The Art of Producing Power
Edgecam Helps Fab-Factory Become a One-Stop Shop for Custom Turbo Assemblies.
At Fab Factory, the art of producing horsepower isn’t just about making cars go faster.
For Shawn Grawunde, designer and manufacturer of truly custom parts, it’s about the ability to design one-of-a-kind assemblies that ensure no two cars are exactly alike.
“I don’t want my customers to go out to a local meet or event and see another car with exactly the same parts they have after they’ve spent thousands of dollars on something that should be unique,” Grawunde says.
Along with Jim Martinez, Grawunde is co-owner of the Tampa, Florida-based Fab-Factory, a year-old business with the express mission of helping customers attain the kind of serious horsepower they’re looking for.
“The parts I make are all to spec, and everything is identical to the eye. From my perspective, they’re perfect.”
Shawn Grawunde, Owner
Grawunde began working on the performance end of vehicle customization in 2008 as co-owner of a business that focused primarily on the Volkswagen/Audi scene. Responding to customer demand, he invested in a welder and taught himself how to make niche creations that had virtually no competition.
“I said, “This is what I need to do,” Grawunde explains. “I’m going to teach myself to do this. And I did.”
By 2010, he’d joined another shop, where he transitioned his focus primarily to BMWs and was in charge of all fabrication work — including custom turbocharged and supercharged setups, exhaust systems and piping, roll cages, and more. “The customers coming to me at this time wanted custom turbo setups and parts on their cars that no one else had,” says Grawunde.
When that shop closed its doors in December of 2013, Grawunde — a former business major who left college just five credits shy of earning a degree — decided that it was time to once again steer his own destiny. After two months of intense preparation building out a new 10,000 spare-foot location, Fab-Factory opened its doors in February of 2014.
Grawunde had learned from experience that outsourcing elements of his creations, such as flanges and billet parts for his custom turbo setups, often meant extensive wait times for customers.
“I’d be paying top dollar for design and machining of a one-off billet part and would often wait months for it, only to find out it wasn’t quite what I expected or needed,” Grawunde says. “Of course, this long wait time doesn’t go over well with a customer who really has no budget, and who only wants something unique.”
At Fab Factory, customers who readily pay for their automotive dreams commonly invest $20,000 to $60,000 for a high-end engine, turbo, or chassis build. “You need to offer the highest quality, and to be able to do it as quickly as you can,” Grawunde says.
Focusing on delivering top-notch service that matches the level of his customers’ financial commitment to excellence, Grawunde took a different route with Fab-Factory. He knew he needed to learn how to produce custom CNC components in-house.
To eliminate the need for outsourcing, Grawunde required a CNC machine tool, and “to be able to control it.” Starting at square one, he researched his CNC options and ultimately chose a new Haas VF-4SS vertical mill.
“We didn’t need something that had to make 1,000 parts,” Grawunde says. “Most of the parts we make are in small quantities, one or two, but we also didn’t want to limit our future.”
He then reviewed his choices for computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) solutions and ultimately chose the Edgecam system by Vero Software.
“At the very beginning,” Grawunde says, “I had no idea that something like Edgecam was needed to take a solid design and make it into a part. As I had done earlier in my career, I jumped into something I knew basically nothing about — designing, programming, and machining with no previous knowledge or experience, knowing that I would learn what I needed and teach myself along the way.”
To design his custom parts, Grawunde also acquired the SOLIDWORKS computer-aided-design (CAD) solution by Dassault Systèmes. “There are quite a few options in SOLIDWORKS and Edgecam that make things easier for me,” he says.
Grawunde began learning to use SOLIDWORKS and Edgecam only six weeks before he received his new Haas machine in July of 2014.
To make his custom parts, which are typically machined in aluminum and stainless steel — though he is also beginning to work in titanium — Grawunde creates a design in SOLIDWORKS and seamlessly imports the solid model into Edgecam.
The automatic feature recognition capability of Edgecam enables the software to automatically identify features to be machined. From there, Grawunde is able to quickly and easily generate accurate toolpath for his precision parts.
“I open Edgecam, go into Edgecam Workflow, and make my part,” he says. “Every part that I make, I learn a little more and dig a little deeper.”
Edgecam Workflow offers CNC programmers one easy-to-use interface for managing every element of a job. From choosing ideal cutting tools to managing stock, adding fixtures and selecting machining strategies, Workflow assists programmers in making the best choices for managing every step of the process.
When it comes to making parts like custom flanges and billet accessories at Fab-Factory, required tolerances and a seamless transition from flange to port are must-haves.
“I’m here to make people power,” Grawunde says. “If it’s not proper and it’s not precize, it won’t do what I’m selling it for. The parts I make are all to spec, and everything is identical to the eye. From my perspective, they’re perfect.”
While there was a steep learning curve for Grawunde — who had never before used a CNC machine tool, design software, or CAM software — he was able to quickly learn to use both SOLIDWORKS and Edgecam to power the Haas machine.
“You think you have something easy to make, but it’s always a test at some point in the process,” he says. “There are typically multiple people involved to complete the process that I am doing by myself. However, when it’s all in my hands, the finished product is exactly what I envisioned and needed.”
Despite the challenges, the transition has been a success.
Edgecam has helped Grawunde program the machine tool that has guaranteed his independence, allowed him to eliminate outsourcing, and drastically improve customer service.
Grawunde also plans to expand his business with a new line of products that can be customized by customers before the parts are made. While the parts will be fundamentally the same, customers will play a part in shaping their unique products.
“My sales pitch to my customers is that I don’t like to do the same thing twice,” he says. “With everything I do, I want the next to be better — and the next to be even better than that. Sometimes I know what’s better; sometimes the next customer’s idea is better.”
Grawunde, who spends a minimum of 10 hours a day in his shop, credits his colleagues for sharing the workload that has led to Fab Factory’s success. Martinez handles business duties, while Patrick Guevara shoulders vehicle tear down and installations.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without him,” Grawunde says of Guevara. “Patrick is my right-hand man, and usually has the dirty job of tearing the cars apart. All three of us being together is what makes it work.”
Enhancing his work in custom part design and production, Grawunde believes that customer relations are at the heart of his business.
“All of my customers have my personal number,” he says. “Everyone I have ever built a project for has my number. I know who their brothers and sisters are, and I’ve probably had dinner with their families at some point. Being close to your customers allows you to always be on top of what you need to do, not only to survive in today’s difficult market but also to enjoy what you do each day.”
About the Company
Name: Fab Factory
Business: Custom Automotive Parts Manufacturing
- Eliminated the need to outsource
- Improved lead times and overall customer service
- Improved ability to design and create custom, precision parts
"The parts I make are all to spec, and everything is identical to the eye. From my perspective, they’re perfect."
Shawn Grawunde, Owner