Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Amanda Williams

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This will be Amanda’s first year on the Cool Idea! Award judge panel.

Next in our Cool Idea! Award judge series is Amanda Williams. Currently, she spearheads intelligent packaging programs at Jabil—a global manufacturing company. Before joining Jabil, Amanda founded multiple startups in consumer electronics and manufacturing logistics and has worked at tech companies like Xerox PARC, Adobe, Intel, and Microsoft.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing lots of cool ideas!

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I went to graduate school for information and computer science, but also received some training in ethnography and anthropology while I was there and I use it daily.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
I was talking with the president of a design firm about one of his employees, and he said “He’s a great designer because he argues well. He argues a lot, but it’s never to win or to prove that he is right. He argues because that’s how you make the product better.” I thought it was a really smart insight, and it has informed what I look for when I’m hiring, and how to judge and handle conflict when managing a team. Continue reading

Lidar Technology Drives Next Generation of Autonomous Cars

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT
Self-driving cars keep rolling closer to the mainstream.

For example, Ford plans to launch an autonomous vehicle by 2021, and is investing $1 billion in the startup Argo AI to make it happen, according to Marketplace Tech.

As a supplier of parts to companies developing self-driving cars, we’re interested in advances in this growing segment within the larger automotive industry.

Roof-mounted optical systems are used for self-driving cars and for advanced driver assistance systems. Photo: Wall Street Journal

One of those advances is lidar, a laser-based sensing technology, which is emerging as central to the development of the next generation of self-driving cars.

The optical technology’s name—lidar—stands for “light detection and ranging.” As Optics.org recently explained, lidar is analogous to radar but relies on infrared light instead of radio waves.

Lidar technology units are showing up mounted on the roofs of both experimental self-driving cars being developed by Google and others, and on cars with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are being tested by Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and other OEMs. Continue reading

The Difference Between Jigs and Fixtures

TIPS WITH TONY

Jigs or fixtures? The two terms are easy to confuse. You’ll often find them paired together and despite sharing similar functions, the two are not interchangeable. Let’s learn the subtle differences between these manufacturing tools by examining how they are used to improve manufacturing quality, reduce production costs, and automate work.

Jigs Improve Manual Work
You might know the term “jig” from your weekend fishing hobby, but it has a different meaning within the engineer’s lexicon. For our purposes, a jig holds the position of a tool in order to perform a manufacturing task. It’s often a custom part that ensures accuracy and repeatability when drilling and tapping holes.

Shops may use different types of jigs for various tasks inside manufacturing equipment.

Drill bushings are a common jig application. They help guide a drill through a workpiece in order to maintain accurate positioning and angle. Not only does it lead to higher quality work, but a drill bushing can also increase manufacturing speed.

Fixtures for Automated Manufacturing Processes
How does a fixture differ from a jig? Rather than guiding a manufacturing tool, fixtures hold a workpiece in a secure position, orientation, or location. A prime example, and one were familiar with at Proto Labs, is the fixture in which a block of raw material is clamped into inside a CNC machine. The vice on your workbench is also a fixture. Continue reading

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: John Vaskis

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This week we’re chattin’ with John Vaskis, Senior Director of Hardware at Indiegogo. John helps hardware-based businesses execute successful crowdfunding campaigns whether that be through PR outreach, finding a manufacturing partner, gauging consumer interest, or any other activity that helps startups get off the ground.

John Vaskis of Indiegogo

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing all of the awesome products that always come through the contest every year. The innovation that happens with the Cool Idea! Program always blows my minds—it feels like you’re looking into the future.

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I originally went to college for computer science to create video games; needless to say CS and me were similar to oil and vinegar. I did get into the video game world, though, on the business side as my first real job.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
When I started my first job I was told to simply “get out there” because I knew no one, had no network, and I was told that would be the quickest way to learn. That proved to be very useful. This industry is based upon connections, so I suggest to everyone to make as many of them as possible. Continue reading

A New Manufacturing Process at Proto Labs: Insert Molding

We’re excited to share the latest addition to our rapid injection molding service—insert molding. You can now incorporate molded-in threaded inserts, bushings, and metal bosses into your injection molding designs.

Metal inserts reinforce mechanical properties of molded, plastic parts.

The plastic manufacturing process can add functionality, improve strength, and reduce assembly costs of parts. Common applications include electronic components, housings, knobs, handles, and dials.

Check out these resources to learn more about designing for insert molding:

Just like our other injection molding processes, you can expect to receive parts in 15 days or less. If you have a design that could benefit from insert molding, upload a 3D CAD model and we’ll send you a free quote with DFM within hours.