3D printed prototypes were used at every stage of the project.
Mockups of the components were
produced to check fit.
Painted prototypes were displayed in a
Top Notch Design, a Swedish industrial and high-end product development design shop, has found that 3D printing technology in-house is a valuable tool in its development arsenal
Top Notch Design, which delivers advanced prototypes and plastic products to clients and specializes in high-end plastic parts, needed a combination of high-end features to make its product design process as efficient as possible. Many of its products are small and contain electronics. Often they are required to be resistant to water, dust and high impact. Combining industrial design and mechanical development thus makes it possible for Top Notch Design to meet the rigorous standards of its clients.
Since incorporating an Objet30 3D Printer into its design process, Top Notch Design can design a product and quickly print it from scratch. Designers can readily test the fitting of printed circuit boards, sealing and mountings. Client design confidentiality is ensured by having an in-house 3D printer rather than outsourcing prototyping.
Top Notch Design was working on a radio control for Åkerströms Björbo AB, the Nordic region’s market leader in industrial radio controls. Its products are known for being well designed and meeting tough ergonomic and industrial requirements. Åkerströms needed to create a product from scratch and for an important event. Top Notch Design had less than one month to understand the customer’s needs, design a product and prepare photo-realistic prototypes for the exhibition.
Designing this product and creating the required prototypes required highly accurate 3D models – and they had to be produced quickly in order to meet the ambitious schedule. According to Johan Vestberg, project manager for Top Notch Design, “Ergonomics in the products we design play a crucial role. We simply cannot reach understandings based on 3D CAD imagery. A prototype must be developed in order for look and feel to take hold.” The Objet30 3D Printer, based on 3D PolyJet™ technology, was the first choice for model creation to authenticate the fit, function and form of the designs, and it was used in every step of the project, from mock-up to functional prototype.
After 3D models confirmed the initial design, further fit testing was needed. Then, Top Notch Design ordered models produced with Objet’s rubber-like material from a service bureau in Sweden for testing.
Vestberg said, “The parts required very tight fit testing. Since we wanted to save time, and since the electronics were coming from a third supplier, we simply printed mockups of the parts in question to enable testing here, saving us a lot of time.”
“The Objet30 prints prototypes that closely simulate end products,” Vestberg added. “The quality is such that you cannot distinguish between the models and the end products, thus enabling us to exhibit them at shows.”
In addition, the parts were painted directly after printing. They were briefly sanded with 400 grid sandpaper, but no primer coating was laid on the part. This prevented tolerance issues and enabled Top Notch Design to produce sharp text and symbols (e.g. logos and battery symbols). Vestberg added, “We do the painting in-house using high quality car painting sprays. This simple process enables us to generate fantastic parts swiftly.”
Precise, Accurate Models
By using the Objet30, Top Notch Design only needed one prototype system to test fit and mechanical properties, while making photo-realistic prototypes. Previously, Top Notch Design had used several prototype techniques, such as SLS for function, plus SLA for fitting and form.
Vestberg said he couldn’t be happier with the new Objet-based prototyping capabilities, stating that, “In terms of surface finish, Objet30 printed models are better than SLA. There are no markings visible where support has been laid, allowing for smooth surfacing to take hold.”