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February 07, 2005
Orange County Choppers Uses SolidWorks To Bring Dream Bikes To Life -- One Of The Highlights At SolidWorks World 2005
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Orange County Choppers Uses SolidWorks To Bring Dream Bikes To Life -- One Of The Highlights At SolidWorks World 2005

Orange County Choppers, the custom motorcycle shop popularized on the Discovery Channel show "American Chopper," uses SolidWorks software to design the sweeping exhaust pipes, daring wheels, and other key features that make its street machines unique. SolidWorks' ease of use allows Orange County's lead parts designer to convert cool ideas into 3D models without any prior computer-aided design (CAD) software training.

"I'm an artist, not an engineer or a programmer," said Jason Pohl, designer at Orange County Choppers. "I usually just throw lines on paper to knock out a good concept for the part I am working on. SolidWorks was so easy to learn that in no time, I could put my sketch ideas into 3D models that I can perfect before machining begins. I am now sculpting my ideas rather than just sketching them."

In a niche industry where form and function both push the envelope, innovation is limited only to the designer's imagination. Orange County Choppers has earned international recognition with its creative designs and daily explosive arguments aired on the show. Pohl, who honed his skills at the Illinois Institute of Art, uses SolidWorks to design everything from custom swing arms, which connect the rear wheel to the bike frame, to flashy wheels with sharp eye-catching tribal knife blades as spokes.

"Some people in this industry use AutoCAD," said Pohl. "That's a boring 2D program that limits creativity. SolidWorks brings our ideas to life, so we have a good idea of what they'll look like and how they'll perform. It gives us cross-sectional views, exploded parts views, and light shading. The parts look like real chrome. SolidWorks lets me prove things out, so I can see how a new wheel design would look at 70 miles per hour, and then test the wheel's structural integrity."

SolidWorks helps Pohl save time in trying new ideas because he can change parts models as often as he wants without having to re-create the design from scratch. For example, he can use the software to check whether the rear suspension system in a softail motorcycle design will interfere with any other parts, and troubleshoot any problems before production begins.

Pohl also uses SolidWorks Gold Partner Product DezignWorks (
www.dezignworks.net) to convert his hand-drafted sketches into 3D models in SolidWorks that he then fleshes out, modifies, and refines. This step streamlines his design process so that he can quickly complete design concepts to show to the shop's owner Paul Teutul, Sr., and chief fabricator, Paul Teutul Jr. The teamwork and sometime theatrics between father and son have fueled the show's widespread popularity.

"Choppers and software. It's not a combination that immediately jumps to mind," said Paul Teutul, Sr. "But Jason makes it work, and the results are the new part designs that give our choppers an edge."

Pohl creates edgy designs by bending exhaust pipes, handlebars, and other steel parts models in SolidWorks prior to the computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) process. He saves time by sending SolidWorks-generated 3D models to Mastercam, the SolidWorks Certified CAM partner application that creates the computer numerical control steps to automatically manufacture parts.

"To anyone in the motorcycle industry, be they designers, fabricators, or enthusiasts, the stylistic and creative possibilities are endless," said SolidWorks Chief Operating Officer Jeff Ray. "SolidWorks lets artists like Jason Pohl reap the benefits of 3D CAD and explore all of the possibilities for innovation."

About Orange County Choppers

Orange County Choppers has gained international recognition from the popular Discovery Channel TV show "American Chopper." Based in Montgomery, N.Y., the store custom builds motorcycles for well-known clients from around the world. Paul Teutul, Sr. opened the shop to fuel his passion for motorcycles after successfully growing Orange County Ironworks into a thriving business. For more information, visit the Web site at

This was one of the main highlights of SolidWorks World 2005 that was held in Orlando, Florida last week. The three-day event was attended by over 2,200 people - users, resellers, partners, prospects, and SolidWorks employees. We got a lot out of the show itself, and enjoyed spending time with SolidWorks users and employees, including top management.

Although the general theme of the conference was "The Power of 3D," each day had a sub-themed general session that emphasized that power and the influence of SolidWorks.

Day 1 - "The Power of the 3D Community"

The first general session was about sharing ideas, creating resources and joining forces. Jeff Ray, SolidWorks COO, said a great amount of power is associated with the SolidWorks community. In the past year, the company has made good on several customer service initiatives and recently hired a new VP of customer service, Richard Welch. User groups, always an important part of the SolidWorks community, now number more than 100 worldwide. The user group effort is headed up by new hire and long-time "volunteer" user group organizer, Richard Doyle.

John McEleney, SolidWorks' CEO, took the stage on a motorcycle created by Orange County Choppers, the custom motorcycle shop made famous by the Discovery Channel show "American Chopper." Orange County Choppers used SolidWorks and COSMOSWorks to create the motorcycle. Also sharing the stage with McEleney were the stars of the show: shop owner Paul Teutul, Sr.; his son and chief fabricator, Paul Teutul, Jr.; and designer Jason Pohl.

When the smoke cleared, McEleney discussed the overall CAD industry and the state of SolidWorks. He feels the global economy has stabilized because business in general is picking up and more businesses are committing to long-term projects. Many of these companies are also investing in new tools and processes, he said.

McEleney then covered a number of topics regarding the company. He emphasized that SolidWorks continues its commitment and focus on improving the user experience, for both current and potential users. He said one of his main goals is to plan for a million SolidWorks seats while keeping the user community and all those associated with it invigorated.

Day 2 - "The Power Of A 3D Future"

The main presentation at the general session was given by Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites and designer of SpaceShipOne, the first manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000ft (62 miles, or 100km) twice within two weeks to claim the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. Rutan's small design team used a variety of CAD applications, including SolidWorks and COSMOSWorks, to design and engineer SpaceShipOne. He gave an excellent, if somewhat irreverent (towards NASA) presentation on what he sees as the future of privately funded space tourism and travel in the next decade.

Day 3 - "The Power Of 3D Software Tools."

For many of the attendees, the overview of what's coming in SolidWorks 2006 was the highlight of the conference. Jeff Ray said the company has three main release themes for SolidWorks 2006:
  • Make SolidWorks the workhorse of the industry
  • Make it easier and faster to go from 3D to 2D - create drawings from models
  • Ensure that SolidWorks 2006 is better-suited for consumer product design
  • The various areas of new and enhanced features for SolidWorks 2006 were discussed in the following categories:
  • General enhancement
  • Consumer product design
  • Machine design
  • Sheet metal
  • Overall performance for large assemblies and drawing.
  • We will take a much closer look at SolidWorks 2006 as its launch draws near.

    Based on what we saw and heard at the conference, 2005 looks to be good year for SolidWorks as a product and company.

    Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached here or 408.850.9230.

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    Upcoming Events
  • COE 2005 Annual PLM Conference & TechniFair
  • Boeing Executive To Speak At Analyst Conference
  • Autodesk To Present At The Merrill Lynch Computer Services And Software Conference 2005

    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.