Firewire is using NX design software to create a revolution in the surfboard industry. The company has created template-based models that enable fast customization, automated manufacturing and eco-friendly construction. The result: high-performance boards that inspire world-class surfers while protecting the planet.
A revolution in the surfboard industry
Surfing is an individual sport, and every dedicated surfer has a unique style and preference for the types of waves and equipment they like to ride. With a powerful connection to their sport, to nature and to their equipment, surfers insist that their surfboards meet their expectations for performance. Because surfing is a difficult sport to learn, there are only two to three million hardcore surfers globally, and the market for surfboards is highly competitive and fragmented, with about 700 board builders serving the market.
Firewire Surfboards, founded by expert surfers in 2005 and headquartered in Carlsbad, California, produces leading-performance boards, and maintains a competitive advantage through the use of innovative materials and construction techniques. NX™ software, a computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) solution from Siemens PLM Software, has helped Firewire revolutionize surfboard design and production. “Our boards are infinitely more complicated to build than a traditional surfboard,” says Mark Price, chief executive officer (CEO) of Firewire.
“The Siemens software helps us on a number of fronts. Our boards require a very complex set of raw materials that must fit together in a very precise way to create the finished product. Without the ability to pull apart the original shape of the surfboard into those individual parts and assemble it, and then create the machining toolpaths that are necessary to create it, there is no way we could do it.”
Flex is the key to surfboard performance. Engineering flex into a lightweight product that also floats and is durable is quite a challenge. Firewire’s answer was to revolutionize traditional board construction by moving the strengthening wood stiffener, or stringer, from the center of the board to its perimeter and by using aerospace composites to enhance the flex characteristics. An innovative sandwich construction technique makes a lighter surfboard with greater structural integrity.
In addition to its focus on performance, Firewire is at the forefront of the green surfing movement with eco-conscious product development. “Traditional surfboards have toxicity issues in both manufacturing and disposal,” says Price. “In production, many companies work with resins that have known carcinogens, and you can’t biocompost a surfboard – it literally goes into a landfill.” Firewire uses EPS foam and bio-resins that emit 50 times less volatile compounds than conventional polyurethane/polyester boards, and the company recycles waste materials. The exceptional durability of Firewire boards is also a key sustainability feature.
Speed and efficiency
NX software has helped Firewire dramatically improve design and production efficiency and get its surfboards to market more quickly. The leading-edge tools of NX are invaluable in modeling complex contoured geometry, and for generating models of other components like rails, skins, fins and carbon-fiber rods that are used in construction. Firewire has created re-usable design templates using NX that reduce design time for each board from two hours to less than five minutes. The precise geometry is used to create numerical control programs for efficiently machining the components.
Passion and innovation
Passion and innovation have become buzzwords in many businesses, but not for the surfing enthusiasts at Firewire. “When we are working on a product that is so close to our hearts, one that we live to use every single day that we can, it creates an added intensity within the organization that is much greater than the average company,” says Price.