Reducing product development time and improving product quality while realizing costs savings no longer has to be a designer’s dream — or nightmare. Automation and the emergence of innovated and sophisticated CAD tools are helping to enable the type of rapid innovation needed to keep up with market demands in industries ranging from robotics, to wearables, to drones, and beyond. These abstracts of case studies help illustrate how successful implementations of design for manufacturability (DFM) are making dreams a reality.
You can find the complete case studies, as well as several others across industries and markets at the Proto Labs Case Studies page.
Harris Corporation: Rapid Insert Molding Leads to Lower Production Costs
Finding the best way to secure circuit boards to a large metal plate on the vibration tester during qualification testing became a recurring issue Attaching circuit boards to plastic test fixtures — with screws from 1 to about 2 millimeters in diameter, with corresponding nuts —proved tedious and time-consuming. Adding threaded inserts into the test fixtures’ bosses helped but it required a slow, secondary step of heat staking, or installing each insert manually with thermal press at Harris’ facility. This labor-intensive process, which included setting small screws and small inserts in place, could take technicians several days to complete.
Harris was among the first to try Proto Labs’ rapid insert molding service which eliminated the need for heat staking or ultrasonic welding to install the insert into an as-molded part. All the brass inserts molded into the test fixtures — 20 inserts into each of dozens of 6-by-6-inch fixtures — in one step before he received them. That freed technicians from using the hand-operated thermal press to place each insert individually. Harris received insert-molded parts within 15 days, saving two or more full days of labor by eliminating the manual installation process. Read more
VSP Global: Eyeing the Future of Fitness Tracking
Project Genesis — a prototype design initiative involving eyeglasses with a built-in fitness tracker — is a venture of vision-care company, VSP Global’s Innovation Lab. Creating a prototype of a pair of glasses with a fitness tracker built into the frames within an ambitious timetable. Given that Project Genesis would be VSP Global’s “first foray” into electronics as an eyewear company, the designers wanted to test the concept in a small group, which, as it turns out, would be 30 volunteers within the company who would wear these prototype glasses. So, 30 pairs of identical glasses would be needed.
Several iterations were first done on an in-house, polyjet (material jetting), 3D printer at the Innovation Lab, before moving on to Proto Labs for plastic injection-molded parts. Injection molding made the most sense because the material would be closer to what the end-use product would be made from going forward. Ultimately, Proto Labs produced about 100 total parts for this project. Existing VSP eyewear frames were chosen for this project. The fronts and both temples (arms) were from the original frames so that they matched. The hinges had to be modified and bonded into place in a specially designed fixture that would contain the added electronics of the fitness tracker. Read more
Lockheed Martin’s Small Drone with a Big Spirit
Early concepts for Lockheed’s Indago Quadcopter drone were made out of 3D-printed parts of SLS (selective laser sintering) nylon. The engineers prototyped and manufactured with 3D-printed parts because, at the time, SLS parts were “not bad”, and the volume of parts they were producing didn’t justify going to molded parts and using expensive molding houses to make steel molds. But the Lockheed team wondered if shifting to injection-molded nylon would improve consistency. They decided to quote a few injection-molded parts to determine if it made fiscal sense to take this step since the number of orders for the drones was increasing.
This was the point in the process when the design-for-manufacturability element in Proto Labs’ automated quoting system helped Perez to create designs for injection molding, and convinced him that they could afford injection-molded parts for the drone. The shift was made. Proto Labs’ injection molding service is now used for both prototyping and low-volume production for the Indago 2, the latest version of the drone, Perez says, with the thermoplastic parts fabricated out of a durable, engineering-grade nylon material. Originally, the parts were made out of SLS Nylon 12. Now the company is injection molding out of an especially strong Nylon 66, which has improved the overall strength of the parts. The Indago 2 was launched in December 2015. Read more