Keep On (Monster) Truckin’: Smoothing Bumps in the Road

Sal Lama and his dastardly headphones.


The Magic Wheelchair build has officially had its first causality—the top of Sal Lama’s head! Was it from a machine going on the fritz? A sharp corner of foam whacking him at just the right angle after being cut off? No, the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is too safe for that (also, foam isn’t known for its cutting prowess). Sal’s bandage is covering a scrape from, of all things, his safety headphones! They snapped on him! It’s one of the more innocuous bumps in the road the Magic Wheelchair build team has hit, but it’s not the first and won’t be the last. Thankfully, though, all the other bumps relate to the build itself.

One the bigger curveballs was the build location. Originally, all the building and sanding was happening inside the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab. But after a fine layer of pink dust settled on, well, everything, the team was asked to move operations into the next logical place: the company airplane hangar.

The Magic Wheelchair build’s corner of the massive airplane hangar.


The hangar is a gigantic space in the back of the Earth building, a wide expanse of raw walls and concrete floors. It’s perfect for working on a large project like the mini-Max-D, and as the build gets closer and closer to fruition, the space needed to sand, hard coat, paint, and assemble grows. From this point on, the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is where the machining, making, and testing happens. Putting everything together, and all that entails, is now in the hangar. Parts that are already machined and ready for further processing are the tires, the chassis, various 3D printed components and the body of the mini-Max-D.

The road to the completing the body has not been smooth. When machining the original design, Sal and Annie Cheung discovered the CNC machine wasn’t cutting deep enough to get the pieces out of the huge foam sheets they’re using for the body. When they attempted recalibration, the outline didn’t line up with the original cuts, and unfortunately the machine cut into the already machined parts. Sal and Annie caught it in time and were able to stop the Shop Bot before the situation became too dire, but they were still in the lab when midnight hit, and neither of them was particularly pleased.

Left: A wheel piece machined with Santiago Laverde’s help vs. a wheel piece machined without. Note the absence of ridges on the new piece. Right: The finished truck body parts
Left: A wheel piece machined with Santiago Laverde’s help vs. a wheel piece machined without. Note the absence of ridges on the new piece. Right: The finished truck body parts.


But the great thing about working for SOLIDWORKS is that there are people in the office who actually designed the software tools the team is using. After Annie tweeted pictures about the issues with the body, team leader Chinloo Lama was contacted by Senior Technical Customer Support Engineer Santiago Laverde, who works with SOLIDWORKS CAM. A meeting was made, and Santiago was able to help the team redesign their cuts so there would be much less sanding involved, and they could machine the parts without making ridges in the foam. With Santiago’s suggestions and guidance, the team was able to use some of the extra foam sheets Annie purchased (“I believe in Murphy’s Law,” she told me over the humming of the Shop Bot; the team initially thought they would need three sheets of foam for the body, so Annie bought six) and create a much tighter final product. Now the body is cut out and ready for gluing, sanding, priming and handwork.

The biggest challenge with this project is, of course, the timeline. Not only is the deadline ever approaching, but the spring season is prime travel time for R&D team members. Chinloo, Sal, and Annie, who each have a finger in almost every Magic Wheelchair pot, have to miss a full week of build time because they will all be in San Francisco for the Maker Faire. Product Definition Senior Manager Rob Jost was out for a week on a pre-planned vacation, and throughout he was in contact with the team, going over his body designs. Other team members have previous time commitments and everyone is also doing the Magic Wheelchair build on top of their everyday work. It’s a testament to the team’s drive and passion for Jonah and this project that they have not missed a single set deadline.

Everyone I’ve spoken with is cautiously optimistic about reaching the June 9th deadline, and when I asked Rob if he felt ready for the dry fit on Jonah, he said he was confident in his design. And if something doesn’t work during the dry fit? “We’re heading straight to Home Depot!” he laughed.

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 WheelchairMonster JamPermobil, and MLC CAD.

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman

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