Q&A: StarWitness Offers Favorable Testimony of Rapid Manufacturing

Police and other security professionals frequently interview suspects and witnesses, sessions that require officially dated recordings. StarWitness, a supplier of specialty forensic audio-video products used by law enforcement and others, recently called on Proto Labs for prototyping and low-volume production help for a new product, the Field Interviewer.

Photo Courtesy StarWitness

StarWitness is a division of Signalscape, Inc., which is based in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Signalscape and its brands supply engineering services and products used by U.S.-based law enforcement, security, intelligence and defense services to combat crime, fight terrorism and provide for homeland security. Mike D’Aurelio, mechanical designer at Signalscape, recently answered a few questions about his company’s work with Proto Labs.

What is the StarWitness Field Interviewer?
The Field Interviewer is a one-touch interview recorder that fits in your pocket. It provides a watermarked video identifier for authentication of recorded interviews, and can be controlled and monitored via secure Wi-Fi from an Android smart phone or tablet.

What was the development challenge you encountered?
Finding a workable combination of a small product size, large battery, overall product ruggedness, and an ability to include as many features as possible was a challenge.

A rendering of one of the injection-molded enclosure pieces of the Field Interviewer, designed to protect the camera.

Was Proto Labs helpful?
Yes. The early prototypes from Proto Labs provided valuable testing and user feedback that helped us focus on the most important features and improve the user experience. Sourcing parts in a relatively low volume is always a challenge we face.

In addition, the automated design analysis helped us tweak the design and view the areas that might cause visual defects or blemishes. All the parts had at least one or more features that had to be slightly modified to satisfy mold requirements. These changes were pretty minor and easily fixed.

What parts did we manufacture for you, and with what services?
Proto Labs manufactured the four injection-molded enclosure pieces of the Field Interviewer, an enclosure designed to protect the camera, circuit boards and battery. Before we started the injection molding process, we had Proto Labs make a 3D-printed prototype of the enclosure to verify that all the pieces fit together without any interference. For the 3D-printed parts, we used stereolithography with Renshape 7820 material because its properties are similar to ABS, our targeted production material, and for its ability to support fine details. For our injection-molded parts, we chose an ABS/PC blend for its stiffness along with its impact and heat-resistance properties.

What was the end result?
Bottom line, Proto Labs provided us with a cost-effective solution in a short amount of time. We received several other quotes from other sources for the same parts and they were not priced as competitively and had longer lead times. You delivered the parts on time and, in fact, half the order was delivered a day or two early. And everything functioned as expected. 

Q&A is a regular column featuring quick conversations with designers, engineers and other professionals developing products with rapid manufacturing.

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