A key stage in product design is convincing investors that you have a great product. The best way to convince them is with a functional model. It’s developing that model that can be a challenge.
In January 2014, Canadian start-up Thalmic needed a functional model of its Myo armband, a gesture-control wearable armband. The Myo armband can control technology with hand gestures and motion. Through a wearable presentation remote, the Myo reads a user’s muscle activity and hand motion to control presentation software.
Thalmic engineers approached more than 20 companies to help verify their final product design for mass production. However, none of those companies believed the Myo was suitable for mass production.
The device contained a long flexible PCB that was difficult to work with because it did not have the restitution force necessary for efficient assembly or injection molding. Choosing suitable materials to be used in the injection molding process also proved difficult. The wearable device also needed to use a flexible yet rugged material to deliver a comfortable user experience reliably.
That’s when Thalmic contacted Model Solution, a Laird service provider business that specializes in difficult custom projects. Thalmic engineers asked Model Solution to help determine whether its Myo touch free control design could be efficiently produced through tooling.
The two companies worked cooperatively. Model Solution took on the additional challenge to reach the mass production stage instead of just stopping at development support stage.
Working with the Thalmic engineering team over a seven-month period, Model Solution’s design engineers created a one-of-a-kind manufacturing solution that included insert molding and sub-overmolding. This included making a thin flat FPCB into a U-shape, increasing its force of restitution.
After selecting a suitable material, Model Solution was able to draw upon its advanced concept of quick-turn tooling and used a combination of semi-automatic and manual tooling.
Model Solution not only helped Thalmic prove out the design, the design team also developed a way to hold the flexible PCBs in place while molding around them. The Myo armband was the first device to be made from this type of tool.
After numerous pilot runs, testing, design and tooling development, and continual exchange with Thalmic engineers, selection and procurement of materials, and incoming inspection, Model Solution delivered a finished, working Myo armband to Thalmic.
In total, 14 individual tools were used to produce the production run. The Myo muscle recognizing wearable device was successfully shown to the public, and drew keen interest and attention. As a result, Thalmic successfully received sufficient development funds from its investors.