Access to CAD Gives LEE Racing a Boost
Chris McAndrew posted on August 08, 2017 |

Over the course of a career, many engineers develop niche talents as they have the chance to specialize within larger teams. Some become such experts that it seems reasonable to break out on their own and launch their own company. But making a startup work is no small feat.

Take it from me, I’ve made the grind doing everything from getting a business license, setting up payroll systems, establishing bank accounts, printing business cards, designing and sourcing tradeshow displays and building desks all in addition to the real work. That grind is not for everyone, but some people work their whole careers with the goal to build their own dream. And some of them, like Buddy Lindbolm, actually do.

I connected with Lindbolm, the founder of not one, but two, startups that are taking advantage of the Siemens Solid Edge for Startups program. His companies, LEE Race Technology and FAST-AN Tools have been provided with a free license of Solid Edge software to help Lindbolm grow his company. The program is designed for new, small firms that have been around for less than three years and generate revenues of less than $1 million. Since Solid Edge licenses run in the thousands of dollars, this no doubt eases some of the burden and allows Lindbolm to focus on what’s really important.  

Buddy Lindbolm, founder of LEE Race Technology. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)

Buddy Lindbolm, founder of LEE Race Technology. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)

So, what is important? To answer that you have to know a little about Mr. Lindbolm. He’s a car guy. Lindbolm has been in the sport of auto racing for more than 35 years. His roles have included being a mechanic, a fabricator and a designer of automotive products. He was a professional within a team and notably was the team manager for Arie Luyendyk in 1997 when he won the Indianapolis 500.

LEE Race Technology has a not-too-modest goal of, as Lindbolm puts it, “the design, development and manufacture of the LRT-1—a front-engine, rear-transaxle, two-door ‘supercar’ designed to compete with the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg.” I connected with Lindbolm to find out more about how he is achieving that goal and what part his various CAD tools play. After a career in racing as a part of a team, what made you break out into a “startup”?

Since I was around 17 or 18 years old (having been working on cars and being interested in racing and cars in general since I was 10 or 12), I have always wanted a racing team and racing business. So, I wouldn’t characterize it as breaking out into a startup. It’s more of a logical extension of what I had been doing all along. Which came first, FAST-AN Tools or LEE Race Technology?

In spirit, LEE Race Technology has existed in one form or another for many years, even on a part-time basis when I worked full time for others. The original Lindblom Engineering Enterprises, Inc., was actually the first corporation I formed. This was in Florida, back in 1982 when I was 19 years old. I grew up in Miami and lived there until 1985.

The (FAST-AN Tools) idea came about one day in late 2008, after working on a race car all day long, doing a post-race tear down, using the standard AN wrenches and Bonney wrenches with thin, hard-edged handles and removing the engine and gearbox and associated oil and hydraulic lines. I said to myself there has got to be a better way, so I went home and sketched a few things out, and that was the starting point for the unique two-piece AN Wrench with ergonomic handle and interchangeable tool ends.

A CAD model of the FAST-AN Wrench. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)
A CAD model of the FAST-AN Wrench. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)

When I formed LEE Race Technology, Inc., in January 2015, I decided, then at age 52, that this was the last corporation I was going to form, and I was making a commitment to completing the goals of building a “multi-faceted motorsports enterprise,” which has long been the description I have used when I tell people what type of business I am trying to build. As a small company, how does access to a top CAD software rank in your concerns? What is more important, capital for the company, customers, machines, suppliers, etc.?

I started to learn 3D CAD on my own in 2009, primarily to design and model the wrench. In 2008, I had started learning SOLIDWORKS because that is what the team had, and then in 2009, I bought Alibre Design for myself.

In my experiences since, I have come to the realization that the CAD program is one of the foundational tools, particularly for a startup. If I don’t have a top-level CAD program, my business is basically dead in the water.

Well all of those are important, but for me, my money and the core of the business right now centers around CAD—so CAD and then some good customers—and hopefully soon we will have the capital for all of the equipment. But right now, with FAST-AN Tools and designing the LRT-1 supercar, CAD is my most important tool.

A CAD model of the LRT-1 supercar being designed by LEE Race Technology. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)
A CAD model of the LRT-1 supercar being designed by LEE Race Technology. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.) How did you find out about the Siemens startup program?

I had used Solid Edge on a subscription basis on and off (mostly off) for the last couple of years. I follow Solid Edge on Facebook, and Siemens PLM on Twitter. I read about the startup program through one of those social media outlets—I think it was the Facebook post.

I saw the requirements, and I was already incorporated and below the income threshold. What is the scope of software that you use? How do the prices compare?

We use Solid Edge exclusively now for all of LEE Race Technology CAD work.

I have used about every CAD program at least briefly as a trial, but the main ones have been SOLIDWORKS, Alibre Design (which became Geomagic and now, interestingly, is back as Alibre), Onshape, Fusion 360 and Solid Edge.

Alibre Design was fairly affordable, and they let me pay $100 per month to buy it. I think I paid $1200 in 2009. Forget about SOLIDWORKS. At over $6,000 and no subscription option, it won’t happen. 

Onshape, I really tried this in earnest for some time, but with no 3D sketching and no sheet metal, it wasn’t going to work. Plus, the 2D drawing was not good, and if you had questionable/slow Internet, it was very frustrating. Now it’s $100 per month plus you end up paying for a bunch of other add-ons as well.

Fusion 360 was okay. I don’t like the fact that all your files are in the cloud, and if you want to store files locally, you have to store as a STEP file. It’s affordable and has free 2.5D CAM. If I had a CNC mill, it would have been a consideration.

Elements of the LRT-1 supercar exposed. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)
Elements of the LRT-1 supercar exposed. (Image courtesy of LEE Race Technology.)

Now, I am really liking Solid Edge. It takes a while to get used to the differences with SOLIDWORKS, but I think the program is great, and it’s every bit as good, and in many respects better, and has a lot of features and details that SOLIDWORKS doesn’t have—synchronous technology being one of them. I like the subscription option levels, but I am very happy with the startup plan. As things grow here at LEE Race Technology, I plan on remaining with Solid Edge and also expanding to NX as the LRT-1 project takes off. What sort of hardware (computer or shop/other) do you use? (I have to ask since reviews so many things!)

I use a Dell Precision M6600 with 8GB RAM and two hard drives—one for storage and one for programs. I could probably benefit from more RAM, but everything seems to work fine running Solid Edge. What are you working on now?

Other than the design and CAD I do for clients, the design of my LRT-1 supercar is the biggest project I have going right now. My immediate goal is to get the initial design and layouts completed and have a 25 percent–scale clay model built by the end of this year.

Right now, I am working on the body surfaces and laying out mechanicals as I move along. When I get frustrated with surfacing, I will work on something mechanical. The mechanical CAD is pretty easy for me, and I have built race cars my whole adult life so I have a good idea of where everything needs to go and I can design the suspension, uprights and drivetrain to the point of getting the basic layout and design complete. Once we get rolling, I will get professional designers and engineers to take over the design/engineering. But I am confident I can get the car “built” in CAD.

Once I get the initial design phase complete and the body design is presentable, in the first quarter of 2018, I will start the process of putting the pieces of the puzzle together, including investors, five initial buyers/investors, designers, engineers, fabricators, machinists and composite fabricators to name a few.

My goal is to be set up to build 20 cars in 2020.

It should go without saying that we wish Buddy Lindbolm all the luck he needs to make LEE Race Technology a success. I for one am looking forward to laying my eyes on the first model LRT-1!

Siemens has sponsored to write this article. All opinions are mine, except where quoted or stated otherwise. —Jeffrey Heimgartner

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