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The firm that fronted American Chopper, the show that pioneered pretty much the entirety of the Discovery Channel’s current output, have had their eyes opened to the pros of 3D printing for their custom made motorbikes.
Famous for the father son clashes and beautiful handcrafted motorcycles, American Chopper focused on New York Company Orange County Choppers (OCC). Even before the television series they had set a precedent in the custom-built motorcycle world.
Previously CNC machinery was used to produce custom parts for these wonderful machines, like the Fire Bike made to look like an FDNY fire truck in memory of the 343 Fire-fighters who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.
But over the last few years OCC has begun to use a Stratasys Fortus 400C 3D Production System to create parts. “What’s great about additive manufacturing is that you can work with the solid model created during the design process without any additional preparation,” said Jason Pohl, graphic artist and designer for OCC. “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.”
The most recent challenge for OCC and the Fortus printer has been a rather ambitious request by a customer wanting a bike designed in the shape of a Chinese dragon.
“In the past, we would have cut the head out of high-density foam using at least a dozen setups to get all of the undercuts and angles,” he said. “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.”
With the Fortus, Pohl designed the dragon’s head without worrying about how to produce it. “The Fortus machine captured every detail down to the ribs on the roof of the dragon’s mouth,” Pohl said. “When I put the head on my desk, it felt like it was going to come to life any second.”
To reduce the weight after that first iteration, Pohl created internal voids and printed another copy. The client loved the design, which Pohl created faster and at less expense than was possible with traditional methods.
“I am continually amazed by the ability of additive manufacturing to transform my most complex designs into real life.”