March 30, 2021

Triax Technologies Creates Innovative Contact Tracing Device

By Protolabs

Workplaces have endured massive changes over the past year because of COVID-19. Some construction and manufacturing jobsites, for example, make it difficult to maintain social distancing.

Enter Triax Technologies. The Connecticut-based tech firm’s TraceTag uses an audible alarm to remind workers wearing hard hats that they need to maintain CDC-mandated social distancing in order to avoid possible transmission of the virus. TraceTag works in conjunction with Proximity Trace, an IoT platform that maintains a log of all worker interactions to simplify contact tracing.

At Protolabs, we’ve worked over the years with Triax on these and other wearable devices that combine sensor technology with wireless mesh communications, providing mainly injection molding services.

Recently, we spoke with Matt Hock, senior mechanical engineer at Triax, about the TraceTag product.

Triax TraceTag device
Triax engineers needed to create a flexible design for the TraceTag device because of the wide variety of hard hats used in the construction industry.

Which custom part did we help you with for the TraceTag?

The injection-molded part is a mounting adapter made of standard black ABS material designed to secure our TraceTag device to a hard hat worn by a construction worker. Protolabs has provided our company with end-use parts for this device, and has manufactured over 20,000 of them to date.

Which industries does this product serve?

We primarily target the construction, energy, industrial, and manufacturing markets, where, traditionally, it can be difficult to deploy, scale, and maintain network technology. Our solutions were designed specifically for these challenging IT environments, and our devices, including the TraceTag, were built with durability and practicality in mind.

Did you encounter any specific or unique design challenges with this device?

Our goal with this part was to create a highly flexible design, which posed a challenge due to the wide variety of hard hats used in the industries this product serves. Through extensive experimentation, we were able to come up with a surface profile that could conform to variations in hard hat geometry. Another challenge was that, since the TraceTag was already being manufactured, the design of this part also had to work within the bounds of a fixed mounting arrangement to the device. It also needed to have enough smooth surface area for proper adhesive attachment to a hard hat.

We did about five prototype iterations of this part ourselves, all produced on a traditional FDM 3D printer. Modifications between iterations were mainly centered around creating the optimal surface curvature for hard hat mounting. And then Protolabs’ injection molding service manufactured the end-use parts.

Injection molded part for TraceTag
The molded part we created for Triax’s TraceTag device was a mounting adapter made of standard black ABS material.

Did you get the help you needed from us?

Yes. Your automated design analysis provided useful insight into areas with thick walls, which could lead to sink marks on the final part.

This feedback was integrated into subsequent design iterations to improve the quality of the design. Your quoting system also allowed us to obtain fast and accurate pricing information for our sales and business development groups.

In addition, we selected an expedited delivery for these parts, and received our first articles in 10 days. All parts functioned as expected and have been deployed across dozens of our clients’ worksites. By contrast, typical injection molding tool machining times for a part like this would be on the order of four to five weeks, and that is without considering the backlog and manufacturing limitations that were occurring at the time because of COVID-19. Because of the highly urgent nature of contact tracing requirements, we needed to get production quality parts in a much shorter timeframe. And Protolabs delivered that.

We have a history of working successfully with Protolabs to obtain both quick-turn prototypes and production-quality parts. I think, in total, for the different devices, we’ve probably produced more than 140,000 parts with you.