Rapid tooling, rubber grommet

“Yes, but I need parts NOW!!!”

A last-minute cable design change required a different grommet to protect a cable as it passed out of an enclosure.  Nothing was available off-the-shelf that had the shape characteristics we needed.  In this case, we needed the durability, heat resistance, and strength and there were no rapid prototyped material available on the market with matching characteristics. We had to come up with a different solution, and we only had a few days to figure it out.

Traditionally, it was necessary to cut expensive injection molding tooling which  takes a few weeks. With small production runs, this approach does not make economic sense for a few parts only worth a couple of dollars. Traditional solutions were not good options.

We solved the problem using rapid prototyping but not in the way most folks would expect.

With a few hours to design and print, we made several sets of tools in the Objet 3D printer.  We then molded the parts we needed using a polyurethane resin.  Polyurethane resins come in different hardness values, physical properties,  and can be color pigmented to match almost any color.

Our mold design uses four interlocking parts.  The unique design allowed the grommet to be molded without any visible mold flash lines on the cosmetic surfaces.  One feature of the Objet 3D printer is that it has the ability to print parts with glossy surfaces, so our molded part would also have glossy surfaces.  The rapid prototyped mold we created required no post-processing as it was ready for use as soon as it came out of the printer.  We put it to use that day.

This same technique can be used to generate other molds for other applications.  Let us put this technology to work for you.

Contact us to learn more: www.phi2.com or +1.904.646.5666


Rapid Prototyped tools for Contract Manufacuting

Our rapid prototyping capability helps us make tools quickly for our contract manufacturing needs.

Have you ever been tinkering around and wondered to yourself, “If only I had a tool that could do…”   All of the mechanical engineers I know have extensive tool boxes. While it is great to have every driver, wrench and helpful thingy known to man at the tip of your fingers, it is not always a tool that is off-the-shelf that will do the job.

One of the services we provide is the manufacturing of wire harnesses.  In one case it was necessary to twist wires together and the client needed parts fast.  Sounds easy, right?  Try buying a reasonably priced tool that can do that, especially when you have crimped ends that most folks don’t use. The lead time to actually get the twister delivered would directly have put us out of the picture.

Since our strength is custom work in relatively small runs of maybe a few thousand pieces, we make our own tools using rapid prototyping.  One of our favorite tools is a handy little device that we use for wire twisting.  Using a small motor, a foot switch, and our special rig, it works consistently and efficiently.  When you need to twist wires for 500 harnesses, the little rig can save hours of work.  With our rapid prototype capabilities, we can easily make new fixtures to accommodate different crimped ends.  Within 24 hours we had conceptualized, designed, and 3D printed the wire twister which is seen in action in the video we made.

Contact us to learn more: www.phi2.com or +1.904.646.5666

So what do I need to do to have it made?

Key chain example

This part is a sample piece that can only be produced using rapid prototyping techniques.

Rapid prototypes require a 3D CAD file in STL format.  If you have one, you can upload the file here.  We will send you a quote by e-mail shortly.  The rapid prototype can be produced and delivered to you within a few days.

But what if my design is not completed?  That is where our engineers come in.  We are experienced product development engineers that can complete the design for you.  We can work from as little as paper napkin sketches.  Sometimes our clients bring us mock-up models taped together using foam core, off-the-shelf parts, and cardboard.     As long as what you have conveys the concept, we can make it happen.

Some people have experience with design, and prefer to do it themselves, but do not have the software resources that design engineers use.  If you want to design the product yourself there are some free or low-cost alternatives available.    Our favorite review site Top Ten Reviews has reviewed low-cost CAD software.  There are also open source CAD programs that are free.  If your intention is rapid prototyping, you need to make sure that the software can export STL files.  If you plan to send your design out for production at a later stage, many mold makers prefer to work with STEP or IGES formats.

Caution:  We have not tried these low-cost or free programs so we cannot say anything about how they perform.  Another caution is that a design is typically not better than the designer.  I am in the possession of a word processor but it does not make my writing skills better 🙂  Remember that almost any part can be rapid prototyped.  When the part goes into production there are limitations to consider that are not readily apparent if you do not have experience with the production equipment.

Contact us to learn more: www.phi2.com or +1.904.646.5666

Going Small

Going Small

Our high-resolution Objet printer is able to prototype small parts that are impossible to produce with many other techniques. This image features a gear we made for one of our clients (yes, we asked their permission before publishing this article).  The actual diameter is 9.5 mm (3/8″) and it fits neatly on the head of a quarter.

They key is in the printer resolution and how the part is oriented with respect to support material.  With an Objet system it is possible to produce parts with a flat finish and parts with a shiny finish.  In this case, it was essential to have the gear produced with a shiny finish so that it had the correct friction characteristics.

Most other of prototyping technologies cannot produce this level of detail or quality of finish.

One key benefit to rapid prototyping prior to full production is that you have the ability to test-fit the part prior to production.

Contact us to learn more: www.phi2.com or +1.904.646.5666