In some communities, the library is more than a repository of books, or a place where you get shushed for talking too loud. These days, libraries are offering courses on things like butchering and home brewing, and in some cases offering the equipment needed to do it.
As we grow into a more DIY culture, and libraries look for ways to appeal to a new audience, these types of offerings are popping up in many places. The Wall Street Journal recently printed an article on the trend. Perhaps growing frustrated with not having some of the hands-on skills of previous generations, many people are learning to do things like sewing, carpentry, car repair, and acquiring other skills for things that are often left to a paid professional.
With a trend growing toward individualized and one-off manufacturing, one can only imagine that it's just a matter of time before 3-D printing enters that same realm. Or maybe even courses in things like welding and CNC machining, or robotics programming.
What type of manufacturing-related courses would you like to see at your local library?
As I step off the plane into the desiccating air of the Sonoran Desert, I have no idea what lies in store at the IMTS 2012 Rally Fighter build taking place at the Local Motors facility in Chandler, AZ. As I stare at the endless horizon, having been selected as part of a team of elite engineers whose only mission is to construct the coolest performance vehicle known to man, I wonder how I arrived at this point in the road.
Admittedly I am not the world's greatest mechanic, and it was only after reading an article about Ford’s 2013 Taurus SHO with its 365HP EcoBoost engine, and then using this knowledge to convince my boss I was into cars, that I got picked for the build team. Having only finished the article minutes before walking into his office to make my pitch, apparently I do gearhead pretty well.
Growing up, I did not work on cars. When the family van acted up, we took it to the dealership. Weekends were spent camping, fishing, hiking—but not working on cars. As a teenager, I bought jack stands at a garage sale with delusions of grandeur cranking in my head that I would work on my car. I lugged those stupid things with me through college and never once worked on my ride. Fast forward ten years, and I decided to give my 2004 Impala a full service break job. Everything was going fine until the last wheel. Amazing how one pesky bolt can derail an entire afternoon of blood, sweat, and admittedly, a few tears. After jacking the car down and up a couple of times for good measure, and to replace the parts I forgot to put back on, I admitted defeat and took her into a mechanic. That was in 2010 and I am still using the same pads and rotors today.
With my long list of mechanical accomplishments in tow, my team and I arrived at Local Motors ready to get to work on the 2012 IMTS Rally Fighter. Upon entering, I could not believe how clean the place was for an auto shop. On the left of the building was on office with lots of big screen Mac computers for design work. In front of me was a lobby that looked like a hole of Putt-Putt golf. I wonder what they use that for? On my right hand side were multiple auto bays with 4 Rally fighters in multiple stages of production. All of these spaces are contained in a large warehouse, so there is plenty of light and space to work. Each of the four bays contained every Snap-On tool known to man, in both standard and metric. In the back of the warehouse were parts galore; tires, shocks, seats, hoods, bumpers, steering columns, and all the nuts and bolt you need to assemble a custom masterpiece.
Mike Pisani, the Team Lead and Mechanical Engineer, welcomed us, and after a quick bite to eat we got down to business. In the course of the 3 days I was at Local Motors, I learned more about cars then I had previously learned in my 20+ something years of life. With Mike's expert knowledge guiding the build team every step of the way, we were able to install the transmission, the front and rear suspension, the steering column, tire mounts, tires, the gas pedal, and the emergency brake. At the end of the build, I could show someone how to rivet, ream, and what size wrench to use.
The most unique and exciting aspect of the build was the pure, we-can-customize-anything mindset that permeated the air at Local Motors. When the rear suspension mount on the version 1 Rally Fighter wasn’t quite good enough, the guys at LM designed one in CAD, printed the thing in the back room on a 3D powder printer, hardened it with resin and an oven, actually slapped the sucker on the car to make sure it fit, and then sent it off to a shop to be produced. Can you imagine that happening on an assembly line, or at your repair shop??? It just doesn’t happen, at least not over the course of a few days.
By the end of the build I had learned an enormous amount about cars, and made some great friends. This experience has motivated and inspired me to DIM (Do It Myself), and keep up on the latest automotive technology. I have always loved to tinker, but the ideals of making your own parts (3D printer), assembling them by hand (Rally Fighter), and engineering solutions on the fly, as well as the sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something with your own hands (installing the shock mounts), are unparalleled. Local Motors is proof-of-concept that new business ideas as well as innovative, cutting-edge processes can be successful--you’ve just got to go for it!
After 4 days in the desert, I am a changed man. I have the jack stands, the knowledge, and the experience...this could be dangerous. I wonder if I can take apart my motor?
Posted At : May 18, 2012 1:58 PM | Posted By : Diyana Hrzic ( Profile |
The May IMTSTV show is coming to you from Joe Gibbs Racing in Huntersville, North Carolina. See what it's like behind the scenes at a winning Nascar team. Joe Gibbs Racing has 450 employees, 10 race teams, 27 CNC machines, 900 parts built, and they can build a race car from start to finish in 3 1/2 weeks.