4 Trends Light Up Photonics, Optics Show

EYE ON INNOVATION
More than 23,000 engineers, industrial designers, scientists, senior executives, and entrepreneurs from around the globe gathered this week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center for Photonics West, which is the world’s largest optics and photonics conference.

The event, sponsored and coordinated by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, was actually three conferences in one: BIOS, Bio-Optics and Biophotonics; LASE, Laser Sources and Lasers for Manufacturing; and OPTO, Optoelectronic Materials and Devices.

More than 23,000 attended Photonics West this week in San Francisco.

The event included nearly 5,000 presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and seminars over six days and featured more than 1,300 exhibitors, including Proto Labs.

Among a staggering range of subjects explored at the conference, four hot topics that were especially creating a buzz included advice for startup companies, the exploding virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) market, emerging automotive optic applications—especially for autonomous vehicles, and the continued promise of 3D printing. Continue reading

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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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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Past Cool Idea! Award Winner Launches New PocketLab Devices

For startup companies, a key measure of success is securing funding. Garnering a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, for instance, and $114,000 in Kickstarter funds, are awfully nice merit badges. Plus, the funding itself is crucial, of course, in bringing a company’s product to market.

The original PocketLab platform and device, pictured, has found early success, and two new devices are coming soon: PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather.

Indeed, those funds last year helped California-based startup Myriad Sensors, Inc., launch the PocketLab platform and device, which has found early success, enough so to move forward with the launch of two new PocketLab devices and a second Kickstarter campaign. More on those in a second.

Myriad Sensors was also a 2015 recipient of the Cool Idea! Award from Proto Labs, which provided prototyping and low-volume production services to the company for the initial PocketLab device.

Clifton Roozeboom, PocketLab inventor, and founder and CEO of Myriad Sensors, points to the Cool Idea! Award as a catalyst to the initial launch and success of PocketLab, which is now used by tens of thousands in 45 countries, who are tapping PocketLab for maker projects and science experiments.

The handheld device uses a wireless sensor and software platform to measure a number of different data fields that are then transmitted back to a computer or smartphone for analysis. It is relatively inexpensive (around $100) and is especially well-suited for students, teachers, and professors working on science projects in need of solid analytical data. Continue reading

DESIGN TIP: 6 Undercut Techniques to Improve Moldability

Undercuts are those complex features in an injection-molded part that prevent its ejection from the mold. They can be found on thousands of everyday parts, from the threads on a fastener to the slot for the power switch on a smart phone case.

The left image (1), illustrates a clip with undercut feature. The right image (2), shows an access hole beneath the undercut that allows the mold to protrude through the part and provide the needed latch shutoff geometry.

In our latest tip, we cover different injection molding design techniques to successfully integrate undercuts, and ultimately, improve overall part moldability.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • Parting lines
  • Side-actions
  • Bumpoffs
  • Hand-loaded inserts
  • Telescoping shutoffs
  • Additional considerations

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