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  • Wire overmolding and successful button mold at first attempt

    In this case our client was a global high-tech company working on a cutting-edge electro-optic systems for applications in defense and security industries. Their products range from unmounted warrior systems, border surveillance and OEM solutions for airborne and naval integrations. Over-molding the Cables Innovation frequently leads to a creation of something customized and non-standard. In this case - custom-made cables. Wire over-moulding process is used to protect cable from strain and bending forces and mechanical wear near the termination points or contacts. Sometimes over-moulding for cables is used not only for cable protection from shocks and folding but also for branding, where companies' logo can be easily casted with plastic injection method. In this case only over-moulded protective covering was required. Aluminium dies were CNC machined. For encapsulation we used TECHNOMELT® PA678 BLACK thermoplastic polyamid which has good adhesive characteristics and thus is very suitable for encapsulation. Thanks to its low viscosity this plastic can be used for low-pressure injections which is good for over-moulded components located inside the cavity. We also used additional insert seen in the upper and below pictures with wires passing through it. The insert was used to position cable and fully enclose cavity for smooth injection and solidification around the cable. The cable was screwed to the insert to maintain constant positioning and fully enclosed cavity. Injection molding might leave minor marks and blemishes - called flashes on a work-piece. These appear due to deviations and errors in mould size and machining inaccuracies, also, due to incorrect pressure settings which should be adjusted during the process. Also, little marks can be seen punched by ejector pins while pushing cast out of the cavity. Usually these drawbacks are unavoidable but can be minimized by using high precision tools and expert level of engineering skills, thankfully, our results prove us to be just like that. Button Prototype Injection Moulding There is no secret that electronics industry is high in demand for buttons and switches. Newly designed devices sometimes require custom-made knobs to turn on/off variety of functions. Buttons stand between human and machine and lets interact him with it, thus, its design becomes crucial for good user experience. We've been contracted to mould prototype button from thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) hardness of 60 Shore A. These kind of materials are a class of co-polymers that has both thermoplastic and elastomeric characteristics. TPE makes button soft, grippy and flexible. However, when making non-standard button, dimensions and form can have huge impact on button's functionality. Button has to bounce back when pushed and create a good user experience by giving a feeling that it has actually been clicked. As we were about to make prototypes we decided to fit 4 button designs in one mould. However, we also expected that we might get it just right at first trial, so we decided to save on tooling costs and designed only one button with space buffer for 3 more buttons including area for runners and vents. We have used CNC milling for aluminium mould and EDM (electrical discharge machining) for surface finish. Our expectations were right. The moulded prototype was perfect at first shots. We and our contractor agreed that we can firmly scale production without any further prototyping. Anyway, saved space in the mould will be easily used for future projects, having in mind our close partnership with our existing clients.

  • Plastic spacer and cover for COVID fighting UV lamp

    New product releases and innovation are inevitable actions for the growth of the company. And not only this. During the period of the pandemic, fast and resilient companies contribute to the long-lasting fight against covid-19 with their solutions. Recently, "Micromolds" has had a contract to mould plastic components for our client's Bacteo newly developed product - a portable UV lamp. About our client During the first hit of the coronavirus, three entrepreneurs noticed that there either is a deficit of a disinfecting technology - Ultraviolet Light (UVC) - against covid-19 in the market or existing UV lamps are not efficient enough. To solve this problem Bacteo company was established to create safe and user-friendly UV lamps that would help disinfecting large areas during the global pandemic. Disinfection lamps kill harmful microorganisms with a short-wavelength ultraviolet light and it is scientifically proven that this method is also effective for inactivating viruses, including coronavirus. These UV lamps may be used in various public institutions to clean the infected surfaces and reduce the spread of the virus. We are proud to have contributed with such an innovative and socially responsible company to turn its ideas into reality and we will soon explain how. Plastic Spacer and The Cover After we had received CAD drawings of the part, our engineers had already started to design the moulds for injection molding and optimize for manufacturability. The material used is ASA (acrylonitrile styrene acrylate). This plastic is similar to ABS but has better weather, especially UV resistance, thus this material is widely used for outdoor products. The picture below shows the part and the mould together still in the design phase. ASA material was also used for the plastic cover as well as for cover undercuts. Since the project was on a strict schedule there was a lack of time for testing and prototyping. Tooling process was also done rapidly. Since the estimated production levels were not large, we decided to use manually operated inserts to form undercuts instead of inclined ejector pins. It was difficult to guess how tight the undercuts should hold the cover in position. We were told that the cover should not be easily detachable as it will be used as an exterior component, however, it must be detachable if service for the product would be needed. We decided to go through empirical practice and prototype “on the go” within the mold itself because we had an opportunity to cut deeper into the core to shape higher ribs which would increase rigidity of the undercuts. After the first try we immediately noticed that the hooks were too loose, thus we agreed to increase the height of the ribs by milling a deeper mold section marked in red. After the second trial the undercuts were successfully shaped in required tightness and the production launched. We are happy that we are able to help companies to maintain their resilience and ability to rapidly adapt to the market changes and capture given opportunities, moreover, to contribute to the overcoming of this COVID pandemic period and the improvement of people's health.

  • Plastic Case Design and Manufacturing of a Vehicle Tracking Suite

    „Ruptela“ - one of the fastest growing high-tech companies in Lithuania, providing transport management solutions. The company, which has been operating since 2007, manufactures integrated transport telematics equipment. These devices consist of GPS tracking devices, real-time monitoring and control systems. The company works with partners and clients in 127 different countries and helps companies optimize transportation processes. This is not a first time „Ruptela“ has chosen us, as reliable sub-contractors. We have been designing 3D CAD models optimized for manufacturing for their products’ positions for several months. This time we have been contracted to design the new housing of the „Pro5“ vehicle tracking model. “Micromolds” was responsible for product design, its optimization for manufacturability, mould design and prototype production. Design Constraints The main design constraint of this project was that the designed housing had to conform SAE J1455 recommendations for vehicles. These recommended areas of practice cover variety of concepts, affecting electronic equipment for heavy vehicles. Some environmental factors that had to be considered during product development are: Temperature; Moisture; Atmospheric effects; Mechanical vibration and mechanical shocks. The most challenging thing was to create an extremely tightly closing housing which could be opened without any tools. The housing had to be without any additional components - everything had to be integrated. We have decided to design external hooks to fulfill this need. It was possible to open the housing box by hand, without any additional tools. The housing also had to be a good electrical insulator, fireproof and impact resistant. For these specifications and design requirements we have chosen to use PC Lexan (Lexan® Polycarbonate) plastic material. One more design requirement was to integrate LED indicators inside the housing. The material we chose was semi-transparent so it was possible to let the LED indicators light directly through the wall of the housing. Prototyping Like in every our previous similar projects we used 3D printing FDM (fused deposition modelling) technology for prototype manufacturing. It was used for the initial evaluation of the product. After we had indicated the flaws of the prototype and made some design tweaks we went for second trial. Second prototype made with SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printing technology was used for more accurate functionality and user experience testing. To get more realistic look and feel of the final product we made third prototype with another one 3D printing technology – SLA (stereolithography). Third prototype was also painted black to resemble final product we were striving for. Rapid prototyping technology made it possible to quickly check the functionality and the look of the product. These 3 iterations of prototyping made our team and contractors confident to scale for the serial production of this housing. SLS 3D Printed Prototype Manufacturing Plastic injection molding was the only manufacturing technology solution for mass production. Even though these housings were outside our micro-mould size limits, we successfully designed this product, optimized it for manufacturability, produced prototypes and manufactured moulds with our CNC machines. We are glad that we are trusted by such innovative companies like “Ruptela” and could strongly contribute to their new product development. Final Injection Moulded Housing

  • Plastic Injection Moulded Battery Control System Case

    It’s worthless to repetitively talk about how electrical appliances take up more and more space in our daily lives - electrification is a real boom these days. Electric scooters, robots, electric bicycles, electric cars - the list is endless. It seems only now are we beginning to see the real potential of electric vehicles. However, electrification faces one very important and still not fully solved challenge – energy storage. "EMUS" company is taking this challenge by improving batteries’ management systems and thus extending batteries lifespan. Founded in 2010, "EMUS" company has been working on various control systems for electric vehicles. Over time, "EMUS" has become an exclusive manufacturer of lithium battery management systems. Housing of any electronic gadget supports PCB’s and other electronic components inside, insulates and gives form, design and branding for the final product. This power management system device was not an exception – housing for new product was needed. We are glad that "Micromolds" team was able to provide "EMUS" company with full range of services for this project. We have successfully performed all stages of new product making: Designing and prototyping Optimizing for manufacturing Mould manufacturing Parts production – injection moulding Why did "EMUS" choose us? We halved the tooling costs and time to market in respect of traditional plastic injection moulding. Our mould is 5-6 times smaller than the traditional one, has less cavities, thus it is made much faster and cost of production is significantly smaller. We also use “Babyplast 6/12” injection machine which has low running costs and is made for micro-injection moulding. We do not talk only about numbers. We have CNC milling machines and team of mechanical engineers all under one roof – thus we are able to optimize CAD designs for manufacturability, consult and save by not subcontracting other manufacturers. As expected production volumes were up to 100k pieces per year, our quotation appeared really favourable for EMUS company and we made a contract. What were the main challenges? In order to form PCB fixation hooks with injected plastic, lifters are usually used sliding diagonally in mould plates. This manufacturing technology is relatively complex and thus expensive. In order to keep the costs low our team of engineers used ejectors to form fixators. In this case, the work pieces had to be ejected manually. For a relatively small production volume, this method really paid off. Prototyping For making prototypes we used SLA (stereolithography) - 3D printing technology. Prototypes are manufactured in a layer by layer manner using photochemical processes by which light causes resin to solidify. A total of 3 prototypes were made to look for best functionality and design type. We selected the most suitable product design, performed minor tweaks and jumped straight away into mould making. Material selection and mould manufacturing Choosing the right materials for new product making is no less of importance. Most frequent choice of thermoplastic polymer for electronic housings and enclosures is ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). It also works perfectly for plastic injection technology due to its relatively low melting point and good casting properties. ABS material also is favourable because of its low cost. CNC milling machines were used for aluminium mould making. Aluminium moulds work just fine when production volumes do not exceed approximately 100k cycles. EDM technology (electrical discharge machining) was used to create a high-quality surface finish of the outer surface of the product. EDM technology allows to machine work pieces non-mechanically - the product is machined without mechanical force but is exposed to heat treatment, which allows to finish surfaces of complex shaped products. Digital manufacturing is happening now Not only have we become subcontractors for EMUS company and succeeded with this project but also we established lasting relationship by demonstrating advantages of digitalization when two modern companies work together. Sometimes we hear it called online manufacturing – this is what 4th industrial revolution is all about – minimal human intervention. We exchanged our sketches and CAD drawings online, discussed on optimization for manufacturability, also, online and final components were shipped as soon as production was finished. We did not make any physical contact with our client which made everything more automated, faster and safer if taking into account COVID-19.

  • Prototype of a Swimming Sports Tracker

    "OVAO" is a virtual swimming training assistant, a startup company founded by 5 Lithuanians: Aldas, Justinas, Kamile, Marius and Mindaugas. They firmly claim that this swimming couching device is one of the most convenient and practical of all in the market. It can be used by both - amateur or professional swimmers and triathletes. This device has no analogues and solves a very actual problem, which is faced by many swimmers - tracking swimming training biometrics. This virtual assistant works much better than a regular wearable smart watch on the wrist and it is much more comfortable to use while swimming. This is due to the simple technology that allows swimmers to attach this device to almost any swimming goggle's strap. The main advantage of "OVAO" is that it estimates the heart rate by measuring the pulse of the temple artery, which provides very accurate data on the heart condition and regime of the whole workout. Everything is measured in real time and can be viewed in the phone app after the workout. The device gives information to the athlete through the light signals - blinking frequency and changing colours. If "OVAO" changes colour to blue, that means that swimmers heart-zone pursuing 60-70 % of MHR (Maximum Heart Rate). This mode is the best for people, who want to lose weight. When goggles turn orange, that means swimmer is speeding up about 80-90% of MHR and it indicates that a person is training to improve the cardiovascular system. This device will allow you to choose a training program based on your goals. It means, that if you are swimming too slow or too fast for the program you chose, "OVAO" will inform you by flashing LED-indicator which tell you that you need to change speed. In addition, virtual swimming training assistant also tracks all important parameters of swimming results, including lap time, distance swam, lap count, stroke rate, average pace, calories burned, etc. Project uniqueness and complexity gathered numbers of professionals. The team included electrical technicians, mechanical engineers, programmers and investors. It is worth mentioning that this project caught attention of one of the biggest venture capital fund in Lithuania - „Nextury Ventures“ led by famous entrepreneur Ilja Laurs. We are proud that "Micromolds" team, played main role in mechanical engineering area and was responsible for designing the product and its prototyping process. One of the biggest challenges in housing design was insulation and water resistance at high water pressure. Insulation issue was further burdened with more design requirements: housing had to have sections of transparent surfaces for measuring the pulse of the artery and a flexible LED light transmitter rod. We used ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) thermoplastic material for housing injection moulding and PC (polycarbonate) plastic over-molding for transparent sections in the moulded housing. Also, we used TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) to encapsulate flexible sensor holder arm and fix it to the main body. We sealed the remaining joints with ultrasonic welding. Sophisticated structure of the product had to be optimized for injection moulding manufacturability and over-moulding processes. Afterwards, we launched for prototyping and used SLA (stereolithography) and FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printing technologies for it. SLA technology is based on photo-sensitive liquid resin which solidifies when illuminated. SLA enables prototyping of flexible parts and in this case was used for clickable button and bendable sensor extension prototypes. We used FDM 3D printing technology for main housing prototype. It works when fused plastic dispenser head moves vertically and horizontally and layer by layer dispenses plastic creating a 3D shape. We were able to see how new product has been developing from up close. Understanding not only engineering side of project gave us great value in working with teams. We saw how new product is delivered to the market and how important is to maintain "LEAN" mindset when creating MVPs and what challenges startup teams face. We had a lot of communication inside our team which led us to learn that every project detail is more cross-linked than we have imagined. Perceived knowledge has enriched us as a company and encouraged to work harder to reach for more similar projects so we could not only provide with on-demand manufacturing services but also create something new and innovate. We believe that there will be more projects like this in the future and we cannot wait for new challenges.

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