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Research & Development Processes

TJM = Cutting edgeLocated at Geebung, north of Brisbane, TJM's manufacturing facility is the heartbeat for its research and development. Encompassing 5000 square metres of floor space, more than 90 staff and several million dollars worth of equipment, TJM has all the resources it needs to produce award-winning equipment.Not surprisingly with its diverse terrain, the Aussie 4WD industry as a whole has grown in recent years to become one of the strongest in the world. And when it comes to researching and developing the latest and greatest, TJM refuses to rest on its laurels, which is why TJM is a global trendsetter. The world is watching TJMís next move.

Square pegs don't fit in round hole At TJM, we understand there's no such thing as "one-fits-all" for 4WD accessories. After all, thatís why TJM exists. The whole point of modifying your 4WD is so you can get exactly what you want, or at least ensure your vehicle's better than your mate's. At TJM, our R&D department is already hard at work designing and creating your next year's wish list well before you've even had the chance to think about writing your letter to Santa. But how do we do it?

TJM's processThe best ideas aren't always the ones you have sitting at a desk wearing a suit and tie. All TJM engineers are 4WD enthusiasts; so our ideas come from a mixture of real-life experience, inspiration from our natural environment, market demand and high-tech design software. While many of our ideas are spontaneous and born from our own 4WDing experience, at TJM we have a formal process to ensure we're always at the top of our game.

Here's a summary of TJM's procedure

  • Whenever a motor company launches a new vehicle model, TJM's sales and marketing team works out what accessories will be required. While new vehicle releases are a major focus, the team also continuously reviews accessories for existing 4WDs and focuses on areas that can be improved
  • Following new vehicle launches, TJM begins analysing and scanning the vehicle. To ensure it stays ahead of demand, it's not usual for the R&D team to travel to the first country in which the new 4WD is released. For instance, when Toyota launched its latest 150 Prado, TJM's R&D team were there to digitally scan the vehicle and begin designing a new range of accessories.
  • From these 3D-scanned images, the R&D team presents three concept proposals to the sales and marketing teams. After this brainstorming session, designs are revised and finalised.
  • TJM conducts computer-based Finite Element Analysis (FEA) before making prototypes. This process ensures the final product meets new vehicle safety specifications such as air bag deployment.
  • At this point, TJM builds a prototype and trial-fits it to the vehicle. This enables TJM's engineers to check that all critical dimensions are within specification. Depending on how this goes, final adjustments may be made to improve the fit or the aesthetics of the accessor
  • TJM conducts external independent safety tests on any accessories that need to be compliant. This confirms the accuracy of the FEA testing conducted earlier. The team works together to write the fitment instructions, along with product descriptions. The sales and marketing team arranges photo shoots of the new products for their sales brochures
  • TJM fabricates an initial run of about 20 items to check for any fabrication issues. As many small components make the whole, care is taken to ensure that all parts are made as per TJMís engineering brief. This ensures the final product is high quality.
  • Before mass-production commences, the initial run items are test-fitted to ensure they are absolutely flawless

Computer technologyThere's no doubt that computer technology has revolutionized 4WD accessory industry. TJM has embraced this revolution. Computer Aided Design (CAD) is now an essential tool for designing bull bars, snorkels, roof-racks, and even suspension. It provides an accurate preview of how the components will work with each vehicle. While CAD guards against expensive mistakes when mass-producing accessories, it's a program that can be also used for custom-made one-offs. In fact, it's the ideal experimentation ground for TJM's R&D team. CAD allows accessories to be made into workable prototypes that can be test-fitted to the vehicle. Another benefit this technology provides is the ability to generate a manufacturing parts list or "Bill of Materials" (BOM) directly from the virtual accessory designed on the computer.

Component scanning"Component scanning" is one of the greatest tools new technology has provided. This echnology allows TJM designers to generate accurate images of both its accessories and the vehicles for which they are designed. The scanning process allows designers to build a virtual model of the vehicle focusing on the main mounting points utilised by the`accessories. It can take up to two to three days to scan a vehicle, just working on the areas for external body protection. The main areas that are scanned depend on what the expected range of accessories will be. In most cases the chassis rails, A-pillars and front, side and rear panels are scanned, along with differentials and suspension components.

Component scanning is a two-stage process involving probing and profile scanning.

  • Probing: As it implies, probing is the "information gathering" stage, where the probe measures and records key points, arches and surfaces. From a series of dots, a whole picture emerges, but these original probing points are used as reference locations to determine clearance measurements a
  • Profile scanning: Following the probing stage, profile scanning begins. During this process, components are lightly sprayed with a powder-like coating that provides the laser scanner with a consistent surface from which to read. TJMís engineer then uses a laser scan gun to scan the entire object. At this point, the object is transformed in real time into a 3D image, which appears on a laptop screen.

Proof is in the testing Given TJM's renowned reliability, it's not surprising that its testing processes are among the world's most stringent when it comes to 4WD accessories. TJM's R&D team test each accessory item across three environments; virtual, workshop and in-situ. Through this three-fold process TJM identifies possible limitations that may never occur during the accessories lifespan. The end result is reliable equipment that lasts. Virtual testing uses 3D graphics and mathematical equations to conduct peak-load tests to identify critical points of strength or weakness. Itís a much more environmentally friendly and cost-effective mode of testing than real-life testing as equipment is not destroyed.

Once virtual models are approved, TJM then begins the fabrication process. After that the equipment is trial-fitted to the vehicle and further tested in the workshop and in the real-world environment for which it has been designed. Aussie terrain is among the world's toughest, so it provides the ideal testing ground for TJM accessories.

Comprehensive in-situ testing can expose potential weaknesses in the mounting location of the actual accessory. In these cases, TJM redesigns mounting kits to improve strength and durability. For example, a bull bar mounting kit may be altered to accept more of the chassis rail to more evenly distribute the load.

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