Turning a 3D-Design Hobby Into a Firetruck

A year before Timothy Griffin graduated from Kent State University at Tuscarawas in 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology degree and a certificate in computer-aided design for manufacturing, a single phone call would launch his career and have him designing life-saving firetrucks before he graduated.

The story starts with Larry Reber, president of Firovac Power Systems, a fire apparatus manufacturer that specializes in high performance tankers and fire trucks. Reber discovered when he launched his business that there were two main issues for local city departments; a lack of personnel and budget constraints. Through Reber’s innovative thinking, vacuum trucks became the solution, making the process of loading and unloading water easier than ever before.

In 1994, Reber hired a Project/Sales Engineer at Firovac to design many of Reber’s original trucks. This Engineer was David Schlosser, who is now a Kent State Tuscarawas mechanical engineering technology adjunct instructor. Though Schlosser no longer works in the firetruck industry, the pair continued to stay in contact. 

So, in 2016, when Reber needed help in the engineering department, he contacted his friend Schlosser to see if he would have anyone in mind to assist the Firovac team.

Schlosser was teaching a Computer-Aided Tool Design class when Reber called him at the time. Schlosser didn’t have to think. He knew immediately he had a student whose skill set was something Reber was seeking. 

“Griffin was a very talented designer in my class,” Schlosser said. 

When Griffin first heard news of this opportunity, he was working part-time at Giant Eagle, designing objects only as a side hobby.

“I loved drawing in general on the computer, mainly 3D stuff because I find it fascinating how the largest and seemingly most complicated things that you make will consist of the tiniest components. Each piece will fit together almost like a puzzle to make the entire thing work,” Griffin said.

So he accepted the job. He started out part-time around his school work, and then was hired full-time post graduation. 

“I’ve given plenty of references and have helped many other students in the past,” Schlosser said. “But Tim was someone that when the opportunity came up and Larry said he needed an extra hand, I said talk to this kid. Tim is a great example of the caliber of students that Kent State puts out into the workforce.”

Griffin is currently the mechanical design engineer for Firovac Power Systems. He’s in charge of the design and build of the trucks, as well as the preliminary drawings that correspond with a fire department’s bay requirements and wish list.

Griffin continues to progress his design skills and add value to the company. Firovac, which once mainly relied on 2D-technology to design its trucks, has moved towards 3D-design programming. The advantage to this upgrade is it has become even easier to create designs with better accuracy, decreasing function issues.

“The only thing we order in are the tanks themselves and the chassis,” Griffin said, “everything else we build here. So, we take blank materials and then based on my drawings, they’re cut and trimmed in certain areas and then bent to all be put together like puzzle pieces.”

Firovac builds approximately ten to eleven firetrucks per year, and with the recent expansion of an additional three bays, Reber’s innovation is becoming more recognizable.

“The vacuum tankers are really quite amazing,” Schlosser said. “It’s taken a long time for this concept to take off. It used to be where people would scoff at the idea, but now that it has been out for awhile like most things in the fire service, it takes a long time to catch on.”

Reber recognized at the time for Griffin, working with firetrucks was a completely new experience. Yet Griffin’s knack for mechanics and open-minded energy has made him a great contributor. 

“Back then I didn’t really think about being in a position like this,” Griffin said. “I thought maybe one day I could have a position where I am designing firetrucks or something similar, but I never thought that I would be in the position I am right now after graduation.”

His hard work and determination, combined with Schlosser’s help, has allowed him to not only find a job in his field directly after graduation, but it has also helped Griffin be successful in his career.

“It was one of those unexpected surprises,” Griffin said. “One of those moments where I was surprised to be getting a call from Kent State to begin with, and then I wondered what Schlosser wanted to talk about. So for that to evolve into an actual job opportunity in the engineering field was a blessing.”

To find more information regarding Kent State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program, visit https://www.kent.edu/tusc/mechanical-engineering-technology

POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2020 04:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2023 10:56 PM
Lauryn Oglesby