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OM in the News: Jay Leno–The Advanced Manufacturer of the 21st Century

June 18, 2013

jay lenoAlmost everyone knows Jay Leno, the comedian, host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” and avid classic-car and motorcycle collector. Far fewer know Jay Leno, the advanced manufacturer, writes The Wall Street Journal (June 11, 2013).

Leno houses his more than 200 cars and motorcycles in solar-powered warehouselike buildings near LA that span 110,000 sq. ft. In one of the structures is an expansive shop equipped with an impressive array of 21st-century machines, including a Stratasys industrial-grade 3-D printer, a NextEngine scanner, a Fadal computer-controlled mill and a (very pricey) KMT Hammerhead water jet cutter that can slice through steel. Along with a battery of more-traditional metal machining equipment, the tools allow Leno and his small crew to fabricate just about any auto part that has been produced in the past 100 years.

“The days of going to a junkyard and trying to find an auto part that says Packard or Franklin on it are over,” Leno says. “We can make almost anything we need right here in the shop ourselves.” For his 1906 Stanley Steamer, “We took the worn piece and copied it with a scanner that can measure about 50,000 points per second. That created a digital file or image of the part, which we can modify in the computer if there are imperfections or defects in the part being scanned. Then you feed that data into the 3-D printer and, presto, you have a mold that will allow you to cast a brand new part.”

For a modest investment by virtually any industrial measure, Leno has been able to extricate himself in a meaningful way from the globe’s vast network of producers, distributors and sellers. As he puts it, “We’ve sort of gone off the grid.” He agrees that the new tools will increasingly empower other individuals and entrepreneurial ventures to make increasingly sophisticated things themselves. “Manufacturing started out with craftsmen making stuff in small cottage industries. In many ways, I think we’re going to go back to that cottage-industry model.”

Discussion questions:

1. What are the OM implications of this story?

2. Why does Leno cast his own parts?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2013 6:13 pm

    My son and I want one of these for our shop. There are many retail services online that offer this service. Most of them sell parts that are plastic or metal dust bound together with adhesive or polymer. To get a true metal part, you have to make a wax part first with the 3D process, and then have that wax part serve as the pattern for a mold for metal casting.

    Technical tip: metal shrinks after casting. If you wish to reproduce a part, a professional will enlarge the mold by a small percent so that the final piece shrinks to the correct size. In the old days, pattern makers used “shrink rulers” which were rulers with inflated dimensions, so that the final part cooled to the correct intended dimension.

  2. July 14, 2013 8:15 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Steve. I don’t want to be the 1st kid on the block to own a 3-D printer, but I can see having one in just a few years.

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