Some History and the Story

Miki Langenbach bio 

My educational background is in engineering and mathematics but a fascination for sailboarding kept me away from a "normal" life with a 9 to 5 job and a big superannuation.

Instead I traveled the world, looking for fun, wind and waves. After many years of collecting valuable experiences I settled down in Germany as part of the growing sailboard industry. I have built hundreds of sailboards, from shaping to polishing, the standard conventional way and any avenue of high tech composite. Parallel to my life as a shaper I operated an import - export business, mainly supplying the surfboard and sailboard industry in Europe. Getting older I started to get smarter (it is bloody hard work to shape those 8' to 10' up to 5" thick monsters) and, in 1984, built my first profiler, kind of a copy of what my mate in Sydney showed me.

This profiler was different to most others as it used a planer to cut, my first "stress free" blank holding mechanism and a very effective dust extraction. Now I could reproduce accurate curves and improve my surfboards but the profiler was also used to supply half of Europe with "preshapes". My era as a "preshaper" had begun.

In 1993 my first "Pantograph" pumped out surfboards. A love-hate relationship was born. Pantographs suffer all the problems of any shaping machine and some more. As there is no "perfect" original, there is always a worse copy in an even more inaccurate blank. With a production of over 10 000 surfboards per year, maintenance became a burden. With Murphy's law on the wall I started the maintenance war, declaring victory in 1997/1998. Now I had a machine that needed a drop of oil now and then and new brushes from time to time, capable of 12 surfboards per hour. But it had been a tough war with many lessons to be learned. Shaping machines mean heat, dust, vibration, enormous cutting forces and, you guessed it, more dust.

Parallel to this venture I started to go digital. Computer controlled shaping of individual custom surfboards was my aim; I had to get out of the dust, heat and noise. A little air-conditioned control room was my goal.

I did not see the "machine" as a big problem any more, the software was the key. So I started of with a letter to Ian Pierce but he made it only up to Byron Bay. He never arrived at the Gold Coast. Back to CAD programs, laser and touch scanning, surface modeling programs and so on. Nix gut. One day my friend in Sydney rang me and told me about a program he had found on the internet. This was more to my liking, the basics looked good. I invited the programmer over to Australia, outlined our idea and signed a contract. Things started rolling. We had a machine in the making and a program in development. In March 2000 the machine was ready to roll but the program needed still a lot of work. In 2001, Emmanuel decided to sell his program Shape 3D to everyone and not exclusive to my APS3000. At the time I was very keen to have the best software available for my machine exclusive. I was back to square one but I had a bag full of experience and a fully working machine. Now I knew exactly what I wanted but not yet how to get it. Back to scanning, discussions with CAD companies, quotes from software developers and so on and yes, many of these things made surfboards but the control was not in the hands of the shaper and the results did not satisfy the critical eye of the shapers.

In 2001 the heaven opened and by chance Jimmy and Ralph joined. Jimmy and Ralph made it possible that I could dream what I wanted and the next day it was programmed reality. At the beginning of 2003 I was finally able to design and machine surfboards with ease. Still with little limitations but in July 2003 all this was history. Finally I could do what I wanted, design a surfboard like a shaper without special computer skills, tweak the surfboard a bit here and there, position the design on screen into the blank of choice and press the button. With this development the machine had blanks to work and grew from strength to strength. In July 2003 I made 20 surfboards on the APS3000, in August 2003 I made 50 surfboards, half a year later I started the machine had a history of over 4000 surfboards. Not bad for a little single cutter machine originally designed as a shapers tool to make a few surfboards a day. And yes, she can make stingers, wingers, pintails, concaves, perfect transitions, noses to a point, cut the stringer clean and much more. Maintenance?? A drop of oil now and then and new brushes from time to time. Over the years I perfected my "stress free" blank holding system and invented a revolutionary cutting system. You will love her as I do. By the way, I now use brushless servo's... . And did I mention that all 4000 surfboards were individual custom designs?

The Future? The APS 3000 is an open design that can incorporate whatever will come. I could invent the deck rail cut and retrofit every machine out there, I also could proof how easy it is to readjust the machine for those 12'+ paddle boards . Next I will try to cut even cleaner at the same process speed, channels are still a challenge and we will see what 64 bit processors can do better.

Emmanuel Vilmin and his son Thomas are back and their program Shape 3D is today unrivaled. I had proven that an exclusive arrangement made economic sense but Emmanuel proved to me that I would be in deep trouble without his software, available to everybody. Today more than ever the APS3000 can proof its worth and I look forward to the future.

See you there ...