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In order to produce fully functioning prototypes for an affordable engine management system for a potential customer, Scion-Sprays selected the rapid manufacturing services of Proto Labs.

Scion-Sprays is made up of a group of engineers specialising in the development and manufacturing of affordable engine management systems to offer OEM customers a competitive advantage.

Richard Hoolahan, manufacturing manager at Scion-Sprays, said: ‘Our first commercial product is a fuel-injection system specifically designed for a European manufacturer of light motorcycles and scooters.

‘This system will cut emissions of HC+NOx by around 35 per cent and CO emissions by more than 80 per cent compared with a standard engine.

‘It will also save 30 per cent on fuel,’ he added.

Founded in 2002 by Jeff Allen, a former chief engineer at Lotus Engineering, the firm grew out of research into the electrostatic atomisation of fuel.

In the process, Allen, who is now the firm’s technical director, came up with the idea of a small, low-cost ‘constant volume displacement pump’ to control fuel flow rates.

‘That pump proved to have greater market potential than the original research because of its efficient, clean burn and its simplicity,’ said Hoolahan.

So with backing from an investor, who saw both the business and the environmental benefits of the technology, Allen and a small team set about developing the company’s engine management system, Pulse Count Injection (PCI).

With the help of rapid prototyping services First Cut and Protomold from Proto Labs, the company is now moving out of development and into production.

PCI works by calculating the amount of fuel needed in each engine cycle and then applying a precise number of pulses of a fixed volume of fuel across the cycle.

By 2006, Scion-Sprays had produced its first working PCI prototype, which in turn led to the development of a fully integrated Quantum Fuel Injection (QFI) system.

The modular design of the QFI system includes a throttle body, PCI technology, sensors, idle control and ignition.

Because it has no high-pressure pump and significantly fewer moving parts, QFI is simpler to build and maintain than a standard fuel-injection system based on pulse width modulation (PWM).

Nevertheless, PCI technology enables QFI to deliver metered fuel bursts at up to 1,000Hz and fuel atomisation at 50-80 microns SMD.

This combination of accuracy, reliability and ‘smart controls’, along with its low unit cost, makes QFI suitable for motorcycles and mopeds up to 250cc, as well as small utility-engines (such as those found in lawnmowers, strimmers and leaf blowers), which cannot justify the additional cost of a standard PWM system.

According to the company, an added attraction for OEMs is that the throttle body matches the carburettor footprint in existing engine designs with minimum additional wiring and sensors, plus QFI-enabled engines are Euro 3 and China Stage 3 emissions compliant and bio-fuel compatible.

It was while developing a prototype of the QFI for a prospective European customer in the early part of 2010 that Hoolahan turned to Proto Labs.

‘I needed about 15-20 pre-production QFI systems for customer testing, which meant they had to be fully functional and made from similar, if not the same, materials that would be used in actual production units,’ he said.

‘I used different rapid prototyping services to produce less-critical components, but chose Proto Labs for the throttle crank and the stepper motor arm because there could be no compromises in the mechanical qualities of those parts: and the production method and the materials would be very similar to what we would use in the final version,’ he added.

Hoolahan decided to use the Proto Labs Protomold injection-moulding service to produce the stepper motor arm from glass-reinforced nylon.

‘I chose First Cut’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,’ he said.

‘At this stage in the product development, it is very important to minimise costs,’ he added.

Hoolahan contacted Proto Labs using the company’s two interactive online quotation systems: Protoquote and Firstquote.

Both systems allowed him to upload 3D CAD models and he was sent a quote back within hours.

‘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,’ said Hoolahan.

‘Protomold also suggested a small, design refinement, in this case adding draft angles to help release the motor arm from the mould,’ he added.

The machined parts were delivered within three days of accepting the quote.

‘The QFI system performed as it was designed to and, as a result, we secured our first commercial order from the European motorcycle maker,’ said Hoolahan.

‘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,’ he added.

Proto Labs

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Protomold delivers injection-moulded parts from moulds manufactured utilising state-of-the-art high-speed CNC machining technologies. Parts can be moulded using almost any engineering-grade resin and are ideal for prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production.

First Cut satisfies the need for functional prototypes much earlier in the development cycle for quantities of 1–10+. Because First Cut delivers prototypes in engineering-grade resins and aluminium they will have real material properties and improved surface finishes. In other words, they will be functional.

When you submit your 3D CAD model, Proto Labs’ powerful super-compute cluster creates an interactive quote giving pricing options and where appropriate, suggesting changes to improve manufacturability. You simply interact with your quote online, tailor options such as material and delivery to your requirements and with every change, the pricing information automatically updates. This built-in ‘what-if’ analysis enables last-minute project refinements to be accommodated at the click of a button.

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