Coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) have evolved from the Ferranti Co.’s basic arm and table setup of the 1950s to advanced, portable measurement arms.
Portable CMMs take the traditional concepts of quality assurance and inspection one step further by eliminating the need for a lab-based, fixed-position CMM and enhancing the capabilities of traditional hand tools, such as calipers and micrometers. With portable arms, engineers can measure and inspect parts, assemblies and prototypes in-process on the shop floor, facilitating such tasks as reverse engineering and CAD-to-part analysis.
Measurement arms are used in almost every corner of manufacturing. The technology has become so ubiquitous that there is hardly a manufacturer or engineer that does not know about the equipment. Even so, when Paul Teutul Jr. (or simply, Paul Jr.) and his team creates one of their world-famous custom choppers in its honor, you know that portable CMMs have gone mainstream. That’s exactly what took place in January, when Paul Jr. delivered a bike to FARO Technologies.
FARO has been manufacturing portable CMMs since the technology’s infancy in the early 1980s. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, FARO commissioned Paul Jr. Designs to construct a custom bike inspired by the company’s newest portable measurement arm, the Edge. The project was featured on the Discovery Channel’s show, American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.
Prior to beginning construction, Paul Jr. and a film crew travelled to FARO’s headquarters just outside of Orlando, FL, to learn more about the company and see firsthand the product that would set the tone for the new motorcycle. FARO CEO Jay Freeland gave Paul Jr. a personal demonstration of the Edge, showing off its touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity options, on-board diagnostics, smart probe and other features.
After the demo, Paul Jr. set about designing and constructing the bike using the Edge arm in his own shop. He was impressed by the technology, but it was the high-tech blue and gray color scheme and carbon fiber styling that would form the basis of the chopper’s design. “It [was] important to FARO that we used [the Edge arm]-all the styling cues and all the innovation that’s in this arm-and incorporate that into the new bike,” explains Paul Jr.
Since we wouldn’t be seeing any drawings or elaborate renderings prior to delivery, we anxiously awaited the unveiling of Paul Jr.’s newest masterpiece.
Building a BikeTraditionally, jobs of this sort involve manual forms of measurement. Calipers, tape measures and the like are all used in the design of bike components. Translating these measurements into CAD designs is an even bigger challenge, and reverse engineering generic parts for customization later can become one of the job’s most taxing aspects. The team at Paul Jr. Designs faces these challenges every day, and it is these time-consuming activities that measurement arms like the Edge were designed to tackle. “We love [the Edge arm] as a matter of practicality,” explains Paul Jr. “Things that would take a half a day or all day now only take minutes.”
FARO’s new arm articulates on seven axes and offers single-point repeatability up to 0.0009 inch. By simply touching the Edge arm’s probe along selected points of a part’s surface, users can record precise measurements for CAD-to-part inspection, reverse engineering and other applications. The Edge has a built-in touch screen computer that allows the user to make basic measurements without connecting to a laptop. Additional quick tools and measurement “apps” allow the user to program in those tasks they perform regularly for quick access later.
The utility of the arm was evident throughout the chopper project. For example, while working to create a custom primary drive cover, Paul Jr. Designs engineer Vinnie DiMartino used the arm to quickly record the dimensions of an existing cover and import that design into a CAD program. That design was then fed into the shop’s CNC machine, which cut the custom part to spec. “It’s ridiculous how fast it is,” says DiMartino.
The team utilized the arm in other ways, as well. The arm ensured that measurements of the handle bars, exhaust and even the seat were made quickly and accurately. Creating a bike as unique and detailed as the Edge bike is a testament to Paul Jr.’s experience and talent-creating it in just about three weeks is a testament to the time saved with the measurement arm.
Paul Jr. relied heavily on the Edge’s look, and not any preplanned designs, to create the custom bike. Viewers of American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior were treated to scenes of Paul Jr. working with his team to explain his vision and make revisions on the fly. Because of the improvements in accuracy and efficiency yielded by the CMM, the team was able to make some fairly quick decisions.
Hours of measuring, cutting, welding and painting turned into days and weeks as the bike began to take shape. However, the bike would not be complete without a paint job that truly reflected the Edge arm’s look, and Paul Jr.’s painter, Robert “Nub” Collard, delivered a look that impressed the entire team. The Edge’s carbon fiber design was replicated perfectly on the tank, wheels and body of the bike. On the third day of assembly, the custom pieces were affixed to the bike’s frame, and it was buttoned-up for delivery-and what a delivery.
Paul Jr. personally delivered FARO’s new chopper to the company’s headquarters. Due to the confidential nature of the Edge arm’s new technology, Paul Jr. presented it first to a select group of employees. Film crews watched and documented as the chrome and blue chopper rolled into the building and stunned the team.
To give the bike a proper unveiling, FARO invited Paul Jr. and the crew back to their corporate headquarters in January on the day the episode aired to reveal the bike to the entire company. The bike shook windows and rocked the audience as it thundered into FARO’s largest meeting room and thrilled the hundreds of employees watching in-person and around the world via Web cam.
The bike stands as a testament to the design ingenuity of two companies at the top of their respective games and to the power of CMM technology to expedite almost any engineering job. “To stay competitive, it’s really this type of technology that makes my life easier and easier on the employees,” explains Paul Jr.
We couldn’t agree more.