Richard decided to use Proto Labs’ Protomold injection-moulding service to produce the stepper motor arm from glass-reinforced nylon. However, he says: “I chose Firstcut’s machining service to make the throttle crank from the same material, partly because I wanted to compare the processes and partly because creating a mould for the throttle crank would not have been cost-effective. At this stage in the product development, it is very important to minimise costs.”
Richard contacted Proto Labs using the company’s two interactive, online quotation systems: Protoquoteâ and Firstquoteâ. Both systems let him upload his 3D CAD models and then within hours sent back an accurate quote – not an estimate.
“I was very impressed with the process,” says Richard, “it was so easy. Online quoting systems rarely work as advertised, but this time they did. The Proto Labs systems gave us a complete price based on our CAD models; a price that was updated instantly when we changed the quantity or material, so we knew what we would pay for what we wanted. I also liked the personal touch! For example, Protomold suggested a small, design refinement, in this case adding draft angles to help release the motor arm from the mould.”
The machined parts were delivered within three days of Richard accepting the quote: “And that was their standard delivery – they can do it even faster if want. The moulded parts took slightly longer but that is because the tooling required. Nevertheless, they were with me in a matter of days, not months, like other suppliers.”
Overall, Richard was he was very impressed with the service, including the quality of the finished components: “Proto Labs delivered exactly what they said they could which was exactly what I wanted. The QFI system performed as it was designed to and, as a result, we secured our first commercial order from that European motorcycle maker worth €4 million over the next 3 years. We are now in the process of developing our manufacturing equipment and expanding our facilities at the Hethel Engineering Centre, where we design the system, electronics and software. I would be very happy to use Proto Labs again. In fact, I need to make some more pre-production models for another potential customer, so we will be reordering very soon.”