A marketing communications agency with no prior experience of rapid injection moulding has fulfilled aa contract withfor a major high -street retailer outlet that required involved developing getting from a wooden prototype into first plastic production units in just 10 daysWith Britain’s rivers at record high levels, the potential for flooding –- and the devastation that floods bring with them –- has never been greater/higher…with a little help from rapid plastic injection moulding specialist, Protomold.. Fortunately, some of the country’s best technical minds are on the case, working hard to ensure early warning signs are recognised. This is the story of how Protomold is helping manufacture a device set to take effective flood warning systems to a new levelA new product developed by a division of Hydro-Logic Ltd is an improved early warning system made with the help of Protomould.
From prototype to production, in 10 days!Plastic injection moulding – made easy/Calm before the storm
Rapid injection moulding specialist Romsey, Hampshire-based Intermedia Communications Solutions has used the services of rapid injection moulding specialist Protomold to help it successfully develop a product for a retailer with a nationwide network of high street branches.
Although Intermedia describes itself as a “media-neutral” No idea what this means. marketing and communications agency. Trading for seven years, IntermediaThe company support clients who appreciate the importance of effective communication, offerisng a single point of contact for entire marketing projects, and so easing the headache that can sometimes be caused when a client of has to manageing multiple suppliers. Uuntil recently, product development hasn’t been one of its main activities.
ButHowever, twhenWhen the company won a short lead-time contract to produce management training and performance indication tools (what sort of training tools? Potty training?) for a majorsignificant UK retailerhousehold name customer, company andit , rapid decisions and actions were quickly found itself on a steep learning curve, the order of the day, as company director James Applin explains.
“Our customer wanted us to create a set of training toolsa ‘target’ operating model (haven’t a clue what this means!) that would be sent to each of its high street outlets,” he says. “The idea is that these models needed to visually demonstrate all aspects of the company’s business and provide performance indicators against each various business disciplines.”
The concept primarily consiststs of a series of rings that loop over a central tower measuring approximately 300mm in height: . Ththere are three towers in total, each representing a different company company attribute ‘goal’ and each sporting a different colour scheme. The rings that fit over the tower signify a variety of professional attributes, the names of which appear on the external diameter.Can you describe this in more detail? Is it 25 feet high or 3 inches high?
Intermedia initially manufactured a wooden prototype: the machined wooden rings featured four segments and polarised magnets were used to allow each piece to interlock in the correct fashion. The transition from wooden prototype to plastic production unit however, was about to take an unexpected twist. Through no fault of its own, Intermedia learnt that the lead-time for the first production units had shrunk to just 10 days.
“Thankfully I found Protomold on the internet and after explaining the situation the response I received was fantastic,” says Mr Applin. “Protomold agreed to meet me the next day. I met the managing director himself, who was obviously empowered to make things happen. Rapid injection moulding is a new process to Intermedia but Wwe agreed a specification and price without delay and I felt that we had taken real steps forward. I supplied the wooden prototype and Protomold set about creating 3D CAD drawings using reverse engineering techniques.”
Communication continued throughout the process using the ProtoQuote system, and this facet of Protomold’s business also impressed Mr Applin.
“To be honest I’d never seen anything quite like ProtoQuote, it is very impressive,” he says. “ProtoQuote made complex designing and manufacturing considerations easy.”
The ProtoQuote system is remarkably easy to use. No previous knowledge or experience of rapid injection moulding is required, as Intermedia successfully proved. Using ProtoQuote, product design and development is accessible to everyone.
Using the information supplied by Intermedia, Protomold designed the plastic rings featuring a dowel and location-hole system so that the parts would interlock correctly. Having supplied initial volumes within the 10-day deadline, Protomold has since completed the entire production run of 400, all of which are now in use at the customer’s high street stores up and down the country.
“Designing training tools for retail outlets is a demanding and competitive business,” concludes Mr Applin. “With short lead-times and strict budgets to work with, the friendly and supportive team at Protomold stepped up to the mark every time. I was pleasantly surprised with the whole Protomold experience.”
Protomold is supplying tooling and parts for a revolutionary new telemetry logging- device that generates alarms in the event of heavy rainfall, river or /urban flooding or water distribution bursts. The product is due for release in the summer and brisk sales well into four figures per annum are anticipated.
FROG is a new GPRS telemetry logger The latest offering to emerge from Isodaq Technology, a the products division of Herefordshire-based Hydro-Logic Ltd. Unlike many of its competitors, FROG is ideal for remote installations where conventional power and telephone systems are expensive to install. This is chiefly because FROG is the newest of the Isodaq range to fully implement GPRS communications in a battery-powered device. GPRS is fast connection technology, which provides cost-effective remote telemetry to subscribers. FROG takes water-level measurements typically every 15 minutes and stores the information until the data log is transmitted to a central server once a day.,is water-level s and es until the dis transmitted a
, is FROG, a new IP68 GPRS telemetry logger. The housing design of FROG’s housing is such that it allows a water level ‘dipper’ to pass the electronics without enlarging the product envelopephysical size of the product. As the The device’s body is a green plasticaluminium resulting extrusion (of the unit’s body appears frog-shathat resembles the shape of a frog) it didn’t take long for its creator to come up with a name.ped, hence the product name, oh…and it’s also green!
Isodaq designed two end-caps to sealing the extruded plastic body requires the assembly of two end caps. C, and creating these polycarbonate caps to match the unusually shaped extrusion was seen as no mean feata challenge. With annual production volumes expected to run tobe hundreds (or possibly low thousands), the 30-employee privately owned company needed wanted to source a cost- effective manufacturing tooling/component solution.
The company initially looked at commonly available forms of rapid prototyping such as FDM and SLA but decided that therere would be no substitute for testing with real injection moulded parts. However, the anticipated volumes for FROG could not justify the cost of expensive steel production tooling demanded by conventional injection moulding techniques.
“We searched online and considered many different options before we came across details of Protomold’s rapid plastic injection moulding process,” says the company’s products director for the Isodaq range, Tim Campbell. “The website says from 3D CAD to real plastic parts in production intent material as fast as the next day, which caught our attention.”
Another advantage which impressed Hydro-Logic was that Protomold uses advanced aluminium alloys to produce multi-cavity moulds that can be guaranteed for the life of the project if required, thus supporting ongoing production as well as prototyping.
Hydro-Logic used ProtoQuote®, Protomold’s online service that allows potential customers to submit 3D CAD models and receive in return for an automated quotation. Users get pricing, options, and, if appropriate, suggested changes for improved mouldability. ProtoQuote® accepts uploads in IGES, STEP, SolidWorks, ProE, Parasolid and ACIS formats.
“We were all very impressed with ProtoQuote,” says Mr Campbell. “Within a few hours we had a comprehensive, interactive online quotation coupled with feedback on design and mouldability. While viewing the quote, it was possible to adjust parameters such as resin, finish and part quantity through the ProtoQuote
3D viewer, and the price adapted in real time to reflect the new input. Ultimately, the prices we received for both the tooling and the parts were much less than we expected.”
The project was given the ‘green light’ and Protomold duly produced the rapid injection mould tooling and , along with 400 end caps, ready to be fitted to the first 200 Isodaq FROG units.
“To be honest, Protomold has been so efficient that the end caps are actually the first completed parts we have received for FROG,” says Mr Campbell. “We are all impressed with the end result – even the colour. Some people were sceptical that
Protomold could match the green RAL colour that we specified, but they were wrong! – tThe match is perfect. It’s now down to our extrusion supplier to do an equally good job.”
Hydro-Logic has checked a number already fitted several of the end caps supplied by Protomold by assembling them to its ‘dummy’ extrusion , and according to Mr. Campbell, they fit the part, perfectly. However, if any changes are required to future end cap quantities as a result of modifications to mating parts, the Protomold process is flexible enough to react easily to last-minute design changes or revisions, thus reducing time-to-market and keeping costs within budget.
The entire end cap project has been completed online via Protomold’s innovative ProtoQuote® process.
“Although we’ve never met face-to-face, the process could not have been any simpler,” says Mr Campbell. “Not only is it one less thing to worry about, tThe fact that Protomold has delivered these parts quickly and at an affordable price e, also ensures we keep our costs as low as possible, which is one of our top priorities the prime ambitions offor FROG. There is nothing else on the market with the functionality of FROG, for the price at which it is pitched.”
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