Making the Steering Wheel Work

TRW Automotive’s clock spring design.

Most days drivers don’t give much thought to what happens when you press a steering wheel button. But it has been at the forefront of Rick Bowes’ mind for quite a while. Bowes is a designer in the body control systems group at Michigan-based TRW Automotive. The global company focuses on active and passive safety systems and has worked with Proto Labs for the past five years.   Continue reading

Doubling Down on Solar

Arun Gupta is the founder of Skyven Technologies, a Texas-based company that has developed a co-generating solar panel system that promises an efficient way to generate electricity and heat water.

The Skyven Cogen System brings together traditional solar photovoltaic, concentrating photovoltaic and solar water heating technologies, Gupta says, incorporating the best technologies that have emerged from the billions of dollars and decades of study that already have gone into solar energy.

Installed on a commercial rooftop, the system will produce 50 percent more electricity that will cost 20 percent less than a traditional photovoltaic system, he says. The installed cost of solar water heating with Skyven’s system is 40 percent less than with traditional technology.

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Kinetic Charger for Smartphones Brings New Meaning to Mobile

AMPY is an innovative kinetic charger that captures a person’s movement and converts it to charge for their mobile device. Tejas Shastry, Mike Geier and Alex Smith began developing the device in 2013 as students in an entrepreneurial class at Northwestern. They worked through dozens of prototype iterations involving 3D printed parts while fine-tuning its patent-pending, proprietary linear inductor. The user’s motion drives a magnet and coil system that generates electricity, which goes into a lithium ion battery for storage. Plug an iPhone, Android phone or other wearable device into AMPY’s USB port to begin charging.

The team at AMPY entered and won Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award, a service grant that will be used towards internal thermoplastic bobbins in the device. AMPY is now pilot testing with consumers while accepting online preorders at getampy.com for market-ready devices that are slated to ship in July 2015. Read our full case study on the development of AMPY.

Medical Device Prototyping With A Manufacturing Hand From Proto Labs

Modern science has allowed surgeons to fix the human body amazingly fast, yet leave behind only small traces that repairs were performed. One of the more commonly used methods to achieve this is by a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic surgery, where small incisions are made into a patient’s skin, a laparoscope is inserted to provide a magnified view of the patient’s organs, the procedure is performed, and the incision is closed by stitching or surgical staples. You can have your gallbladder removed before breakfast and be binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your couch by dinner.

Typically, the small openings created during laparoscopic surgery are closed in one of two ways: manually stitching subcutaneously (beneath the skin) with a bio-absorbable, thread-like material and a curved needle that moves from one side of the hole to the other to close it tight, or with a surgical stapler that inserts metal staples into the skin to close the wound. The first technique is more time consuming, but leaves less surgical evidence. The latter method is faster, but can cause scarring and infection. Chuck Rogers, Ph.D., and Kenneth Danielson, M.D. of Massachusetts-based Opus KSD are nearing the launch of a device that combines the best of both worlds: the ease of a stapler with proprietary bio-absorbable subcutaneous fasteners. Continue reading