Insert tooling speeds semi-custom enclosure design

By: 
February 20, 1995

Philadelphia, PA--Half of wisdom is knowing what you don't know. Galaxy Registration, Inc., Frederick, MD, evinced its collective wisdom when creating a new product for recording attendee data at trade-show booths. The idea was simple: Replace the cumbersome embossed- card/carbon-paper technique with an electronic system of magnetic cards, a thermal printer, and automatic data storage.

Galaxy had the in-house expertise to select components and design its ExpoCard product's electronic hardware and software, but had little knowledge of the issues involved in packaging those components for ease of use and low-cost assembly. Research showed that tooling for a fully custom injection-molded enclosure would cost around $50,000 and take months to validate-more time and money than they wanted to spend. Instead, the company turned to a modified standard enclosure that cost less than $5,000 and was ready for production in just 10.50 weeks.

PacTec Division, LaFrance Corp., developed the enclosures using modular injection-molding tools that let designers modify only those portions of the mold necessary for the final product's function. "We can change both the cavity and the core," explains Jeff Singer, PacTec's corporate sales engineering manager. "Modular tooling gives you lots of design flexibility within the existing size of the enclosure," he adds.

For the ExpoCard, PacTec and Galaxy personnel initially met for several hours, producing sketches of ideas for modifying the enclosure. PacTec built a prototype device within a week. Its engineers modified the enclosure's top to include a flat writing surface, a snap-in cover for access to the printer paper, and a serrated paper tear-off area. In addition, the company developed custom sheet-metal supports for the ExpoCard's circuitry and a custom bezel to support the standard magnetic card reader.

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Once approved, the tooling modifications proceeded quickly. "The modular insert is just one square block in the mold-we didn't have to re-make the complete mold," says Singer.

Potential exterior modifications to molds include label recesses, molded raised copy, openings for LCDs, and standard vents and louvers. On the interior, bosses and snap-fits can be added to simplify device assembly. The company offers a total of 180 models in fourteen series of standard enclosures, each capable of modification.

Additional details...Contact Jeffrey Singer, PacTec Div., LaFrance Corp., 8425 Executive Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19153, (800) 220-9800.

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