Newer technologies and design techniques lead to innovation to older designs.
After years of design and innovation there doesn’t appear to be a lot to redesign for some product categories, including most household appliances, office tools, and a fair number of hand tools. But that’s only how it appears. With every new technology, with every new design theory, and with faster design tools, there is room for continual innovation.
Acquiring fast prototypes like the components shown here, has helped Teknovation to provide faster design services as well as reduce machining costs.
For one proprietary device going through a redesign by Teknovation Inc., (Hattiesburg, MS), a full service product development and engineering company, the original product used a motor with a set of plastic gears to provide a 7:1 gear reduction ratio.
The gears for the end product were made from a very hard plastic to enable the product to pass a 10,000 cycle life test. Overall, the plastic gears ended up generating a lot of noise. “Noise levels are a continual concern in today’s products,” said Kelly Bryant, President of Teknovation. The competition used a softer material for their gears, but those components couldn’t pass the required life cycle test. “We were looking at any and all alternatives.”
The initial experiment was to include a standard belt with a newly designed pulley system. “We needed a quick turn-around because we had several design ideas we wanted to try out.” Using a standard service for outsourcing component fabrication, would have taken at least three days per design iteration. ZoomRP.com, eliminated the wait. “We were able to get the parts we needed by the following morning,” Kelly said.
To reduce noise associated with the drive system, Teknovation decided to start with modifying the components themselves to see what effect it would have on the final design. A variety of belt and pulley configurations were considered. At this point ZoomRP.com is providing prototype models of the two pulleys needed for the project. As the project advances, other components of the assembly will also be redesigned and tried out first as a prototype. “For example, we wanted to try out a direct drive motor system that didn’t use external gears for the reduction ratio,” Kelly said.
The ZoomRP.com process uses a PolyJet white material, which was perfectly fine for this application. “We didn’t have to sand or paint the part, and the accuracy was great. “We’re cutting weeks off of our typical design time for this project, which means a huge savings for our customer,” Kelly said. “We’ve used ZoomRP.com’s parent company, Solid Concepts, for parts in the past because they offered the best price at the fastest turnaround times. Plus, parts we receive from them can be used to confirm a design concept for fit and function comparisons, and for final functional testing.” Kelly knew that if another material was needed later in the process that ZoomRP.com’s parent company could handle the job and would already have the data files to do so. “That’s the benefit of using one company for all your prototyping needs.”
“I also like the fact that they have a quoting system where I can immediately see the cost of my prototypes and don’t have to wait a day or so to see if I can afford to purchase the newly designed part,” Kelly said. The parts delivered for the project were 2.75 in. dia X 5 in. thick, and 0.5 in. dia X 0.5 in. long. The tolerances were +/-0.010, which is equal to what an injection molded plastic part would be, once the design phase was completed and the company went to mass production.
The company built one prototype with the belt drive system, but determined that the end product wouldn’t have enough room inside its housing to properly use the new design. Because of the fast turnaround, the engineers were able to determine — in one day — that they needed to continue to look for other alternatives. “We then began to look at the possibility of using spur gearmotors, where precision gears are internal to the motor assembly,” Kelly said. This approach would provide the gear reduction Teknovation’s customer was looking for, but would minimize the noise generated by the drive train. “We made prototypes of the motor mount and were able to test this idea the next day.”
Design costs escalate quickly if too many prototypes are needed to fully evaluate all the alternative possibilities. Plus, time to market is equally affected while waiting for machined parts. Design iterations can be minimized by producing accurate prototypes at a lower cost than was available only a few years ago.
In a manufacturing environment where time is money, companies like Teknovation provide a fast turnaround for new designs and innovations. According to Kelly, “Speed has become a key component in all our designs. If we can evaluate more design ideas in half the time, we’re providing maximum service to our customers.”
Kelly was satisfied with the service. “It was easy to transfer parts up to the ZoomRP.com site using the website.” For the service, files must be in an STL format, while for Solid Concepts’ standard service Kelly usually transfers the actual Pro/Engineer parts to the website.
ZoomRP.com has made it easy and fast for Teknovation to purchase prototypes for time sensitive projects. With the faster service, the company is able to experiment more, trying out multiple designs in less time than it would have taken for just one new innovation. Not only does the design house work faster to produce a better design, but the customer benefits as well.