The company - which builds custom and production motorbikes in Orange County, New York - has responded to a customer's ambitious request to design a bike in the shape of a Chinese dragon.
Orange County Choppers has featured on the Discovery Channel's American Chopper reality television show that most recently pitted a father against his son to see who could build the best custom bike. Moreover, the company is famous for building motorbikes around a theme, such as the Fire Bike, which paid tribute to the New York firemen who died on September 11th, 2001, including a steel rivet from the World Trade Centre in the build.
Custom-made motorbikes demand many intricate parts to carry the design theme, with most of these parts being produced in lots of just one for a unique machine. In the past, Orange County Choppers machined these parts from aluminium billets or high-density foam, with this approach requiring considerable time for creating a computer numerical control (CNC) program, producing fixtures to hold the part and machining the part, often on multiple machines.
The labour involved increased both lead time and cost and the parts could be heavy.
Orange County Choppers has seen a rise in demand for custom bikes on a Fortus 400mc 3D Production System.
Graphic artist and designer for the company Jason Pohl prefers using additive manufacturing as a means of building bikes because it allows him to "work with the solid model created during the design process without any additional preparation".
"You export an STL file and send it over to the printer and go on to your next job. The Fortus produces a perfect replica of the solid model without any operator supervision or tooling. We often use the sparse fill build to substantially reduce the weight of parts," Mr Pohl said of the build process.
The expert was tasked with making the Chinese dragon bike customer's dream a reality.
Mr Pohl designed the dragon's head in 3D Studio Max graphic design software with the utmost precision, including stylised horns, teeth, eyelids, gums and fire-breathing nostrils.
Outfitted with an S$S 100 cubic inch engine and a Rolling Thunder frame, the bike is street legal in China, where the client lives.
The designer stated that in the past, Orange County Choppers would have had to cut the dragon's head out of high-density foam using numerous setups to achieve the intricate undercuts and angles.
"We would have had to scale back the design in order to keep a lid on the time and cost required to manufacture the part," Mr Pohl remarked.
However, with the Fortus, the designer drew up the dragonhead without having to worry about the production process.
"The Fortus machine captured every detail down to the ribs on the roof of the dragon's mouth. When I put the head on my desk, it felt like it was going to come to life any second," he revealed.
To further reduce weight after the first iteration, the expert created internal gaps and printed a second copy. He revealed the client loved the design, which was created faster and less expensively that would be possible using traditional production methods.
"I am continually amazed by the ability of additive manufacturing to transform my most complex designs into real life," Mr Pohl concluded.