It’s not unusual at a trade show to see a celebrity such as TV’s Jay Leno or NASCAR’s Joe Gibbs serving as a draw for a company. It’s uncommon, though, to sit in on an engineering class at one of the nation’s top universities and encounter a custom motorcycle designer and builder talking about the relationship between tools, design and artistry.
But then not every university has a Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) as the University of Michigan College of Engineering does. Taught by Tom Frank, Entrepreneurship 407, aka the Entrepreneurship Hour, is a speaker series aimed at undergraduates (but also open to the general public) to allow them to engage and network with world-class entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business leaders.
Paul Teutul Jr., founder of Paul Jr.’s Designs and cofounder of Orange County Choppers (featured in the TV series American Chopper), has partnered with waterjet builder Flow International for better than a dozen years. His appearance at CFE came about through the efforts of Flow and SME.
Jeff Krause, SME CEO, opened the session by telling the assembled students about the close relationship between innovation and advanced technology that exists in manufacturing and how SME supports both. Chip Burnham, Flow’s VP of Global Marketing, was up next and began by explaining how waterjets work. Beyond that, he said, “the right tool in the hands of a talented artist can create innovation and inspiration that pushes the boundaries of design and imagination.”
Teutul proved that point when he took the stage and presented photos of four of the cycles he’s designed and built for various customers. There isn’t enough space here to describe the cycles let alone Teutul’s explanation of the process he goes through in designing his creations.
But there is one key element it’s important to point out: “I work with no drawings,” Teutul said. “I have no ability to draw. I work in three dimensions.” Which means the first visual representation of the cycle is created via waterjet.
“It has made my life so much easier,” he said.
For more on the CFE, visit http://cfe.umich.edu.
This article was first published in the December 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Design, Artistry, Manufacturing and Motorcycles” as a PDF.