Crux Skunk on Kickstarter

POSTED BY , 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:










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Quikdraw Lens Holster

POSTED BY , 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!

Quikdraw Lens Holster

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Black Oxide Finish

POSTED BY , 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
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Rapid Prototyping

POSTED BY , 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.

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The ABCs of Photorealistic 3D Product Renderings

POSTED BY , 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:

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Newly imported into rendering environment

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:

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Updated lighting and inserted studio background

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:

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Applied custom materials

Next we might add a little reflection on the floor:

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Added reflection to the ground

Now that everything is set up, it’s relatively simple to change colors and lighting:

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

Audi R8 Photorealistic Rendering

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.

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Predicate Devices for New Product Inventions

POSTED BY , 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.

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New Product Development Process

POSTED BY , 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:

  1. Define project requirements (both functional and aesthetic)
  2. Conceptual exploration (develop several high level concepts, usually in 3D CAD)
  3. Work with customer to converge on a single concept for further refinement
  4. Refine concept and proceed with full engineering development
  5. Design review with customer to approve final design
  6. Build alpha prototype and evaluate geometry, aesthetic, and function
  7. Additional design refinement based on alpha prototype observations
  8. Build beta prototype and evaluate geometry, aesthetic, and function
  9. If needed, additional design refinement based on beta prototype observations
  10. Identify appropriate contract manufacturer and receive quotes for production
  11. Receive first production sample and inspect
  12. Tooling and/or design refinement as needed based on production sample
  13. Approve production sample and proceed with mass production
  14. Work with contract manufacturer as needed to troubleshoot and facilitate production
  15. 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.

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Material Selection

POSTED BY , 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.

Material Selection

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.

MakeItFrom.com Image

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Hawaii Chair

POSTED BY , 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!

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Investor Funding for New Product Development

POSTED BY , Funding, Marketing

We work with a lot of individual inventors who are new to product development and in need of funding. A common situation is for an inventor to come to us with a great idea for a new product but not enough funding to actually take it to market. Many have resources to cover the costs of initial engineering development and a few prototypes, but get stuck once it’s time to enter mass production due to the high cost of tooling. To date, inventors have solved this dilemma through a combination of credit cards, investment from friends & family, and their own savings. Over the past few years, however, a new company has emerged that presents a much more elegant solution: Kickstarter

Kickstarter Logo

Kickstarter funds new product development

Never before has there been such an effective tool for individual inventors to raise capital to fund their product development projects. This is a very real game changer for anyone who has ever had a dream of creating a new product but lacked the funds to get there. Kickstarter works by giving designers and inventors a platform on which to pitch their idea. At Kickstarter, inventors present their vision and state the amount of funding needed to bring it to fruition. Then, site visitors (who are mostly ordinary people, not sophisticated investors) pledge money towards projects they like. The inventor gets cash for his project, and those who pledge receive a gift (a t-shirt, honorable mention on the inventor’s website, or often one of the first units manufactured but at a discounted price…it’s totally up to the inventor).

All of this is contingent upon the project actually funding, however. In other words, if not enough people pledge and the stated funding amount isn’t met within a finite period of time (also decided by the inventor before pledging begins), no money (or gifts) change hands. It’s a brilliant system that protects both the inventors and those who pledge (who are referred to as “kickstarters”).

There are a few things that drastically increase an inventor’s chances of reaching his funding goal, the most important of which being a refined design and prototype of the product. In fact, Kickstarter often won’t even allow inventors to pitch their ideas without a working physical prototype to demonstrate. This is where Pipeline can help. Most folks have the resources (whether it be savings or friends & family) to scrape together enough cash to fund the design and fabrication of a prototype. At that point, we’ll help you develop your product, get prototypes made, test the product, and generally get you where you need to be to have a prime chance of getting funded on Kickstarter. We can even help you create a video to demonstrate the product (another piece of the kickstarter puzzle that is a major factor in reaching your funding goal).

Kickstarter is legitimately revolutionizing the product development industry. No longer do you need to be a large company to bring a new product to market. Give us a call or shoot us an email to discuss your project and see how we can help you get funded.

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