What engineer doesn't have some long-dreamed-about design concept tucked in his or her head, just waiting for the right time or the right opportunity to take that idea to the next step? In the case of Dustin Clark, a mechanical engineer by training who spent 10 years in technical sales at Autodesk, that time is now, thanks to a new patent and a comfort level with 3D design tool and simulation technology that has finally made it possible to bring his hands-free skateboard truck to market this October.
Clark has formally launched Tork Trux, a skateboard component company he hopes will become synonymous with ACT (Advanced Capturing Technology), patented technology aimed at simplifying skateboard assembly and providing an overall safer ride.
Tork Trux's idea, although seemingly simplistic, was to create a superlight skateboard truck that can be securely fastened to the board without the rider needing multiple tools and an extra pair of hands. A skateboard truck is the metal axle component that attaches the wheels to the board. Rather than buy a complete off-the-shelf product, most hard-core skateboard enthusiasts pick out their board and components separately, choosing a customized mix and assembling them on their own.
Tork Trux is a superlight skateboard truck – essentially, the axle holder – which can be easily attached to the board.
Skateboarding zealots will no doubt be impressed with the Tork Trux design, which integrates a built-in wrench shape into the base plate portion of the truck in addition to a flange nut that keeps the nut in that same wrench-shaped area without skateboarders having to use their fingers at all.
"Imagine holding a skateboard vertical between your knees while holding the truck, putting a screw into a hole with one hand, and holding a Phillips-head or an Allen key in your other hand to attach the truck -- that was the problem we were trying to solve," says Clark, who's been an avid skateboarder for more than 20 years.
As a consumer, it's one thing to have that ah-ha moment for a concept that will address some nagging problem, but it's quite another thing to bring that idea to life. What should stick with the rest of us about Clark's story, even if we're not bowled over by the Tork Trux's simplicity or utility, is how the growing accessibility of tools like 3D CAD and finite element analysis (FEA) capabilities are regularly giving would-be product inventors a fighting chance to bring their concepts to market.
We recently told the story of another enthusiast, ShapeLogic's Bruce Pettibone, who parlayed his CAD background and love of surfing into a partnership where he built an online customization solution based on Siemens PLM Software's NX to sell Firewire Surfboard's high-end boards.
In this case, it didn't hurt that Clark had intimate knowledge of, and direct access to, Autodesk's digital prototyping suite. He likely did the dog-and-pony show on Inventor's built-in FEA functions to customers, dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times. Yet Clark put his money where his mouth was. Inventor's FEA tools were instrumental in the toughest part of the design, he says, which was eliminating unnecessary material while keeping the truck sufficiently strong to withstand the stresses of riding. 3D prototyping even played a role in making the Tork Trux a reality. Three years earlier, Clark used 3D printing to test a wrench-only version of the truck before producing a mold, and found the design didn't go far enough in eliminating the nut from spinning. Once back to the drawing board, he settled on the addition of the flange nut, which served to eliminate all degrees of freedom.
Clark admits his tenure in the CAD software business has definitely been an asset and swayed him to the idea that design and engineering, not lifestyle and an emphasis on tricks, will be what sets his skateboard company apart from the rest of the competition. "I've had a huge advantage compared to someone who has to hire an engineer or go through a much lengthier process if they weren't familiar with tools like this," Clark explains. "It's just second nature to me."