Cycle Shop Streamlines Startup with Mastercam

Company: Lucas Cycle
Problem: Get operations rolling with new part models and processes
Solution: Mastercam software
Results: Production targets achieved within 1 year of startup

“It’s a show bike with a twist,” is how Brownsburg, Indiana-based Lucas Cycles describes one of its custom production motorcycles.

The start-up motorcycle manufacturer is an offshoot of Lucas Oil, a private oil marketer that supplies truckers, auto-racers and bike racers with oil formulations that are designed to offer protection while enhancing engine performance. Having already attended bike shows and racing events with its own promotional motorcycle, the company says it felt that introducing its own line of bikes and apparel seemed like a logical brand extension.

Robert Crain, Lucas Cycle’s chief designer and manufacturing engineer who runs the machine shop, joined the five-person staff early in 2006. At that time, Mr. Crain says he outlined a mission: design five models and manufacturing processes that would get the new company up to what he refers to as “respectable levels” of production and profitability as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, the start-up team drew heavily on industry experience, a solid work ethic and CAD and manufacturing equipment.

Shortly after Mr. Crain signed on, the company took delivery on its primary piece of manufacturing equipment, a four-axis VF3 machining center from Haas Automation Inc. (Oxnard, California). That same day, the company acquired Mastercam software from Mastercam/CNC Software, Inc. (Tolland, Connecticut)

“In the beginning, I practically lived on the CAD/CAM system, designing bikes, fixtures, tooling and individual parts,” Mr. Crain says. “Within 3 months, we were manufacturing bikes.”

According to the company, Mastercam Version 9 has substantial design capabilities. Lucas is able to use one program to accomplish parts design and create tool paths, thus eliminating the need to go back and forth between different CAD and CAM packages.

About halfway through the first year, Mastercam X arrived. This software has advanced user interface features that improve design productivity, the manufacturer says. For example, the design system monitors the user’s work patterns. It places icons for the most commonly used functions on toolbars that load up and display automatically. Functions previously buried under several layers of menus can be accessed with just one click. Mr. Crain estimates that this one feature saves him at least 1 hour of design time each week. While a majority of the parts created for the first three models are still in Version 9, he can call up the files in Mastercam X and use them nearly immediately without any translation.
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