Q&A: Rapid Manufacturing Fit for High-Speed Bike Design

Every year, cyclists converge in Battle Mountain, Nevada in pursuit of achieving speed records at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC). The competition is a mix of athletic performance, engineering and a seemingly endless number of variables. This past fall, Teagan Patterson, a Battle Mountain native and high-speed bicyclist, teamed up with Eric Ware and Mark Anderson to design a bicycle capable of capturing the world record — and her lifelong dream. 

Mark and Eric are veterans of the WHPSC having raced in 2009 with their vehicle, the Wedge, and reaching speeds above 70 mph — good for the eighth fastest time in the world and third fastest in American cycling history.

Drawing from their previous success, they worked with Teagan in preparation for the 2015 WHPSC, where they would try for another record.

Eric Ware knew Proto Labs from his day job as a mechanical engineer, so he decided to call us up for some machined parts for the bicycle design. In this Q&A, Ware gives a look behind-the-scenes at his team’s project.

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3D Printing Methods for Medtech Prototypes

Being able to quickly produce prototype parts is critical to creating an environment of innovation that can lead to medical device market success. By removing inefficiencies, manufacturers should expect to have prototype parts in a few days, not months. The prototype method must be fast enough to allow multiple iterations in a condensed time frame, and possess the scale to allow for multiple iterations at the same time.

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Rapid manufacturing methods like 3D printing are leveraged to help drastically reduce development time for medical devices.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also called 3D printing, enables quick evaluation of new medical product designs without making compromises due to complex part geometries. Using AM offers easier design changes and at a low cost. When prototyping via 3D printing, designers should not expect a finished part, although it should be noted 3D printing processes can yield finalized products. Stereolithography, for example, has a number of post-secondary finishing processes and direct metal laser sintering produces fully dense end-use metal parts.

There may be limits to color and texture choices, and in certain instances, thermoplastic-like materials will differ from the final production material used in process like molding and machining. If the surface finish, texture, color and coefficient of friction vary from the end material, it is difficult to accurately assess the subtle needs and benefits of these properties.

The main advantage of 3D printing is that it provides accurate form and fit testing. The build process of additive technology can accurately produce the form and size of the desired part, making it very useful for early evaluation of new medical parts. It is best used to identify design flaws, make changes, and then make second-generation machined parts or invest in tooling to create injection-molded parts. This article reviews that various AM printing methods commonly used in prototyping.

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Sportech Uses Quick-Turn Machining for Design Validation

From frozen trails to rugged desert valleys and muddy creeks, power-sports vehicle drivers put their machines to the test. Producing custom parts for many of those snowmobiles, utility vehicles and motorcycles — on short production cycles and with manufacturers gearing up for large-scale production — is another sort of test for Minnesota-based Sportech, Inc.

Sportech prototyped durable nylon clips and hooks with CNC machining.

Sportech is a product development partner to seven of the eight largest power-sports vehicle makers. The company specializes in full-service design, development and production of custom parts and accessories, going from concept or rough sketches to 3D CAD modeling and rapid prototyping. Its services include thermoforming, drape forming, CNC routing and integrated assembly. Products include windshields, body panels and screen-printed parts for motorcycles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility vehicles (UTVs).

While Sportech has grown into a leading product developer for original equipment manufacturers, what hasn’t changed since the company’s early days is the challenge of meeting tight product development deadlines.

In our latest case study, read how Sportech used quick-turn CNC machining at Proto Labs to validate the design of components before shifting to large-scale production.

How Digital Manufacturing is Changing the Industry Forever

Our current issue of the Proto Labs Journal looks at the convergence of complex software and automated hardware bringing rise to the digital age of manufacturing. Follow the thread of a 3D CAD model from upload to digital analysis to final part, and the massive compute cluster that’s powering it all.

Along with our cover story, read about leveraging low-volume injection molding, the latest in innovative technology we’ve mined from the Internet  and new service offerings at Proto Labs.

Read the full Journal now.

Why Stereolithography is Built for Prototyping

Stereolithography (SL) is an established additive manufacturing process that can quickly and accurately create complex prototypes. Parts are built by curing paper-thin layers of liquid thermoset resin with an ultraviolet (UV) laser that draws on the surface of a resin to turn it from a liquid to solid layer. As each layer is completed, fresh, uncured resin is swept over the preceding layer and the process repeated until the part is finished.

SL offers a range of plastic-like materials to choose from with several types of polypropylene, ABS and glass-filled polycarbonate available. Normal, high and micro resolutions are achievable at Proto Labs, meaning very fine details and cosmetic surfaces are possible. As a result, minimal “stair stepping” is seen compared to printed parts such as fused deposition modeling (FDM).

SL parts can also be built to a max size of 29 in. by 25 in. by 21 in., giving it the edge over other additive processes like selective laser sintering (SLS).

Our latest design tip looks at these and other manufacturing considerations for the stereolithography process.