In this instance we were approached by a client with a basic concept that followed-on from other work in which we had been involved.
As is often the case, the initial sketch is just that, a spark of an idea noted on a scrap of paper. Luckily we scanned the sketch relating to this project and it clearly illustrates how an idea evolves into a functional product.
Further to a meeting with the client it was felt we understood enough about the concept to create a basic CAD model. This initial concept model was very simple, purely for the purposes of illustrating the idea in three dimensions, helping our contact and others who may become involved in the project visualise the device function.
With another meeting under our belts and increased understanding between us and the client regarding how the project was to progress, we set about compiling all the data required to enable the next step of development. This primarily included dimensions and regulations for existing infrastructure to which the device would fit, but also more mundane figures such as roller bearing capabilities and life spans when subjected to the intended environment.
Having modelled the basic geometry of existing infrastructure based on industry standard drawings and site visits it was possible to develop the new design to fit within the space available and connect simply and effectively to existing components. For this project in particular it was an important consideration that our new product not interfere with any safety critical parts and that no aspect of the original system needed to be altered, adjusted or modified in any way to allow fitment.
Going from a very simple concept model involving only a handful of parts assembled into a kinematic model, to a fully functional prototype model requires plenty of care and consideration, not to mention regular client progress meetings. This process transformed the five part concept model into a design comprising almost 80 parts over a number of subassemblies.
Due to a change in mounting requirements part way through the process it became apparent that the product would need to be retained on infrastructure with very little means. Working with the client to solve this issue a new bracketry design was implemented and FEA conducted on the new models. This gave clear indication that our model would stand a high chance of success and allowed the project to continue.
Kinematic simulations, Finite Element Analysis and clash & clearance reports all followed where, further to a design review meeting with the client, the product received sign-off and authorisation for prototype manufacture.
Engineering drawings were produced to enable profile cutting of sheet metal parts and CNC machining of other elements, further to which the work commenced.
We have manual lathe and milling facilities, together with full MIG/TIG welding and fabrication capabilities and a well developed supply chain for tasks such as CNC machining and laser profiling. In this instance we completed the welding and fabrication side of the prototype build, resulting in a final welded assembly which was within 0.08mm of the given dimension in all planes.
All parts and subassemblies were plated to provide resilience and longevity throughout the intended testing period prior to final assembly and presentation to the client upon completion.
With the prototype device fitted, set up and functioning as intended, the response from our client and industry officials was pleasing to say the least!