Power Up Product Development with Objet 3D Printing
The 3D printed prototypes allow us to better demonstrate design concepts and functions, enabling more effective communication.
- Stanley Yeh, Deputy Manager, Project Management, Flexmedia Electronics Corporation
Flexmedia Electronics Corporation manufactures automotive electronic devices and flash drive duplicators for both original design manufacturer (ODM) customers and end users. In recent years, Flexmedia, a spin-off from the Taiwanese electronics company Phison Electronics Corporation, has expanded its offerings to meet growing customer demand, introducing new products including video drive recorders, portable multimedia players and bike-mounted power generators. As business grew, meeting product development requirements became a challenge due to limited time and resources.
Prior to incorporating 3D printing into the product development cycle, Flexmedia outsourced its prototyping to service bureaus. This cost USD $265 (TWD 8,000) for one prototype and took close to a month, including 10 to 15 days for CNC or hand fabrication plus back-and-forth communication and shipping.
“Our business is highly competitive and speed is critical for success. Rapid turnaround time is essential for a quick design validation minimizing time to market and cost of error,” said . “The existing prototyping approach couldn’t accommodate the growing demand. We needed a solution that optimizes the processes to support the expansion of the business.”
Flexmedia immediately decided to invest in an Objet® 3D Printer when it learned about the benefits of additive manufacturing technology. Adopting 3D printing technology reduced the average prototype production time to four hours per part, and lowered costs to approximately USD $100 (TWD 3,000) per design, a cost saving of 63 percent.
“Time can now be utilized more productively. Instead of waiting for the parts to be created at the service bureaus, we can 3D print the prototypes within just a few hours and spend more time on fine-tuning the designs. The 3D printed prototypes allow us to better demonstrate the design concepts and functions, enabling more effective communication with customers.”
ODM customers now receive 3D printed prototypes for functional testing. In addition, the parts are also used in intra-department discussions for concept modeling purposes. Design concepts are 3D printed and circulated within the company to gather comments for improvement. Both external and internal discussions have become more efficient and productive, facilitating constructive feedback and alignment of expectations between the stakeholders.
The 3D printer also provides simpler and more flexible prototyping of complex designs. For example, it would have taken twice the time with CNC milling to produce prototypes with undercut designs, and the results would sometimes fall short of the expectations.
“Precision and time to market is crucial. With the 3D printer, creating complex designs is simpler and quicker. We can now produce prototypes with curved surfaces and undercut geometries accurately. 3D printing also promotes innovation and creativity. We can now perform concept modeling and functional testing in a much more cost-effective way.”
The Objet 3D Printer, which uses PolyJetTM technology, has streamlined Flexmedia’s design process. Its ability to print layers as thin as 16 microns in the high-quality mode, coupled with a wide selection of materials, lets it create prototypes that are extremely accurate and look exactly like the designers’ concepts. Functional testing such as snap fit and fixture tests on curved surfaces can also ensure that buttons and screens are positioned correctly. Designers can adjust any errors in the 3D CAD file and print the revised prototype immediately, streamlining design iteration. Since adopting the 3D printer, Flexmedia has better control over its design schedule and product quality.
“Our business has grown tremendously, offering better quality products as a result of repeated design testing and verification. Without Stratasys 3D Printing, I can’t see how we could have achieved this. I am glad we made the right choice”
For over 15 years, Cimetrix Solutions has been a leader in providing 3D printing solutions to Canada’s industry leaders, helping implement technologies that improve all aspects of the design and development process, whether it is proof of concept, functional prototyping, or custom, final production runs. Visit us at www.cimetrixsolutions.com to learn more.