MasterTech Expo this week in MESA, AZ once again proved to be an important addition to the roster of car audio shows/educational forums.
The Expo is a place where installers can learn to be fabricators and fabricators can improve their skills. The vibe is upbeat and studious.
On the final day of the show, we asked about a dozen retailers and industry experts what they learned and most of the answers involved gaining expertise in a CAD CAM software program, Fusion 360 by Autodesk, for use with CNC machines and 3D printers.
As the cost of 3D printers/CNC machines has come down, more industry members want to buy them for making subwoofer enclosures, door panels and more. Learning the software has become a key barrier to entry, sometimes even more so than the ample cost of the machines themselves. And more than one employee at a mid-sized store may need to know the software. As one leading merchandiser said, “If I don’t learn it and someone else does and he leaves then I’m dead in the water.”
And so Fusion 360, which has a free version, became a popular area of focus at the Expo. Even leading fabricator expert Gary Bell of Define Concepts, singled out new tips in Fusion 360 as a chief takeaway he learned from the show. Sitting in a class co-lead by Jeremy Carlson, he said, “I learned more in 15 minutes than days spent on the internet….it’s the future.”
Another expert, Tom Miller of Musicar also said strategies using Fusion 360 were some of his key takeaways. Eric Masek of supplier Mid-City Engineering, said the same.
3D printer maker BigRep at the show was thrilled with the attention to learning Fusion 360. Big Rep showed a $90K industrial grade printer measuring about a meter cubed. The machine can print a door panel in 24 to 36 hours, said Jeff Olson.
CAMaster, which sells CNC routers, including a $50K model on the show floor, said it sold 16 machines from the first MasterTech Expo last year (it’s too soon to tally this year’s results, as the sales can take months to complete due to the high cost). “For a lot of these businesses, this will be the most expensive thing they buy,” said CAMaster’s Kodie Lentz. (The $50K model is the in the middle of its price range).
Nearly everyone we interviewed at the show talked about “elevating their game.” Ata Ehdaivand of Absolute Electronix called it a mini, personal SEMA Show. “It’s the newest, latest available but without the crowds. Plus there are competitions everywhere.”
Build contests were a large part of this year’s show. The winning team for the Expo’s Build Off challenge was Tyler Neault, Justin Marks and TJ Carlson. Winner of the lighting competition was Justin Kush. Winner of the wiring challenge was Pearce Barrett of Musicar. Viper’s Security/Remote Start challenge was won by Jeff Swore and Taylor Romero.
Of course, Chip Foose was the celebrity guest and Aron Demers presented an industry outlook (stay tuned for an overview).
Shown at the top, Bryan Schmitt (right), founder of the MasterTech Expo and CEO of Mobile Solutions thanked some of the show’s top fabricators and educators.