WAUBEKA, Wisc. (Jan. 25, 2005) – With assistance from the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), Waubeka-based Autostyle LLC, a manufacturer of automobile dollies, has successfully decreased the overall weight of their products, increasing maneuverability and significantly reducing shipping costs.
SATOP provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, 50 aerospace companies and universities involved in the U.S. Space Program. In Florida, SATOP is operated by the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA).
Autostyle’s customers include car collectors, car dealership showrooms, small auto mechanic shops, and anyone who needs to move or turn cars within a defined space. The company’s 40-pound automobile dolly can lift 2,000 pounds, with four dollies used to move one car, and sell for $125 each. In order to decrease the cost to ship the dollies, Autostyle’s Tim Crosslen wanted to reduce the overall weight of the product. “I knew we needed to do this weight reduction carefully in order to retain the dolly’s strength,” Crosslen said. Seeking validation for his concerns and a solution, Crosslen turned to SATOP. After reading an article about the program in the newspaper, Crosslen filed a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) with SATOP’s office in Titusville, Fla.
Chris Gilfriche, SATOP Florida senior program engineer, paired Crosslen with Robert Avalone, a mechanical and senior project engineer at Design By Analysis (DBA) in New Britain, Conn.
Crosslen provided Avalone with drawings of the dolly for analyses. “They already had a nice steel dolly that functioned well and was very appealing visually – it was just a little heavy,” Avalone said. “We needed to subtract weight and make the object lighter without increasing the cost to produce it or affecting its strength.”
Avalone determined that Autostyle could use less steel in their design without sacrificing strength. “I decided that they should stick with steel for fabrication purposes, but there were some portions of the dolly that could definitely trim down a bit,” he said. Cognizant of production costs, Avalone recommended achieving the weight reduction by making cautious “window” cuts in areas of the design where the extra material served no structural purpose.
With SATOP’s assistance, Autostyle was able to trim five pounds from the dolly, bringing its weight down to 35 pounds, a more than 12 percent reduction. “SATOP was great! They gave us some information to look at right from the start, including things we hadn’t even considered before,” Crosslen said. Avalone said he found working on Autostyle’s RTA personally rewarding. “Because the companies helped through SATOP are small businesses, I have to remember to keep costs in mind when providing a solution. Small companies just can’t implement expensive solutions,” he said. “I really enjoyed giving Tim the confidence and data to go ahead and make those changes, knowing he can do so without sacrificing strength or increasing his production costs.”