A New Spin on Folding Bikes

CASE STUDY

A Toronto-based startup bike maker recently turned to Proto Labs for machining parts for titanium prototypes for an innovative fold-up bike concept that will launch to a worldwide market later this year.

Folding-bike models haven’t really changed much over the years. Most have small wheels, are heavy and awkward to use, and, ironically, don’t actually fold up that small.

Nearly four years ago, Helix Bikes set out to create a folding bike that is lightweight, durable, rides and feels like a full-size bike, has larger wheels, is safe and easy to use, and folds into a truly small, portable size—a bike that can be stored under your desk, taken on the subway, stowed in the trunk of your car, or packed in a suitcase.

Proto Labs provided machined titanium parts for prototypes for Helix Bikes’ folding-bike models, which will launch to a worldwide market later this year.

A wildly successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign pledged more than $2.2 million to help Helix with additional funding, which “gave us the ability to take the design to the next level—we really pulled out all of the stops,” said Peter Boutakis, founder of Helix Bikes.

Helix eventually turned to Proto Labs for machined titanium parts for Helix’s prototypes, swiftly moving from submitted CAD models to bike prototypes within weeks.

The Helix bike folds for easy storage.

Boutakis gives Proto Labs high marks.

“Both [Proto Labs’] quoting and analysis were amazing. It’s incredible that something as complex as a one-off custom machined part can be quoted so quickly and at such a reasonable price…we went from CAD model to riding prototype in about three weeks…Without a resource like Proto Labs, we would be months behind with fewer iterations and the result would have been a less polished product.”
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Optical Liquid Silicone Rubber: A New Fixture in Molding

TIPS WITH TONY

Proto Labs offers many manufacturing processes and materials for prototype and production parts. But one process has a material that separates itself from the rest, optical liquid silicone rubber (OLSR). OLSR is an advanced material that has many properties that make it a preferred material choice over polycarbonate (PC) and acrylic (PMMA) for lighting and optical parts. Here are a few of the benefits that OLSR offers:

prototype lenses molded in liquid silicone rubber

Prototype lenses molded in liquid silicone rubber.

Light Transmission
Light transmission is lost as light passes through a material. PC, PMMA, and even glass will have light loss with glass retaining up to 95 percent, PMMA around 93 percent, and PC between 88 to 90 percent. When your product requires a clear PC or PMMA part, you can improve on light transmission using OLSR, which retains up to 94 percent light transmission.

How about the refractive index? OLSR has a low refractive index of 1.42 when compared to PC and PMMA, which are at 1.58 and 1.49 respectively.

Click to Enlarge

Still another advantage is the non-yellowing factor. Thermoplastics without additives are not UV resistant, which means the parts could yellow and degrade over long exposures to lights and sunlight. OLSR is non-yellowing so it’s great for outdoor fixtures exposed to harsh environments.

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Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Andy MacInnis

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.

Andy MacInnis is a director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Andy MacInnis is the technical instructor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He leads the Integrated Design & Management (IDM) track, which takes a hands-on and practical approach to design. Prior to his position at MIT, Andy founded Monster Prototype—a leading go-to model and prototype firm in the Boston area. At Monster Prototype, he consulted companies developing consumer products, medical devices, and footwear.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing where inventors find the junction of Need and Solution.

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 find the challenge of repairing old things like cars, boats, houses, and bikes rewarding and worthwhile. Continue reading

DESIGN TIP: 9 Ways to Reduce Injection-Molded Part Costs

Multi-cavity and family molds are used for a higher volume of parts, which can save costs. Shown here is an example of a family mold, used to produce the med-device part pictured.

Product designers and engineers love to trim costs on manufactured parts. This month’s design tip offers a number of injection molding considerations to improve part design and stretch your manufacturing dollar.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • Eliminating undercuts
  • Getting rid of unnecessary features
  • Using a core cavity approach
  • Altering cosmetic finish
  • Designing self-mating parts
  • Modifying and reusing molds
  • Leveraging DFM analysis
  • Using a multi-cavity or family mold
  • Considering part size

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