Episode 77 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk about our trip to Austin, Texas for the MotoGP race, as well as some news items we’ve missed in all our travels.
Most notably, we talk about the Krämer HKR EVO2 R track/race bike from Germany, which uses a 690cc single-cylinder engine from KTM inside a bespoke steel trellis frame.
The bike makes 80hp, inside a 280 lbs package, and has been quite the talk of our local road racing club. Once the drool has been mopped up, we change gears at look at what is going on inside the motorcycle industry.
As you can expect, it is not good news. But, the landscape is rapidly changing, and our conversation turns to how manufacturing is about to change dramatically for the motorcycle industry.
Somewhere along the way too, we talk about Erik Buell’s latest project. Overall though, the show is quite interesting and we think you will enjoy it.
You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.
We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, I think we are going to come back to this story several times over the next few weeks, as there is so much going on here, from such a simple thing, that one story just won’t do it all justice.
To start things off though, let’s look at the basics…as the BMW Group recently hosted what it called the BMW Group Digital Day 2018, which was basically a showcase for all the cool technologies that the Bavarians are using to create a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition.
Most of the technology concerns BMW’s automotive business, but there was one little tidbit that could be of interest for motorcycle fans: the 3D printed frame for a BMW S1000RR superbike.
The next generation of manufacturing is rapidly upon, if you will excuse the pun. Rapid prototyping and 3D metal printing is about to get considerably faster and cheaper, if you believe the hype surrounding manufacturing startup Desktop Metal, which just got another $115 million in funding, I might add.
Until now, traditional 3D metal printers relied on lasers to melt metal powders so they could be “printed” into complex shapes, which not only limited what alloys could be used in those situations, but it was also fairly time intensive.
Using what it calls “microwave enhanced sintering” though, Desktop Metal can print with virtually any kind of metal (including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper), and do it at a much faster rate – 100x faster than other additive manufacturing processes, if you believe them.
I know more than a few Asphalt & Rubber readers are do-it-yourselfers, so this news about the Wazer mass market water jet cutter should be of particular interest.
The $6,000 desktop water jet cutter by Wazer offers a key technology that previously was only available to larger fabrication outfits, with typical water jet cutters costing up to $50,000 for standard units, and north of $100,000 for industrial-level cutters.
Suitable for cutting metal, rock, composites, and other materials, water jut cutters are what the big boys bring out for cutting jobs, when laser cutter can’t…umm…cut it, making this of particular note to builders and creative-types who previously could not afford the technology.
The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.
TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages
Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.
For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.
Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.
For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).
The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.
This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.
As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.
Yamaha recently announced that it will be closing its factory in northeastern Spain, and consolidating the production into its Saint Quintin plant in France. The move comes as a result of Yamaha feeling the pain from the dwindling global demand for motorcycles, resulting in the Spanish plant having considerable excess capacity in its production.
Located near Barcelona, Yamaha’s Spanish Palau-Solita i Plegamans facility is capable of producing 130,000 units per year, but only managed 96,000 in 2010. The plant’s closure will affect 420 jobs, and Yamaha management has already reportedly confirmed that they will be forgoing any bonuses for the first half of 2011, and will be taking a healthy pay cut (15%-30%) during the same time period.
Six months after US Highland lost three members of its executive team in a tragic small-plane accident, the American company has announced that it will be idling its Tulsa plant while it continues to finish its latest round of funding. Despite this news, US Highland is reportedly close to achieving its fundraising goals, and hopes to have production rolling again once the fundraising is complete.
The Southbridge Advisory Group (SAG) has been brought in to help find a new executive team for US Highland, and is also helping the motorcycle manufacturer find new investors. While any one of these goals would be a large undertaking on its own, having to contend both with raising capital and finding a new executive team is a daunting task.
Royal Enfield Motors has released a statement saying that the historic company is getting ready to double its current production levels in the coming years. The proposed expansion, which would see the company’s current production level of 52,000 yearly motorcycles get bumped to 70,000 units in 2011, 90,000 units in 2012, and finally 100,000 units in 2013, stems from the positive response the company has seen to its fuel-injected motorcycles. This would seem to be refinement of Royal Enfield’s similar announcement 6 months ago, where the company also said it planned to double production.
In about 18 months, roughly a thousand workers will be out of a job at the Polaris plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In that timeframe Polaris plans to close the Osceola plant, and move its production south of the border to Mexico. The move comes about as Polaris looks to increase production efficiency (i.e. lower production costs with cheaper labor), which will then allow the company to be more competitive with its products’ positions in their respective marketplaces.
Mission Motors has announced today that they have replaced co-founder Forrest North in his role as company CEO. The move signals a change within Mission Motors that shows the company focusing on bringing products into production and putting them into consumers’ hands. In their announcement, Mission Motors’ Board of Directors have begun their search for a long-term CEO with experience in product development and automotive manufacturing, but in the interim the company will be headed by its current COO Jit Bhattacharya.
The transition, while seemingly drastic, is one that every startup must face as it moves from a visionary and industry challenging mindset to a functional and operational capacity. This movement in management is one that virtually all startups face at some point or another, and something we’ve talked about here in some detail in our “Tradition is not a Business Model” series, so it’s announcement at this point in time isn’t terribly surprising to this author, and storied lesson in entrepreneurship that transcends even into the motorcycle industry.