CAD is key for innovative motorized surfboard

Oct. 9, 2003
Bob Montgomery searched the world in vain for an engine powerful yet small enough to fit inside a new style surfboard he had in mind. He eventually concluded he'd have to build not just the surfboard but the engine as well.

The cross section of the Igniter 2000 shows the packaging challenge faced by its engineers. The engine sits amidship and drives a pump at the stern. The Igniter's epoxy hull is shaped in a carbon-fiber mold.
Inventor Robert Montgomery lays over a turn at 45 mph on his Igniter 2000, a surfboard powered by a 45-hp, two-cylinder opposed, two-stroke engine. Montgomery says the surfboard is the product of worldwide collaboration, thanks to Pro/E Wildfire and ProjectLink software.
The belt provides overload protection should debris jam the propeller in the pump. The engine is patented worldwide and outsourced for machining at a local foundry. The engine's approximately 340 parts come from around the world.
The control handle or the Igniter includes a start (green) and stop (red) button and thumb-operated throttle.

That realization set events in motion that started a company, Powerski International, San Clemente, Calif., invented a new sport, and led to an innovative engine that can be built as either two or four stroke. Over 400 of the powered surfboards, called Igniter 2000s, have been sold as production ramps up. Even Zodiac, a maker of inflatable boats, is developing a 9-ft dingy around Powerski's 45-hp engine. "When we couldn't find the right engine," says Montgomery, " we looked for the best engine designer. We found him in Bjorn Elvin, who is now vice president of engine development."

Montgomery says his brainstorm for the powered surfboard came during his teen years when surfing in a small bay. He noticed waves breaking at some distance and wanted to be on them quickly. "A motorized surfboard would be just the ticket. And the idea never left me." To further imprint the idea, Montgomery says he saw the future of water sports in the sideways stance, which comes from extreme sports. This is a riding position that is rarely upright. "People who like these sports cannot relate to sitting down a craft," he says. The Igniter combines a high-performance water ski and surfboard. It frees riders from a tow boat, its wake, the surf, and the wind.

To streamline design work, Montgomery modeled the surfboard and engine in Pro/E Wildfire software and collaboration software called ProjectLink, both from PTC, Needham, Mass. "These let us assemble an engineering and supplier team from around the world," he says.

The engine is the heart of the design. "We've measured up to 56 hp on the dynamometer," says Montgomery. "Orbital Engine Corp. Ltd. (Australia) is supplying a fuel-injection system. A prototype four-stroke design is running and will weigh only about 5 pounds more than the two stroke, which is remarkable. One of our competitors has a 50-hp outboard that weighs 200 lb more than its two-stroke version. Our four stroke will weigh under 50 lb and deliver 50 hp."

Two and four-stroke versions share many parts. "When we get into the four-stroke production on a second line, the left side of the crankcase will simply be exchanged for a chain drive to cams," says Montgomery. The transmission and gears are the same on both engines. The engine measures about 6.5-in. high, 10-in. wide, and 16-in. long. The two stroke will run faster than the four stroke, 10,000 versus 5,000 rpm. Montgomery expects to tune the engine for maximum power or most efficient operation to handle other applications.

The bottleneck in production now is the hull and its tooling. Presently, the hull is hand-laid fiberglass. "But it will be epoxy shaped by a carbon-fiber mold, so each hull is perfect -- a low-weight part from high-rate production," says Montgomery.

The collaboration software, ProjectLink, gets credit for eliminating development delays. "It streamlines file and idea sharing," says James Habig, Powerski's sales and marketing vice president. "For example, we made over 400 modifications to the engine from its first design. ProjectLink has been the central point for the team to exchange notes, images, geometry, and document revisions. So when an engineer in Sweden wants the latest model of the hull or engine, he knows just where to find it." Montgomery designed roughly 30 prototypes by hand. Now, work takes place in Pro/E Wildfire running on top-of-the-line workstations from Hewlett-Packard Co. Both companies are sponsoring the Igniter's development.

The solid modeler's built-in browser lets designers stay in the program to do most tasks. "Working inside the program is more efficient," says Steve Ryan, a Pro/E specialist with Powerski. "We need to make changes on the fly, especially when going to production. The dynamics of the modeler let us quickly change things without having to reshape geometry." Analysis built into the software looks for interference and checks the tolerances on parts.

Make contact:

Hewlett-Packard Inc., Inc., 140 Kendrick St., Needham, MA 02494, (781) 370-5000, www.ptc.comPowerSki Inc., 150-A Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, (949) 369-3920,

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