Cars, cars, cars. Even from a young age I’ve always been passionate about cars. When I was a child and my mother had me in the child’s seat on her bike, I would just point to all the cars around and say the make and model. I love their look, driving them and, most of all, the way they are conceptualized and engineered.
Therefore, after I was working at Materialise at the corporate level for some time and a position opened up in the RapidFit+ division, I immediately applied for that role. RapidFit+ makes measurement fixtures using 3D Printing to measure car parts made of either plastic or metal. This is particularly useful for the automotive industry where cars have to be measured for engineering purposes as well as for quality and safety checks. Soon I became the business developer and sales representative for the U.K., a country with a great automotive legacy and some of today’s top car brands such as McLaren, Bentley, Aston Martin & JLR.
From Prototype to Dealership
RapidFit+ provides tools to both the car manufacturers (known in the industry as "OEMs") and its Tier 1 suppliers (suppliers that make or assemble parts that can go directly into the car) to make sure that the car meets quality and safety standards throughout the whole process. There are around 3,500 parts that need to be checked in a car to make sure it is consistent. For example, an OEM might get its glove box from a Tier 1 supplier. The supplier has to make sure that the glove box is the right size, but also has to verify that it corresponds with other parts the OEM might order, such as the dashboard.
With 3D Printing we can very accurately replicate the “RPS” (Reference Point System) points that are used to check the individual parts. Checking everything is quite time consuming, but if a fixture can measure everything easily, then it saves the production team time on every part that they check.
At RapidFit+, I work with the engineers who develop the cars through the prototype phase, so that they can have the best instruments to accurately see if the car is built the way that the designers conceptualized it. I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing a design go from concept to fully-functioning car, and making sure that it is built the way that the designers imagine it to be.
At RapidFit+ we usually see the cars two or three years before they are on the road, which is pretty cool. Once a prototype is ready, I work with other engineers who are responsible for the functional aspects of a car and a lot of testing happens before it the car is finally ready for the market. Since our fixtures are built as modular structures, it is relatively easy to adjust the measuring tools at each stage, giving the OEM’s & Tier 1’s more flexibility as they develop the car. Also, because it is a modular system, this also means that less raw material is used during production.
The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts?
Working at RapidFit+ has given me a new perspective on how cars are made. I like seeing how the different parts and elements fit together to create one seamless object. When I work with the suppliers and the OEM’s, it’s always satisfying to receive feedback about how RapidFit+ is useful for them. The traditional way of measuring is by using solid metal that is formed to fit only the specific part of the car structure. But with RapidFit+, if the design is changed at all, it is simple to change and upgrade the measuring structure. Customers are always surprised to see how much data they can obtain from our fixtures: they never expect to get that much information from just one product.