Making it in Vermont: Burton Snowboards’ Global reach Begins in Burlington
Monday, December 30, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
With product and distribution issuing from 81 factories, many on the other side of the planet, it sometimes seems as though Burton Snowboards has glided away from its Vermont roots despite its base in the state’s largest city.
The company makes snowboards, boots, bindings, helmets, and clothing that it sells in 14 of its own stores, five outlets, and through another 1,000 retailers worldwide. It also does a brisk online business, with fulfillment out of its Ohio warehouse.
But it all starts at the 10,000-square-foot R&D and prototyping facilities on Burton’s Burlington campus. There, 13 people create designs for clothing, boots, helmets and goggles that will hit store shelves as much as 24 months later.
The prototype facility is where snowboards for Burton’s professional athletes are made. Workers take one-off snowboards through a long assembly process, and do small-batch production of items that will be tested before being mass-produced.
That’s where the company came up with its revolutionary step-on binding, which enables riders to click onto their boards without bending over. They’re always working on new items, like the helmet shell made from caster bean oil-based nylon that engineers are perfecting in the 3D printing lab, which started up in 2003. Almost every piece of equipment, such as bindings, helmets and boots, passed through the 3D lab at one point in its design, Cunningham said.
“3D printing has changed a lot and made new things possible,” said Chris Doyle, the prototype engineer who runs the company’s 3D printing lab. “You can tweak things a million times, and try things tenfold before you have proof of concept.”
Read the VTDigger profile by Anne Wallace Allen