Cota Ceiling Tiles
POSTED BY Aaron, Product Design
It’s always exciting to see what new products are released at CES every year. This year, one of the standouts is Ossia’s new Cota Ceiling Tiles, which can wirelessly charge your electronic devices within a 30 foot range. The tiles use a transmitter and a receiver, and the receivers are small enough to embed into smartphones and other battery-powered electronics, like smoke alarms and speakers. Ossia intends to sell this technology to smartphone manufacturers, and is in talks with a major car manufacturer about installing this technology in car ceilings. If this device goes big, it means that as soon as you walk into a room with these ceiling tiles, or get into a car with this technology, your phone will start charging!
Technology is pretty dang cool.
Crux Skunk on Kickstarter
POSTED BY Aaron, Funding, Product Renderings
We’ve been working with several companies lately that have used Kickstarter to launch their new product. The latest is Crux Case, an innovative product company that has developed several iPad cases. Their newest product is called the Crux Skunk, and is absolutely beautiful. Similar to recent Apple Macbooks, the entire case is machined from a single stock of Aluminum. The case is thin and lightweight, and sports a fully featured keyboard. Not only does the case allow the iPad to be used as a laptop, it also folds over on itself to provide a perfect viewing solution for movies or reading, at an infinite range of adjustment angles. Check out the Kickstarter Crux Skunk page.
Pipeline provided a series of high definition photorealistic renderings that are being used in their Kickstarter campaign. Here are a few of the renderings:
Quikdraw Lens Holster
POSTED BY Aaron, Funding, Product Design
Pipeline recently finished development of the Quikdraw, an innovative lens holster for photographers. The system allows one-handed changing of lenses between the camera and belt-mounted Quickdraw product. Invented by a local Phoenix engineer and photography enthusiast, the Quikdraw is now live on Kickstarter (see Kickstarter Quikdraw page) and beginning to raise the necessary funds to go into production. Check it out and spread the word to get this fantastic product funded and to market!
Black Oxide Finish
POSTED BY Aaron, Manufacturing Processes
Black oxide is a common coating typically applied to iron and steel. It is created by immersing the part in an oxide salt solution at approximately 285 degrees F. While mostly applied to iron and steels, it can be applied to nonferrous metals such as aluminum under suitable conditions. It cannot, however, be applied over plated parts (e.g. chrome, zinc, nickel, etc).
Black oxide on steel provides only marginal corrosion resistance. However, when applied to stainless steel or brass alloys, it will provide exceptional corrosion resistance even in harsh environments. Black oxide will not provide a smoothing effect like painting or painting. Any surface imperfections present in your substrate will still be present in your black oxide coated part.
A supplementary coating can be added after the black oxide process is performed. This coating, called an “after-finish”, will dictate the appearance and corrosion resistance of the coating. Without the after-finish, black oxide has poor corrosion resistance.
Advantages to black oxide coating include the following:
- No dimensional, physical or mechanical changes to material properties: black oxide changes the color of the surface metal – it does not add or remove any material from the metal
- Dark black color: can be a matte or shiny black depending on the surface finish of the substrate, and the type of after-finish applied
- Additional coating for increased protection: normal after-finishes are Oil, Wax, Lacquer, and Chromic Seals. These can improve the appearance, abrasion resistance, and corrosion resistance of the part
- Improved lubricity and anti-galling characteristics: an oil or wax after-finish is used to achieve these properties
- Weldable: black oxide does nothing to diminish a metals weldability, and does not produce noxious gases when welded
- Will not chip or rub off: must be removed mechanically by abrasion or chemically by etching
- Innexpensive: one of the least expensive methods of corrosion resistant or decorative coatings
POSTED BY Aaron, Manufacturing, Manufacturing Processes, Prototyping
The climax of any new product design is actually making the product. In the development phase, this can be scary for a number of reasons. Perhaps you’re undecided between several different features or combinations of geometries, or maybe your manufacturing capital is limited. Manufacturing costs, especially in prototype quantities, can add up quickly. Luckily, a technology has developed over the past decade or so that makes prototyping quick and downright affordable. It’s called rapid prototyping, or just “RP”.
The field of rapid prototyping (or RP) has grown tremendously over the past 10 years. RP is essentially a 3D printing process in which a thin slice of your product (typically between .001″ and .005″ thick) is created, and then another layer on top of that, and then another layer on top of that, and so on until your entire part has been built up. This provides you with a geometrically accurate part that can be handled and evaluated. No matter how many views of the product you see in CAD on the computer screen, actually holding the product in your hands is essential to evaluating its form and function.
There are limitations to RP parts, however. Arguably the biggest limitation is the fact that RP materials are much weaker than production materials such as hard plastic or metals. However, the relative speed (usually a couple of days) and low cost (anywhere from $50 to several hundreds of dollars, usually) are such huge advantages over traditional prototyping methods such as soft tool casting or machining that they outweigh the shortcomings of material strength. Besides, RP parts are not meant for full production uses, but rather as a preliminary step to verify your design is accurate and functions properly.
Pipeline has developed strong relationships with local and out-of-state RP vendors and works with them on a regular basis to provide quick prototype to its customers. Contact us here to discuss your project and how RP technologies can help you quickly validate your design.READ MORE
The ABCs of Photorealistic 3D Product Renderings
POSTED BY Aaron, Product Renderings
With all of the 3D Product Renderings we do, it seemed like a good idea to give visitors to our site an overview of the rendering workflow. We’ll use an Audi R8 for our example. The first step is to prepare the CAD model before importing into the rendering environment. This can be one of the most time-consuming parts of the process, depending on the model. Different colors need to be assigned to areas of the part/assembly to define what ultimately will be different materials/textures. Another critical step is applying small rounds to all of the sharp edges (because nothing is totally sharp in the real world, adding these small rounds creates a sense of realism). Finally, we’re ready to import the CAD model. Initially, it looks like an unpainted car:
Next we modify the lighting to match the scene we’ll use. In this case, we just want a studio background, so we’ll remove the hard edged light and add a series of light panels to really bring out the curvature and subtle details of the vehicle. Notice how we’ve replaced the stock background with a “white seamless” background, as well:
Now it starts getting fun as we create and add custom materials specifically meant to accentuate the geometry we’re working with, in this case the Audi R8:
Next we might add a little reflection on the floor:
Now that everything is set up, it’s relatively simple to change colors and lighting:
As you can see there is a lot that can be done with 3D product rendering. We invite you to contact us today with your projects for a free consultation.READ MORE
Predicate Devices for New Product Inventions
POSTED BY Aaron, Manufacturing Processes
One of the ways Pipeline helps its customers is by providing an understanding of the vast array of manufacturing processes, and pairing the appropriate process with the design intent of a particular product. Many inventors like to do as much work as they can on their own before handing the reigns over to us. We encourage this, and work with inventors to facilitate it. One of the best tools an inventor can have when developing the high level concepts for their product is an understanding of common manufacturing processes. But how does one learn about these processes and which is most appropriate for a given design?
One of the best ways we’ve found for those interested in matching their product to an appropriate manufacturing process is to look at competing predicate devices already on the market. When you’re talking about spending thousands of dollars to develop your product, it makes a lot of sense to spend $50 or $100 to purchase an existing product that is similar to what you want to develop and deconstruct it to understand how it was manufactured. This will help you understand what process might be the most cost effective for the type of product you’re working on: plastic injection molding, machining, welding, thermoforming, etc. Each of these processes has tell-tale signs that can be derived from a cursory inspection of the parts made through the process.
For a good book on learning more about common manufacturing processes, check out Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals.READ MORE
New Product Development Process
POSTED BY Aaron, Product Design
Many first time inventors come to us with new ideas for products and lots of questions regarding how the typical product development process works. Here is a brief summary of the common workflow:
- Define project requirements (both functional and aesthetic)
- Conceptual exploration (develop several high level concepts, usually in 3D CAD)
- Work with customer to converge on a single concept for further refinement
- Refine concept and proceed with full engineering development
- Design review with customer to approve final design
- Build alpha prototype and evaluate geometry, aesthetic, and function
- Additional design refinement based on alpha prototype observations
- Build beta prototype and evaluate geometry, aesthetic, and function
- If needed, additional design refinement based on beta prototype observations
- Identify appropriate contract manufacturer and receive quotes for production
- Receive first production sample and inspect
- Tooling and/or design refinement as needed based on production sample
- Approve production sample and proceed with mass production
- Work with contract manufacturer as needed to troubleshoot and facilitate production
Although this is a very condensed version of the steps required for new product development, it will help new inventors understand the large scope involved with bringing a new product through the development and manufacturing stages. If you have specific questions regarding this process, please contact us and one of our sales representatives will be happy to provide a free consultation for your project.READ MORE
POSTED BY Aaron, Materials
Materials selection in mechanical design is one of the most critical (and often overlooked) aspects of a good product. Oftentimes when evaluating required strength parameters of a new design engineers will ask themselves where they can find a good material selection guide. To date, we have found that there are very few resources available that are comprehensive and affordable at the same time. Companies like Granta Design provide a wealth of materials information, but cost several thousands of dollars in subscriptions to maintain. Free services like www.matweb.com are fairly well established and contain a plethora of data, but it’s often too specific and not as user friendly than we’d like it to be.
Often engineers and designers resort to a blind web search for a specific material property. It was during such a search that we came across www.makeitfrom.com. What a breath of fresh air. MakeItFrom.com has an impressive database of common (and not so common) materials and presents them in a clean, easy to use interface. You can even compare different materials side by side, in multiple units. The site will also suggest alternative material choices similar to the one you’re currently viewing. And oh, yeah: it’s free.
For all you designers and engineers out there in need of materials selection for mechanical design, we highly recommend you check out MakeItFrom.com.
POSTED BY Aaron, Product Reviews
Some products are destined for greatness, and some for…well…something else. We’ll let you decide which category the Hawaii Chair falls under. If nothing else, the videos are certainly entertaining!