How to Prepare for the Automated Fab Revolution

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Robotics, 3D PRinting, LAser and 12 Volt Retailing

“The robots are coming and we have to be ready for them,” said Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University, speaking of laser cutters, CNC and 3D printers at a seminar on Automated Fabrication at KnowledgeFest in Las Vegas last month.

He believes that laser cutters and the like will be as common in 12 volt shops as a table saw.

With even six hours of training in drawing (CAD) and some basic preparation, dealers can start producing speaker plates, switch plates, radar detector modules, point of purchase items and more. An entry level “hobby” laser is all that is needed to begin.

12 Volt Fabrication
Chris McNulty, flanked by John Brettle of Cartunes Atlanta (left) and Jason Kranitz (right) led a seminar on 12 volt fabrication.

Will it make you more money?  Yes, if you are willing to charge for “precision cut” parts specifically designed for the customer’s car. Additionally, the ability to produce accessories when needed can save you money, and some dealers end up producing parts such as enclosures for other dealers.

Chris McNulty, Director of Technical Support and Training for Elettromedia USA and Instructor at Kingpin University said,  “If you buy speaker plates from a manufacturer, you may make $20 on them. When you do the work that is 100 percent custom to the vehicle, how about charging $150. You put them in the hands of clients and their minds are blown. They are willing to give you the money because the other three shops in town didn’t do that.”

But it’s not uncommon for a shop to buy a machine, try it once and then let it sit in the backroom collecting dust. A key to avoiding this pitfall is to learn to draw designs using CAD before you buy your machine. Training classes are a great way to learn and training videos from manufacturers are available on line.

Kranitz and McNulty suggest then investing in a laser cutter first before venturing into the other machines.  “The quickest way to start, with the quickest learning curve is laser,” said McNulty.  “It has the smallest footprint, less mess, and is more versatile for day to day operation. It also has the fastest set up and it’s easy to use,” he said.

Kranitz started with a 12 by 20 inch laser cutter that he used for two years, building parts and signage, before upgrading. “It’s the same one a soccer mom uses to make stuff on etsy.  It’s a hobby laser.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I need the biggest thing in the world,” he said.  Also, when shops outgrow their laser cutter they can sell it and get a step up. Financing it can cost $100 a month, a fee that can be recouped in a week.

Apart from the laser you will need a filtration system and an exhaust fan. McNulty suggests investing in a filtration system at around $800 for a proper one that doesn’t get clogged. A fan can cost only $40 to $100.



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