2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Posted by Editor On November - 7 - 2017

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Ford dominated the SEMA show with an upstage venue of classic and future cars

SEMA gives 3D printing industry a nitro boost

By Gregory van Zuyen

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Chevrolet displayed a Corvette on its side to allow close-up views

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Beautiful productions of nearly every car imaginable were on display

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Hypertech ran a slot car track for scholarship fund donations

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

A lucky few were able to put brand new Camaros through their paces on nearby race tracks

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

A beautiful example that all is not shiny and gloss, as in this popular ratrod.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Serenaded by a nonstop chorus of revving motors and squealing tires, the megalithic SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) car show overtook Las Vegas the week of Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 with a vengence. Packed with new car accessories and manufacturing developments in automotives, SEMA remains the largest, most well-known car show in the world. Joined by Thai Editor Ratthakorn Niramitmahapanya, 3D Printr Magazine was on hand to witness the innovations 3D printing has made to the automotive industry.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Some cars were entirely handmade, like this 32-ish Dodge-ish creation by Phil Endicott of LizardSkin, a producer of sound control and heat insulation linings for cars

With more than 2,400 booths, and hundreds of thousands of attendees, and representing a $41.2 billion automotive aftermarket industry, the SEMA show is impossible to imagine for the uninitiated. The conference overtakes every single square inch of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center with thousands of cars, spilling out across numerous parking lots turned into test tracks and pop-up tent communities, where various television shows interview impressive arrays of race car drivers, custom car designers, and celebrity car buffs like Jay Leno. It’s a sprawl. If there were a large city purely devoted to all things that go vroom and move fast, SEMA is what it would look like and Leno would likely be mayor.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Lexus ran a booth offering visitors a chance to drive on a virtual reality track

The takeaway of our experience of the SEMA show this year was customize, customize, customize. Consumers don’t want the same old thing anyone else can buy. They want a signature brand, a vehicular statement worthy of respect. Take the “3D-Printed Hellcat Project,” a 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT customized with 3D-printed modifications and presented at the show by Airwolf 3D.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Airwolf3D Sales Manager Tyler Caros getting behind the wheel of a Hellcat while Airwolf 3D Art Director Ruben Zeledón looks on

The brainchild of Airwolf 3D‘s president Erick Wolf and fashioned by his innovative team in Fountain Valley, California, the “World’s Most 3D-Printed Hellcat” is a customized car with 3D-printed features that make it a one-of-a-kind show piece highlighting what 3D-printed customization can do for the aftermarket industry. In addition to a number of interior modifications like customized rear speaker covers, safety handles, coat hooks, and a redesigned center shift console, Airwolf 3D also 3D-printed a full-size spoiler to show off what the company often heralds as its claim to fame: large-volume desktop 3D-printers capable of printing in high-temperature engineering grade materials like ABS and polycarbonate.

The spoiler was printed in four parts on the Axiom 20, the largest desktop 3D printer in its class with a 12x12x20-inch build volume. To drive home the point that 3D printing represents true cost savings for an automotive shop, all custom parts on the car were printed for less than $250.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Close up of the Hellcat 3D-printed hood vents

“This is the first time real, functional parts can be made in large format for minimal cost,” explained Wolf. “We 3D-printed a full-size spoiler and functional engine vents in ABS. That’s obviously something you can’t do with PLA, which can’t be used near heat — PLA also can’t be sanded or drilled to produce these parts.”

There’s a history to the 3D-printed Hellcat and its inception. Wolf got involved in 3D printing because of automotive design. Back in 2011, while still working as a patent trial attorney in Los Angeles, Wolf spent his free time pursuing his true passion: cars.

As a lifelong car lover with a degree in mechanical engineering and over 20 years of hands-on automotive experience, Wolf had a vision of the car he always wanted to design. Frustrated with using everything from clay and wood to build his prototype, Erick decided to try an inexpensive 3D printer. As the story goes, the printer failed miserably and Wolf decided to build his own. Wolf and his wife, Eva, eventually listed the 3D printer on Craigslist and got responses in minutes. The pair continued to sell their 3D-printers on Craigslist and, realizing there was a true demand for the machines, the two decided to start their own company and Airwolf 3D was born.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Details of the Hellcat’s 3D-printed customization

According to Airwolf 3D, the SEMA Show is simply the first “heat” in what the company is describing as its “Race to Innovation.” The Southern California company promises an even bigger reveal at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Industrial Designer Nick Maffey and his custom BMW motorcycle for Ultimaker

3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker, a first-time attendee to SEMA, also showed off automotive customization in a big way at SEMA. Ultimaker impressed the crowd with a customized BMW motorcycle made to order in 30 days by master craftsman Nick Maffey. Maffey customized the bike in a streamed-down minimalist approach, featuring uniquely designed parts made of nylon, ABS, and PLA, that screamed “Bladerunner” in style and grace.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Close up of the ABS 3D-printed brake housing on the Maffey Moto BMW for Ultimaker

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Maffey was effusive on the reliability of the Ultimaker3 which features an independently positioning dual-print-head function

They weren’t the only ones there to represent 3D printing to the auto trade. Formlabs was there to display new additions to their service line of rapid prototyping and end-use production. Their new cleaning stations and curing ovens are making DLP happen on an even broader scale. They were also announcing the launch of Fuse, their new SLS 3D printer with a 7x7x12 inch print bed due out in June of 2018.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Steven Thomas of Formlabs

The staff at Formlabs are always a pleasure to talk to and Steven Thomas was no exception. The conversation came around to Kickstarter and Thomas had some interesting facts to point out. “Did you know,” said Thomas, “collectively, Kickstarter campaigns made possible by the Form2 have raised more than our original Kickstarter promotion. People are using our machines to enable their own technology. We’re very happy about that.”

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

The Vector 3SP 3D printer by EnvisionTec is a new improvement in stereolithography

EnvisionTec was at SEMA to display their new Vector 3SP stereolithography printer capable of a 20 percent speed improvement with a temperature increase to 400 fahrenheit. The print speed improvement is to due to the addition of a second laser and a moving gantry.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Andrew Toft of FARO demonstrates scanning technology to SEMA attendees

Also making appearances at SEMA were Stratasys and MarkForged, along with 3D-scanning companies Creaform and FARO Technologies.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Avery Dennison presented vinyl wrap techniques by Wrap Institute’s Justin Pate to packed crowds at their impressive SEMA booth display

Not all customization was in 3D. Longtime paper product supplier Avery Dennison started off only a few years ago at SEMA with a 10×10 ft. booth. Now they command a center ring of a circus of events detailing how easy and rewarding vinyl wrapping can be for companies and individuals alike.

As we have covered in past events, there is always a stand-out discovery. In the case of SEMA 2017, that accolade belongs to Jay Thornton of Vibrant Professionals at VibrantPerformance.com.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Jay Thornton (center, in white) fields a host of visitor questions at the Vibrant Performance SEMA booth

Vibrant provides quality aftermarket parts for a variety of top-tier shops in the automotive industry, and sometimes packaged under private label. Working in specialty materials like stainless and titanium, Vibrant makes many of the needed components to help one complete an exhaust system, turbo kit, intake, and much more. As a fabrication components company, they also design and complement other companies in their efforts to bring new products to market.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

3D Magic Mike’s obsessively diligent CAD work resulting in printed parts

3D Printr Magazine had sought out Vibrant at SEMA because we had received news that they were working with 3D Magic Mike (aka Mike O’Brien from Roadstershop) and his amazing 3D CAD work. In this case, Magic Mike had recently designed an entire car, with every separate part, in 3D model. In our search for Magic Mike and Vibrant, we caught up with Thornton at the SEMA booth and were able to learn more about how Vibrant was incorporating 3D printing into their work stream.

One of the facets of 3D printing Thornton was avid about was the printing of jigs for inspecting production parts. His ability to quickly iterate a soft-surface jig that won’t scratch finished surfaces or a negative of a part to test tolerances has made their production go fluidly.

“We’ve been to SEMA more than ten years now and in the last four to five years we’ve seen more and more people understand the benefits of 3D printing, and how it can benefit the development of new parts” said Thornton, who also commented they use Solidworks for their design work. They have also recently added the flow simulation suite and are extremely happy with its performance. For scanning, they rely on an Artec Eva with translation to Solidworks through a DezignWorks add in9.

Thornton has been pursuing this career path since 1999, where his craftsman skills eventually led him to laying welds in an F1 shop midway in his career. In speaking with Thornton, one becomes engaged in the broad range of expertise he brings to the Toronto-based Vibrant’s design and engineering team. When asked about his educational background, Thornton admits he is essentially self-taught through a hands-on background with everything he does.

“I attended a few years of design in college but found it wasn’t teaching me anything about hands-on automotive fabrication and parts development. I found quickly this is where my true interest lied. I could have gone back to school for engineering, but I was too eager to start learning real life skills and applying them. Looking back on it, now working with a few engineers, I can definitely see the difference in my education versus theirs. My learning curve and success has not suffered though, from not pursuing an engineering degree. I found being hands-on early in my career was the best way to know how to design and execute any sort of part or product,” said Thornton, a senior technical member of Vibrant. The company also employs a team of select fabricators and engineers whose own principled manner of problem-solving complement Thornton’s approach.

It was also clear from the ever-present crowd at Vibrant’s booth that many other people knew about Vibrant’s great product line and their accomplishments in private label manufacturing, but that is the draw and importance of being a part of SEMA. That these companies seek to promote themselves here speaks well of their outreach and forward-looking thinking. How 3D printing will change the auto industry depends on what comes of this show and future ones.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Paintcolors in mesmerizing display

2017 SEMA Show Event Report
2017 SEMA Show Event Report

The scope of SEMA is unbelievable with products for every vertical of the auto industry, as in these booths for apparel leader Lethal Angel and the classic aftermarket specialty item provider Mooneyes