I’ve heard a lot of industries warn of the impending death of their businesses with the arrival of 3D printing technology. But most of the time the complaining companies aren’t lamenting new technology that will make them obsolete, but rather they’re complaining because they don’t know how to make 3D printing a part of their business. Some of their excuses are more plausible than others of course, but one common thread among almost all of them is what seems like a profound lack of understanding of exactly what 3D printing is and what it can be used for. But I’ll be honest, this one really takes the cake, and is the single most random industry that will supposedly be killed off by 3D printing technology that I’ve ever hard. According to David Tucker, the owner and operator of DT Machine and Fabrication in Springfield, Oregon, if we’re not careful metal 3D printing will kill the monster truck industry dead.
When I think of monster trucks I think of those 1980s TV ads for NASCAR races narrated by that guy who sounds like Guy Fieri looks. In addition to doing a quick, and wicked cool, rundown of who was racing the ads would always mention the halftime act being either that Godzilla car that ate other cars, or the legendary Bigfoot monster truck that would crush puny cars while people went to the snack bar to get more nachos. But monster trucks have come a long way since then and aren’t just the halftime show anymore, they are often the main event.
The reality is that people love to watch big machines crush other machines and do crazy stunts, so of course monster truck rallies would become more popular than many of the racing events that they started out being part of. By the 1990s monster truck rallies had become a huge business all on their own and just as with racing, professional truck builders started creating their own monster truck teams and brands, often travelling the world to crush cars and spray mud into the crowds with comically over-sized tires. They now essentially have halftime shows of their very own with smaller, more maneuverable “tuff trucks” that race or attempt to make impressive jumps.
Tucker builds, jumps and races one of these “tuff trucks,” as well as other custom monster trucks, and he recently had a chance to talk to his local Oregon TV news station about what he does. Until recently, thanks to a bad tumble that smashed it up, he drove the Flying Tiger tuff truck, which is made from a boat and looks like a shark. I dunno. Anyways, while discussing his business, why he likes running it, and how he intends to bring his teenage son in to help him run his shop he dropped in a comment that not only seemed a little out of place, but was downright silly. It seems there is a looming threat to the monster truck industry, and that threat is 3D printing.
“It’s a trade that’s just – it could die off if we’re not careful in the industry. 3D printing capabilities and stuff, I kind of see that our technology in the future that we might be able to print out of metal at some point,” explained Tucker to KVAL in Eugene, Oregon.
While Tucker enjoys the aspect of re-using old parts and turning them into new monster trucks, I think he believes that the ability to 3D print metal will make that obsolete. It is certainly possible that could happen, but I don’t think there is ever going to be a time when people won’t want to see cool, working things made out of junk that other people throw away. But Tucker also seems to be missing the fact that if metal 3D printing on the scale that he is talking about existed then he himself could print some pretty amazing monster trucks.
After watching some video of the interview, it is possible that there was some creative editing on the part of the news crew, but just in case let me put this to bed:
Let me assure you Mr. Tucker, and anyone else worried about this, metal 3D printing will not kill off the monster truck industry. If anything it will enhance it by giving you the ability to 3D print amazing custom parts and components that will make your trucks even cooler. People are not going to stop enjoying big trucks running over smaller stuff any time soon. But maybe when your son joins you in your business, make sure that he’s gotten some schooling in CAD design and 3D printing technology. That way, when cheap metal 3D printers arrive, it will become just another of your truck building tools, not a business-killing boogeyman. So go ahead and get into your cool tiger, shark, flying boat truck and go run some stuff over without fear, the monster trucks will still be here when you get back. Discuss this story here.