When Bill Spracher, the lead designer and engineer at AMP’D Gear, and Jeff Tiedeken, a master fabricator and hydraulics designer at Monkey Likes Shiny, collaborated to quickly and inexpensively design a next-generation, all-terrain prosthetic leg, the pair turned to Autodesk Fusion 360 software help tackle the project. For their innovative work, AMP’D Gear and Monkey Likes Shiny have been jointly recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for March.
Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview about the company’s business, products and inventive spirit. Here’s what Spracher and Tiedeken had to say about their operations and experiences leveraging Autodesk Digital Prototyping software:
Autodesk: What do your companies develop, and why is it important to the world?
Spracher: At AMP’D Gear, we develop next-generation prosthetic equipment designed to enable amputees to push the limits of human performance. We build low-cost, high-value devices that allow the customer to excel in a physically challenging environment. For example, we make rock climbing "feet" that grip the rock face and edges for vertical climbing and have controlled smearing surfaces for easy decent. The feet also incorporate a toe clip for mountain biking. We also produce a locking, hinged swim fin adapter that allows easy access in and out of rocky shores and flips down to allow for a powerful swim kick. We look at everything required to get customers active with reliability they can depend on. We believe we can make our customers better than new!
Tiedeken: Since Monkey Likes Shiny’s first day, the goal has been to twist minds by building amazing concept prototypes. My nine-plus years of background as a certified aerospace welder and fabricator has set the bar for excellence with concept projects ranging from simple to complex in almost every industry imaginable. We are serving worldwide leading companies, but not excluding the small companies, with the drive to grow those who are blocked by a head-scratching mechanical or tooling question into a world-class company. If I am not in my shop designing, you will find me at a children's science museum machine shop creating the tools and exhibits for the next generation of thinkers to get a head start in the ways of science.
Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your business evolve?
Spracher:We utilize high tech materials and processes. We go from CAD design to analysis to CAM seamlessly. We have 3D printers that build concept prototypes and also make master parts used to make molds for silicone and polyurethane components. We use computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine parts and tooling for carbon fiber components. We use technology to quickly produce products that integrate cutting-edge design with high-performance results.
Tiedeken: I grew up using AutoCAD starting in junior high. Add this to my drive to spend my days in machine shops, and it equals a new dimension in the way I think and work today. I spend one-third of my day designing on the computer and the other two-thirds standing in front of machines making things. I really don't even think about doing work without the use of CAD/CAM and other programs to assist me. I am the next generation of builders and designers. As my generation moves into the hot seats at big companies, the fears of adopting new technology is going away and the last to adopt will really be the slowest in the race of business and skills.
Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why?
Spracher:We are currently using Autodesk Fusion 360 for design and CNC machining. We find these tools to be very intuitive and to work together seamlessly. We also find the CNC programs to not only be very accurate, but also highly efficient. We can trust 100 percent that when we see the toolpaths run in simulation on the computer that we will get exactly what we need on the machine.
Tiedeken: I am in love with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 lineup of tools. It’s a whole new way of modeling that I love. The things I can dream up have no limits; the fact that Fusion 360 combines all of Autodesk's knowledge of Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD makes it key to making a great all-around program for simple things, as well. It’s still early in the early stages with Fusion 360, but it’s where I see the engineering industry going and also opening the doors for new styles of modeling and modelers.
I also model on a day-to-day basis using Inventor 2014 because it’s by far one of the best programs out on the market for doing sheet metal work. Advance level sheet metal work and welding is my true love, so it works perfectly that this is the best program for making the magic happen on projects. It’s like folding origami using sheet metal some days around my shop. I spend a good amount of my time also designing or working for children's sciences centers around the world. This is great for exchange of ideas between different educational institutions and designers because of Autodesk's commitment to helping the growth of education by providing free software to educators. This has definitely changed the game of collaboration in the world of education.
Autodesk: Where do you see your business five years from now? In 10 years?
Spracher:AMP’D Gear started as a side project to help friends that couldn't play in their former world. By building tough, trustworthy and affordable devices, we are growing in a great way primarily from word of mouth. We are getting ready to launch some new products that we hope will turn this business upside down. By solving the problems that amputees face daily, we expect continued growth.
Tiedeken: Good question. What planet will we land on next? You will see my work setting down on the lunar surface. The rest is secret.
Autodesk: What does being a ________ mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]
Spracher:I'm a hat wearer with a lot of different hats. From small business owner, to product developer, to engineer, to machinist, to janitor — I find it hard to say I'm one thing. What is important, though, is being able to have a stable base of operation that has the resources needed to allow us to create useful devices that can and do change people’s lives for the better. Using the skills we have with the best tools available to build cool devices makes for a pretty good day.
Tiedeken: Autodesk forgot to put in a title there. I really don't know what I am, I was hoping they could help me figure it out! I really just love waking up every day and working on the world’s most complex problems. The goal is to make the world a better place, and having the tools is the key to success.
Do you think your company has what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.