consider different boot styles. Some frames simply look like pieces of metal to which wheels are attached. Other frames look like a natural extension of the skate and the foot itself. We aspire to make our frames the latter.
In the case of our Trinity frame designs we spent many months refining the geometry using boot profile CAD models provided by Powerslide. The frames must be compatible with not only all models of Trinity skate, but also with all sizes for each of those models. This means that when an Endless frame is mounted to a size 47 Powerslide Next boot it will fit just as well as it does on a size 38 Phuzion. Furthermore, the wheels must clear the boot for the complete front-back adjustment range offer by the mounting slots in the frame. Using 3D CAD modeling we are able to evaluate all these clearance scenarios and optimize the ride height of the frames. For a final verification check we collaborated directly with Powerslide engineers so that they could evaluate specific minimum clearance locations using their 3D boot models.
When a design meets all of our geometric criteria and is looking really good against multiple boots, we manufacture the first prototype. We make our prototypes as if they are production parts so that means they have the same anodized finishes and laser marking we would give to a final product. This allows us to experience the part in the same way our customers would. The first thing we do with the prototype parts is evaluate the fit and verify that key dimensions were machined properly by the vendor. Once mounted to a boot, we compare frame bolt and wheel clearances to those values predicted by our models. We also evaluate the aesthetics of the design—does it look as good on the actual boot as we had initially envisioned? Then we do the fun part: we skate it! The initial skate gives us a first impression of the ride. How does the rocker feel? How does the wheelbase feel? How does the weight feel? How smooth is the ride?
A core group of beta testers typically skates each frame for many months. Both 3-wheel and 4-wheel setups are skated extensively. When one lives with a setup for a long period of time one truly gets to know the unique personality of a frame and discovers what its strengths and weakness are. These discoveries can lead to revisions and additional prototypes. For instance, the initial prototype might have turned out to be too heavy, and a second prototype is required to trim some weight. Or perhaps something about the visual design doesn’t feel balanced when mounted to a particular size boot. Feedback from the beta testers is collected and used to further refine the design. At that point pre-production prototypes are sent out to a wider audience of beta testers to validate the design changes. We try to push the frames to the limit over the next few months to ensure that the design is robust and can deliver high performance in almost any scenario. When everyone is happy with the experience then the frame is finally ready for production.