How a Custom Longboard Became a High-Speed CNC Machining Sample

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“What made you decide to mill an aluminum longboard?”  That’s a question we’ve been asked countless times by people who see our most popular high-speed machining demonstration. So, I decided to write a blog that explains the origin of this unique sample.

How the Idea Was Born

I was enjoying the sunny skies and sites of Key West with my family, and my 15 year old daughter had yet to put both feet on the ground because she was using a beat-up, wooden longboard to transport herself through the narrow streets of the historic city. Out of the blue, a boy whizzed by on a custom longboard and disappeared down a side street. She yelled, “Dad, did you see his aluminum longboard!?”  Visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house or deep sea diving were no longer the highlights of my daughter’s vacation.

As we explored the plethora of tacky tourist shops, we came upon the shop that would change how DATRON demonstrates its CNC machines for years to come.  Apparently, the boy with the shiny, homemade longboard worked there. He had conveniently parked the longboard upright next to the entrance for my daughter to see and drool over, to which she implored, “Dad, would you make one for my birthday?!”  Upon examination, it was obvious that the boy knew someone with a CNC machine. Since I had access to DATRON high-speed machining centers, which excel in milling aluminum, I was not about to bow down to the challenge.

The Custom Longboard Design

When we returned home (and unbeknownst to my daughter), I began designing and programming her sixteenth birthday present. It wasn’t until I started to machine the longboard that I realized how well it demonstrates the capabilities of DATRON high-speed machining centers. For example, the deep pocketing on the underside, designed to reduce the weight of the longboard, shows off the efficiency of our 60,000 RPM spindle for rapid material removal.  The diamond pattern on the top, designed to replace grip tape and ensure firm footing, demonstrates the machine’s ability to mill fine cuts and intricate patterns with small tools.

Custom longboard milling for a longboard made of aluminum can require various processes including rapid material removal, radius milling and milling of intricate patterns such as the diamond pattern machined on the top of this longboard to serve as a grip tape replacement.
Milling processes used in machining a custom longboard from aluminum.

The Custom Longboard Milling Process

When it was time to mill the custom longboard, we put our arsenal of unique high-speed machining features to good use. Aluminum sheet material was fixed to the solid granite machine bed using a vacuum table (or vacuum chuck) for workholding.

Custom longboard machined from aluminum sheet material held with an integrated vacuum table on a DATON high speed CNC machining center.
A vacuum table was used to secure this custom longboard during machining.

Our integrated probe was used for part location and surface scanning, also known as surface mapping. During this process, the probe takes a series of measurements along the surface of the aluminum sheet material and feeds that data into the control software. Any surface variance is automatically compensated for in the milling program. This ensures accuracy and the machined quality of the custom longboard.

Custom longboard machining uses probing or surface scanning to map the material surface feeding data into the control software so that irregularities can be compensated for dynamically before the machining begins.
Probing (surface scanning) helps ensure accuracy when machining a custom longboard.

When milling the custom longboard from aluminum sheet material, a spray-mist coolant provides optimal cooling and quickly evaporates so that no degreasing is required once the part is completed. The micro-volume or minimum-quantity coolant is sprayed with multi-directional nozzles so that it is continuously applied to the cutting edge of the tool. This helps produce a superior cut as well as surface and edge finishes – all while minimizing tool breakage.

Custom longboard milling using materials like aluminum can benefit from a spray-mist coolant that minimizes tool breakage and maximizes milling performance and quality of cut.
A fine spray-mist coolant is directed at the cutting edge during the milling of the custom longboard.

The Finished Product

This custom longboard was a huge surprise on my daughter’s sweet sixteen. Watching your child open the gift she wished for on her birthday is one of those special moments that a parent gets to experience. Years later, the same expression comes to my face when I think about it.  And, I get to see that facial expression on another parent when we give them a similar longboard to bring home to their child. It’s funny how some of the simplest moments in your life can bring new direction and purpose.

Custom longboard machined with DATRON high speed milling machines as a trade show demonstration.
Custom longboard milled on a DATRON high-speed machining center
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bill.king@datron.com'

About the Author

Bill King is the President of DATRON Dynamics and oversees all aspects of company operations. He founded the company in 1996 and has been in the manufacturing sector for over three decades. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Design from Humber College in Toronto, Canada.

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