Madelynn Martiniere • Director of Community • Fictiv
Many additive manufacturing service providers are broadening their range of services to include CNC machining as well as additive printing. The combination not only delivers prototypes fast, it tackles complex design challenges.
For mixed martial arts fighters, speed is a huge advantage in the octagon. Speed is also a competitive driver in any design situation; for start-ups, it helps them compete against large enterprises by being first to market.
Hykso is a small company developing a set of wearable wrist sensors for boxing and mixed martial arts. Backed by tech accelerator Y Combinator, the company develops sensor wearable devices that can count punches, measure speed and striking intensity and recognize the type of punch being thrown to help fighters train more effectively.
Having pre-sold more than $350,000 worth of units, Hykso was under a tight development schedule to deliver 2,000 pre-sold units of their first product. The engineers needed to prototype designs as quickly as possible, so they partnered with Fictiv as the manufacturing partner first for 3D printed parts and later as CNC machined prototypes.
Fictiv is an additive manufacturing service provider that uses a network of vendors with 3D printing and CNC machines in a distributed manufacturing arrangement.
“When we started to get into really high detail for the smallest parts, that’s where Fictiv came in,” shares Patrick Chandler, Co-Founder of Hykso. Weighing in at just 0.3 ounces (8.5 g), the sensors are lightweight and small – measuring 1.5 in. (38.1 mm), by 0.75 in. (19.05 mm).
The first prototype enclosures were printed in VeroWhite. That’s when Hykso engineers learned that Fictiv also offers CNC service and was able to deliver machined parts in 3 days. CNC prototype parts served as a logical next step to test for flaws in material choice, structural strength and tune the Bluetooth antenna before moving to production. However, the prototype was a challenge because it required small and detailed parts for CNC machining in ABS and Polycarbonate, with mating features that need a 0.003 in. endmill.
“We were looking to get the material as close to production specs as possible (injection molded ABS) and in researching local CNC shops, they mostly specialized in metal and hadn’t work with such small plastic features,” says Chandler. “But with Fictiv’s CNC capabilities, we were able to prototype the component more rapidly than with injection molding.”
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to CNC the part, and we would be set back by weeks. If we wanted to get the part injection molded, that would be 29 days to build the tool, and then another week or so to check it and iterate on the design. It would be over a month before we’d know what it was actually going to look like,” adds Chandler.
Instead, Hykso was able to get the components CNC machined and quickly turned around, shaving 39 days off their production schedule.
“Fictiv made it possible for us to run multiple processes in parallel—as we’re building the injection molding tool now, we’re also tuning the Bluetooth antenna to make sure it works perfectly in the final product.”
With the CNC prototypes, Patrick was also able to spot small interferences, test ease of assembly and assist in conversations with their overseas manufacturer.