Keep On (Monster) Truckin’: Big Wheels Keep On Turning

SOLIDWORKS is a proud sponsor of the Magic Wheelchair organization, which builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs at no cost to families. SOLIDWORKS is providing SOLIDWORKS software to volunteer design teams.

The SOLIDWORKS R&D team has been matched up with Jonah, a wheelchair-bound eleven-year-old, and team is excited about the challenge of gifting him with the most incredible costume they can bring to life. You can catch up on the work SOLIDWORKS is doing with this amazing organization by reading these previous blogs, Magic WheelChair – Let’s make MagicKeep on (Monster) Truckin’: SOLIDWORKS Meets Jonah and Keep on (Monster) Truckin’: Building Begins

Work on the mini-Max-D Continues

As the reveal deadline approaches, the SOLIDWORKS Magic Wheelchair build team has split into subgroups to figure out how to best bring Jonah’s dreams to life. There’s a lot to consider: mechanisms for making the wheels rotate, placement and weight of the LEDs, batteries, and other electronic components, chassis design, traveling constraints, and much more. Build team members have been meeting after work and on weekends, communicating at all hours on the team’s Slack channel, working as hard as they can to create the most spectacular final product SOLIDWORKS can produce.

Three-wheel chassis VS four-wheel chassis.


Originally, the PVC chassis was going to be on three wheels, for better maneuverability when Jonah goes over rough terrain (for example, if Jonah was trick or treating and his costume went on an uneven lawn). This approach proved to be unviable, however, as the team worried about the stability of Jonah’s wheelchair versus the stability of the costume chassis. The decision was made to move forward with a four-wheel PVC chassis, which opened up more stabilizing opportunities. With the chassis design decided on, the truck wheels could start to take precedence.

Always wear proper protection when sanding mammoth foam wheels.


“I am proclaiming May as the official month of sanding,” said SOLIDWORKS R&D Product Definition Senior Manager Annie Cheung. It’s not hyperbolic—since machining started, members of the mini-Max-D build team have all been covered in a blanket of pink foam shavings. And, with machining for the body of the costume set to begin soon, team members are going to be sanding in cotton candy-colored clouds for weeks.

Counterclockwise from top left: Two sanded wheels, one primed. Cut rubber ready to leave the laser cutter. Piles of rubber in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab. Tread bent into shape over the side of the wheel. Tread attached to the primed wheel—wheel flowers in bloom!


The wheels of the mini-Max-D are eight layers of foam, designed to have a matching inside diameter. There was no point in matching up the outside, since those sides would be sanded down. A finished wheel is about 17” wide and 28” in diameter—because we like doing things to scale at SOLIDWORKS. Now that they’ve been machined, the transformation into treaded, realistic monster truck wheels has begun. After the wheels are glued and screwed together, they are sanded and primed. Black rubber has been laser cut to resemble treads, and the wheel flowers are blooming into incredible costume pieces!

Left: All the hand-sanding tools available. Right: Adhesive tests.


This build is the first time most of the SOLIDWORKS engineers have worked with the materials they’re using, so there’s been a lot of experimentation with adhesive, sanding equipment, and passing times on the CNC machine.

The biggest concerns so far, apart from the ever encroaching deadline, are the size and weight of the final costume. Monster trucks are huge, but the costume for Jonah will be worn by an 11-year-old who needs to be able to move around inside it and maneuver his wheelchair under it. Team members are taking the weight, movement, and transportability of the costume very seriously, and most meetings about the body and parts spend a significant amount of time on these issues.

(Clockwise from left) A 3D printed connector and a caster, team members discussing how to connect the wheels to the chassis, a cross section of the mechanism designed to connect the foam wheels to the chassis.


To lighten the weight of the costume (and keep down costs down—the SOLIDWORKS Magic Wheelchair Project is funded entirely by the SOLIDWORKS Education Department), the team is trying to 3D print as many components as possible. So far there are 3D printed holders for the casters and the PVC pipes that make up the chassis. They are also discussing 3D printing the majority of the mechanism that will hold the wheels to chassis.

Help support Magic Wheelchair and amazing kiddos like Jonah!

SOLIDWORKS is working hard to make Jonah’s dreams come true, and helping the non-profit Magic Wheelchair achieve its goal of providing kids in wheelchairs with epic costumes. SOLIDWORKS is funding Jonah’s costume build in its entirety, but we invite all our readers to support Magic Wheelchair in Jonah’s name! If you visit this page, you can donate directly to Magic Wheelchair and help support them and all the lives they touch with their great work. Stayed tuned for more updates on this exciting build and always remember to keep on (monster) truckin’!

SOLIDWORKS is partnering with the Magic Wheelchair to create an over-the-top costume for a child in a wheelchair. According to their mission statement, “Magic Wheelchair builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs —  at no cost to families.” Keep On (Monster) Truckin’ is an ongoing series dedicated to updating our readers on the current project’s progress.

Thank you to all who support our team, including Magic Wheelchair, Monster Jam, Permobil, and MLC CAD.

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman is a Content Marketing Specialist in Brand Offer Marketing for SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.