Unique 3d printed tool solves a problem for Jeep Enthusiasts
Matthew Wolak faced a challenge: He adored the freedom of driving his 2016 Jeep Wrangler without the roof panels and doors. However, the large plastic screws that secured the roof panels proved to be a cumbersome task to remove and install.
Drawing from his experience as a former salesperson for GSC, a Markforged distributor in the Milwaukee area, Matthew took action. He utilized his expertise to design and 3D print two types of tools using Onyx material—a hand-crank model and a power drill attachment. These innovative tools aimed to simplify and speed up the process, providing a solution for frustrated adventurers like himself.
Matthew's entrepreneurial spirit shone through as he began selling these tools to fellow Jeep enthusiasts. His products are now helping others overcome the challenge of dealing with difficult roof panel screws, enabling them to enjoy the open-air experience without the hassle.
Here's a closer look at his entrepreneurial story.
A major pain point
What was the specific frustration that led you to create these rooftop panel removal tools for Jeep owners?
The pain point arose from the process of removing the roof panels on Jeep Wranglers built between 2007 and 2019. This task involves unscrewing two large plastic screws located behind the front seats, near the dome light. However, reaching these screws and rotating them by hand proved to be an ergonomic nightmare. The screws' size and awkward location required clenching the hand and rotating the wrist in a way that caused significant stress and discomfort. The design was clearly not optimized for the human hand.
What triggered your decision to take action and develop a solution for this problem?
The trigger was simply my impatience with anything mechanical *laughs*. I reached a point where I couldn't bear the inconvenience any longer, and I firmly believed there had to be a better way. After all, nothing beats the exhilaration of riding in a Jeep with the top and doors off—it's an integral part of the Jeep experience that I wanted to enhance.
Designing a solution
Are you a problem solver?
Absolutely! I have a natural inclination for problem-solving. In my previous role as an advisor for Solidworks, a popular CAD tool, I constantly sought ways to improve processes and find solutions.
During my time working as a distributor for the Markforged Digital Forge, I had the opportunity to visit various factories and witness firsthand the challenges workers faced. I helped them replace their makeshift tools with durable fixtures and work-holding tools created using Onyx, a robust material.
The combination of my experience with CAD tools and exposure to real-world manufacturing issues convinced me that I could design and 3D print a tool to address a frustrating and time-consuming problem.
Which tool came first: the drill-mount tool or the hand-crank model?
Initially, I planned to design only the hand-crank version. However, after encountering numerous design failures, a suggestion from others sparked an idea. They proposed creating a drill driver version of the tool. That's when the light bulb moment occurred. I realized that I had already designed the part of the tool that could be modified to accommodate a chuck adapter for a power drill. It was a eureka moment, and the drill-mount tool worked exceptionally well!
In contrast, the design process for the hand-crank tool was more meticulous and time-consuming. It took approximately a year and 19 iterations to achieve the perfect design. Collaborating with my friend and former colleague, Fred Bohlmann, who possessed expert-level CAD skills, we meticulously refined the design to optimize its functionality.
What challenges did you face while designing the hand-crank tool?
One of the major hurdles we encountered was the need to apply upward pressure on the tool to keep it engaged with the rooftop removal screws. This was quite awkward. To address this issue, we devised a solution by incorporating teeth around the outer perimeter of the tool's head. These teeth were designed to flex while gripping the screws, preventing them from snapping off.
Once we resolved this challenge, turning the crank became much easier, and the screws could be effortlessly removed with significantly less effort.
"When you have the confidence to know you can 3D print something as strong as aluminum, it opens doors to builds that have never been possible."
– Matthew Wolak, Faster 2 Freedom
Empowering Innovation with Markforged
Which Markforged printers do you utilize for producing these tools?
The tools are exclusively produced using either the Onyx One or Mark Two printers.
Since the tools you designed are intended for consumer use, was achieving a high-quality surface finish an important requirement?
Absolutely. I aimed to create tools with a visually appealing and professional finish. It's crucial for consumers to have confidence in the product they purchase. When it looks impressive, it's already halfway to success. The tools printed in Onyx not only possess exceptional durability but also boast an appealing aesthetic.
When did you commence selling these tools, and what has been the feedback from Jeep Wrangler owners?
I began selling them at regional Jeep events in February 2022. They received an overwhelmingly positive response at every show we attended. Witnessing the enthusiasm people have when they see the tools in action is truly rewarding. The incredible level of interest and demand prompted us to recently start offering them for sale online.
In your opinion, does the Markforged product line empower entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into reality using additive manufacturing?
Absolutely. Having the confidence to 3D print objects that are as strong as aluminum opens up possibilities for groundbreaking creations that were previously unattainable.
Where can Jeep Wrangler owners find your tools?
You can find our tools on our newly launched website, Faster2Freedom.com. Additionally, keep an eye out for us at Jeep shows throughout the Midwest region.
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