Computational Design of Rollerblade Frames
G-Frames: From Concept to Concrete with Slicelab
At most design and engineering consultancies, the majority of interesting DfAM projects and products remain locked behind NDAs and a cloud of client secrecy. To counter this, many firms work on passion projects that become showcases of capabilities that can be shared with potential clients.
The following articles guides us through the design process along with the software tools used to develop the G-Frame Rollerblade Frames.
“After not skating for 15 years, getting back into it inspired me to create something different and tailored to the style of skating I was looking for. Most skate frames on the market have a very similar boxy look, I wanted something more organic looking to echo the curvilinear form of how skaters interact with hardscapes while still being performative” - Arthur Azoulai, CoFounder of Slicelab
Slicelab is a design consultancy with over a decade of experience using cutting edge computational software and digital fabrication to realize projects for clients around the globe. In between those projects, we like to continuously explore new tools and research different types of product design possibilities.
As designers, we find inspiration in many forms, especially those that bring us back to a nostalgic time from our rebellious childhood years. We have always been drawn to designing things we have a connection to, so reimagining a skate frame seemed like a perfect fit as a part of our ongoing research in sports products (Mountain Backs & Bull Rider).
We normally find that there is not a singular software that can do it all for us. As a result, we have our own workflows that act like digital toolboxes to make whatever geometry we feel suits the design direction of a project.
When we last skated ‘aggressively’ our bodies were young, more fit, and seemingly indestructible. Now, we are at a point where we are more interested in casual park skating and would want an 'athleisure' style of skating, if you will. After thorough market research, and learning about every different upgrade and innovation that had happened since we set out to try to incorporate all the features of skate frames that excite us into one design that matches our riding style. A frame with wheel-bite protection, large h-block space, a larger wheel size, and limited sidewall friction with a brand-new design language. This gave us a great starting point in getting our general dimensioning set up for understanding how to go about crafting an initial form. The G-Frames are designed around a standard-size 270mm frame that is UFS compatible (most compatible mounting system) and is connected to the underside of the boot with two standard fasteners (M6 x 1mm) on either end.
With this article, we wanted to give our audience an insight into our workflows and creation process.
We started modeling the massing geometry in Rhino using SubD tools to create a more fluid and organic initial solid shape and using Grasshopper to test some preliminary topology optimization and latticing.
After a few printed prototypes and a few more attempts using Grasshopper, we turned our head to nTopology and were able to work with their engineers at their NY HQ to learn, develop, and set up our Top-Op effectively.
This allowed us to create a unique structural geometry that we used as a structural underlay to model over in Rhino. The process of switching back and forth between these softwares is essential for us as designers to create a product that is structurally sound while having the controlled aesthetic that we are looking for.
Using the newly modeled structure, we jumped back into nTopology this time to strategically add an integrated gyroid system in the open cavities which also aided in keeping debris from interfering with the wheels.
The beauty of this workflow, and implicit boolean operations, was the possibility of now blending the gyroid geometry with the underlay structure to create the carved-out look that we were looking for, something normally not possible in traditional 3D modeling software. Once that last part was done, we worked on getting 3MF files ready to print for HP MJF. As part of our research, we like to explore different materials and methods.
The HP PA-12 material we landed on encompassed all the material properties we were looking for and had the ability to take on any color pattern with no impact on its durability. FEA Analysis of G-Frames
To push our research and design even further, we developed 3 versions of the frame for MJF printing: (1) standard gray version, (2) seamless marble texture, and (3) using implicit boolean methods to create unique two-tone color patterns showcasing how powerful this type of modeling can be in dividing meshes.
This last one proved to be the most challenging.
To ensure a smooth surface finish look, the meshing exports of each part had to be done at very high resolution, with the smallest possible overlap so that the colors could be applied correctly.
The files themselves became really heavy and difficult to handle due to the high density of the mesh. To alleviate that, we used a ‘homebrew’ meshing system that we utilize for most of our AM projects to simplify our meshes while keeping the intended designed form and maintaining exact dimensional qualities.
From there, the final step was to bring the geometry back into Rhino one last time to apply the final colors and export to a 3MF file. This file type can allow multiple overlapping meshes - with different colors - to print cleanly.
This file format is more sophisticated in how it compresses geometry reducing the size by roughly 65% and allows one to embed file traceability like the designers' name and copyright information within the export.
Besides bringing a new look and function to the sport, the G-Frames demonstrate the type of high functional part performance achievable only with advanced additive manufacturing because the complexity of the geometry would be too difficult for injection molding.
We have been testing and riding these frames for almost a year now and they have been holding up pretty darn well. After testing and feedback from others, we have made some slight adjustments to the design and created multiple sizes of the frame and wheel size preference.
Please keep in mind that these products are still considered research so print and use them responsibly with the right protective gear.
As we continue our research with this project, we are exploring new material possibilities, and have also started working on developing a custom 3DP wheel design that has the ability to be compatible with a rider's style and weight. Additionally, developing a combined soul-plate and unibody frame would be the natural next step in trying to push the weight reduction even further
If you would like to learn more about this project join us on December 19th at 2ET for a webinar hosted by 3MF on our process or get involved in this research, you can contact us at email@example.com more information can be found on the Slicelab Website or on Instagram @slicelab.
As we continue to test out these designs, we envision creating many more unique color patterns and textured surfaces that would lend well to more interesting-looking skates.
If you have a computational DfAM project you would like to share please reach out, we are always interested in learning more applications and approaches and if you ar interested in participating in a Computational Design (+DfAM) Symposium fill out the form to register your interest.