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Jan 28, 2019 | By Cameron
Nascar was an early adopter of 3D printing because it enables their engineers to prototype faster, testing more design iterations to determine what makes the car go the faster. The drivers are often involved in the testing process and thus exposed to the wonders of 3D printing. Brad Keselowski got bit by the 3D printing bug at a young age and he’s now invested over $10 million to start an advanced contract manufacturing company in Statesville, North Carolina.
Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing expects to initially serve aerospace, military, and oil and gas companies, with plans to expand into the medical field next year. Keselowski is the sixth-highest paid Nascar driver, and he won’t be quitting racing to run the additive manufacturing company. For that, he’s hired Steve Fetch, who previously worked as vice president of global quality for 3D Systems. The 70,000-square-foot facility has already been equipped with 3D printers from GE’s Concept Laser as well as some CNC machines, and 30 employees are buzzing around in preparation of production.
In an interview with Forbes, Keselowski said, “This is the type of manufacturing that is not going overseas. I believe in it.” He first learned about 3D printing as a teenager when he watched prototypes tested for aerodynamics in the wind tunnel. “I thought it should go in a real car, but it couldn’t because it was plastic. It’s hot, and it would melt. But it’s good for prototyping,” he remarked.
As a driver for billionaire racing magnate Roger Penske, Keselowski became familiar with the return on investment that comes from smart design and engineering spending, as he explains, “The more engineering and manufacturing skill we put into our race cars, the faster they went and the more I would win. And I like winning."
3D printing provides the quick turnaround times that are often required when racing around different parts of the country that have varied climates. Keselowski recalled a particular day near the end of the 2012 season, “We had designed the car around certain speeds and G-forces, and the weather changed and became unseasonably warm for where we were in Texas. When it gets warm, the cars slow down, and the parameters for one of the parts on the car was out of spec,” he said.
On a Sunday afternoon, the engineering team in Texas was on the phone with the North Carolina engineering team (where the parts are fabricated) discussing the redesign of a part that affects the aerodynamics of the rear of the car. By 9:30 the next morning, they had the new part bolted onto the car for the second race. He came in second, which is spectacular considering his car had a defunct part not even 24 hours earlier.
Keselowski aims to emphasize that if 3D printing can handle the speed and precision of Nascar, it can handle pretty much anything. "Think of that in terms of the product-development lifecycle,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to build with KAM.”
When describing a 3D printed medical solution, Keselowski makes it apparent that he knows the ins and outs of the industry:
“A man was in a really bad crash and needed facial reconstruction surgery. A company built a 3-D implant and inserted it to help assist with the surgery. That sounds easy in theory but is incredibly difficult in practice: scanning the side of the face that's not damaged...engineering parts and pieces...building parts and pieces...quality checking to make sure it's perfect...and delivering in a timely manner, since the more time that goes by, the harder it is to repair.
That kind of work absolutely fascinates me because it's the kind of work that helps improve the human experience. You can effectively change someone's life...but only if you do it right every step of the way.
That's partly why we built our facility beside an airport, and it's also specific to advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities.”
He clearly has the knowledge and the connections (having partnered with GE Additive, ALSCO, Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions, Big Kaiser Precision Tooling, and Mazak Corporation) to create a massively productive 3D printing facility, so check back in February for the official launch.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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