SciTech Now – Gilson Snowboards

[ Music ]>>On the
powder or in the park, snowboarding is pure physics. A mash up of energy and momentum that keeps thrill seekers
gravitating toward the mountain every winter. But does adding more
science equate with more fun? We traveled to Winfield,
Pennsylvania to find out. Welcome to The Snowboard Farm,
home of Gilson Snowboards. Nick Gilson is the
CEO and President.>>The mission of Gilson is to create the most fun
snowboards in the world. By adapting the geometry
of the shape of the bottom of the board we can actually
build boards that are more fun to ride and that’s really
what keeps us going every day.>>Mike Zeman: His
partner, Austin Royer, is in charge of operations. They both started
as science teachers. The first design was
a classroom project.>>We brought in an idea that
I had had when I was their age in middle school, which
was basically, you know, why are boats curved when
they’re moving through water and snowboards are flat
when they’re moving through snow, which
is solid water.>>Made two snowboards, took
them out to the mountain, tested them out and
they were terrible. It was probably the
worst snowboards you’ve– I’ve ever rode. They were really stiff. They were really, you
know, really heavy, pretty much like riding a
canoe down the mountain.>>Mike Zeman: Trial and error
led to this, a collection of boards Gilson calls the
most advanced in the world. Their claim to fame,
the soft edge.>>So the soft edge is a smooth
bend in the base material that allows you to do a
very new maneuver on snow. It allows you to drift. So very much like a surf
board it can move laterally through the water, snowboard
historically is always, sort of, up on one edge or up on the other carving
one way or the other.>>The three D design keeps
the edges off the snow until you need them. For experts it means new tricks, for beginners a new
learning curve.>>So, you know, beginner you’re
not going to catch as many edges so you’re going to have somebody
that is just starting off from snowboarding being able
to have more fun faster.>>Mike Zeman: Performance
is the big payoff, but the science really starts
in the shop [machine sounds]. The core takes shape here. One hundred percent
Pennsylvania poplar routered to exact specifications. Gilson has four different
models. This machine can make them all. The graphics are applied
using sublimation. Printer converts solid
ink directly to a gas that permeates the plastic. The base is assembled by hand. It takes about 100 clamps per
board and industrial super glue to attach the steel edge.>>So this is what it
looks like at the end. You know you got
your plastic here and there you see the metal
edge has been applied the whole way around.>>Mike Zeman: Now it’s time
for assembly and Gilson starts at the molecular level.>>The more oxygen that
we have on the outside of our plastic the better bond
it would have to our fiberglass. So if you apply lots of
energy to those side balls and oxygen bonds to the
outside and that allows it to bond to the fiberglass.>>Mike Zeman: After
flame treatment the layer by layer assembly begins. A mix of epoxy and hardener
is applied to a sandwich of plastic, fiberglass,
and wood. Then it’s off to the press.>>Our presses allow us to
press with uniform pressure and that allows us to get really
good clarity on our boards. We also use a hot water system
which recycles the hot water so we’re energy conscious
as well. So the first board that we press
also helps us press our third and fourth and fifth board.>>Mike Zeman: After 40 minutes
it’s time for the finish. [ Machine Sounds ] The 3D design has
another advantage and you can only see it on the finished product,
and that’s the flex.>>Just like the corrugations
in cardboard or the ridges in a tin roof that fiberglass, that structural component
is going to be curved. And so when you have a
curved shape it’s stronger, and when you bend a curved
shape it comes back harder. And so with our snowboards when you bend them you actually
have more potential energy and when they snap back
that potential energy turns into more kinetic energy,
sending the rider up higher and really just giving
them a board that feels like it’s more alive,
more responsive.>>Mike Zeman: The Gilson
team is proud of the science, but really it’s always
been about the ride.>>Probably the best experience
that I have is when I’m actually out in demo and I’m
letting people ride them and then tell me how
much they like it and I see their name on– on the
production list the next day.>>Watching someone accelerate
literally become a better snowboarder in a pretty quick
period of time and do things that they didn’t
think were possible and seeing their reaction and hearing their reaction is
just is like beyond inspiring. It’s like 20 cups of coffee. It just makes me want
to get back to work. [ Music ]

Antonio Breitenberg

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