With an engineering background, an established career in the aerospace and medical industries and power tools, Rob Green is no stranger to the machine shop.[Not a valid template]
“As an engineer, I love to create stuff. About ten years ago, two of my three boys were old enough to be into unicycles and skateboards and doing tricks on bicycles. So I asked them, ‘Hey what do you guys think about building an electric skateboard?’
Green said, “Both of them thought it would be a great idea, so we went out and tooled around on a skateboard and tried to figure out how fast it could go. We bought a sample motor and figured out what output power and speed and reduction it needed to be.
“Over time the project just died and was dropped,” Green continued, “but then about three years ago my oldest son Peter said ‘Hey dad, we have to do that electric skateboard.’ At that time a new type of board was on the market; two-wheeled, faster boards that you pushed back and forth like ice skates and they articulate in the middle. People were calling them wave boards, street surfers, or rip sticks. Peter said, ‘That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to power a Rip Stick.’”
Green came up with some prototypes and by the end of the week the RoamBoard—a new electric skateboard that brings surfing and snowboarding to the street—was born. “We started on a Friday afternoon by taking apart an electric scooter and a rip stick and putting the halves together. By Sunday evening at 7 o’clock we did our first ride. This was a power-driven two-wheeled board and one of the really unique things about it was that it was articulated in the middle.”
Working on the two-wheeled board to a point where Green felt like he couldn’t get the product to market without spending a significant amount of tooling money, he modified the design, jumping from two to four wheels. “Adding two more wheels lowered the learning curve for riders, but introduced a design challenge of how to keep the incredible mobility provided by the articulation in the middle,” Green explained.
To solve this design challenge, Green added tie rods on the front end. The revised design essentially had a canted truck that steers normally like a skateboard and tie rods to achieve unparalleled mobility at both slow and fast speeds. “I didn’t realize that the articulated steering in the middle was so magic. All we knew was that the rip stick was cool because you could go fast and be stable, but unlike a skateboard, you can go very slow and still be stable. On a RoamBoard (like on a Rip Stick), when a rider goes slow, they can just tweak one foot without leaning and the board will steer. It’s a much more stable feeling than if you ride a skateboard slow. It’s a lot of fun.”
“As I’ve gotten involved in the Maker community I see all those cool things. It turns out that I might be uniquely positioned because I’ve got a technical background and enough of an executive background that I can get my head around an entire business and get those kind of things started in a disciplined, successful way. From my perspective, manufacturing is the hardest part—while it’s the most straightforward, manufacturing is the hardest,” he added.
Working through the design process and three iterations over the course of the next year, Green was outsourcing aluminum parts to local machine shops. “We were buying parts and not making much money,” Green said. “So, we started making our own boards, our own electronics, and started looking at CNC thinking, ‘Hey, there’s a huge opportunity here to reduce cost.’”
Initially looking to retrofit an old mill, Green soon came to the realization that a new machine would best suit his financial and space requirements, “I started looking online for new machines and Tormach came up. I will say right away what struck me about Tormach was the lack of machine salesmen. You were solution providers,” he recalled. “And what I mean by that is I knew that I was not going to be able to afford an automated CNC machine with a large-bed capacity, tool changer, high power spindle with high capacity and I didn’t want that either. We’re in an 8-car garage so our space was limited. Tormach had already come up with a tool changer, and were selling the Tormach Tooling System, coolant, accessories and it had been very well thought through.”
Making a spreadsheet and comparing the different mills, Green decided to purchase a PCNC 770 in July of this year. “Tormach was a little bit more expensive, but I could buy everything from one place. I felt very comfortable spending a little bit of extra money knowing I was going to get an integrated system that was going to function. I bought the PCNC 770 because all my parts are small. I did not buy the Automatic Tool Changer, but I did buy the Power Drawbar and its worked out phenomenally.”
Using the PCNC 770 to manufacture steering knuckles and steering mounts, Green has plans to manufacture the entire RoamBoard in house. Under the umbrella of LR Designs, Green is also working to develop an aluminum wallet fully machined on the Tormach mill and finished with a proprietary coating similar to an anodized finish (more information on these projects is available at liquidroam.com or veosllc.com).
“LR Designs is something that I’ve approached from two directions,” Green said. “One is that it’s fun to have a really cool product out there. As we’ve grown, I’ve taken my learning’s from the corporate world. I’ve realized that being an entrepreneur is both the same and totally different. The second direction is the part where I’m trying to reinvent my career.”
He continued, “Throughout my entire career, I’ve judged vendors on a really simple rule, ‘Say what you’re going to do, and do what you say.’ Tormach has done exactly that. Your equipment and what it accomplishes is exactly what your marketing says it does. It holds up to exactly what you said it was going to do it was a big investment and to have that correlation between marketing claims and actual performance is great. I’m happy as a clam.”