For Engineers: Prototypes Without Limits

March 13, 2007

5 Min Read
For Engineers: Prototypes Without Limits

If there’s one abiding lesson from the OEM’s unrelenting time-to-market battles, it is this: Determine as early as possible whether you can actually manufacture your product in a timely, cost-effective fashion.

Some companies discover that lesson the hard way, after months of design iterations, homemade models, or back-and-forth trading of rapid prototypes with service bureaus. Missing in this scenario is essential early contact with experts who know what it will take to shape a design for efficient volume production.

Since 1964, Phillips Plastics has been helping design engineers avoid costly and time-consuming blind alleys by offering a full range of design and prototype services. “We don’t try to push the customer into a box,” notes Bill Welch, VP of Engineering at Phillips. “Our job is to ask the right questions about the intended uses for the parts. We then work with customers to determine the best options to meet their time and cost needs, whether it be a model, rapid prototypes or more finished prototypes that will closely resemble production units.”

With two design centers, eight manufacturing business unitsand three tool build facilities – including onedevoted toprototype tooling -- Phillips can take customers from the “design on a napkin” stage to high-volume production of plastic and metal parts, including complex micro-molded structures.

As Product Development Engineering Manager Tom Mayr explains it, engineers can begin working with Phillips at any stage along the development path, including:

  • Concept Development. After brainstorming with the customer and reviewing basic sketches, industrial designers at Phillips can help shape the overall design,aesthetics and ergonomics of a component or end product while keeping in mind the tooling and manufacturing processes to come.

  • Design Engineering. Whether validating the customer’s design or generating new geometry, Phillips engineers are skilled in all the leading 3D CAD tools, such as Pro/Engineer®, SolidWorks®, Unigraphics® and CATIA V5®, as well as in finite element analysis (FEA) and Moldflow®.

  • Material Selection. Specialists at Phillips assist customers in making materials choices and can provide an unbiased database of suppliers. The company can also conduct materials testing in various thermal and chemical environments.

  • Physical Models. These can range from foam or machined models to parts generated through stererolithography (SLA) or 3D printers. Phillips engineers can also provide Design for Manufacturability (DFM) assistance to customers, many of whom are increasingly using 3D printer tools for internal creation of rapid prototypes.

  • Prototype Tooling. To further prove the customer’s design, Phillips routinely designs and manufactures prototype molds for customers, typically from aluminum or P-20 steel. These tools typically produce anywhere from a few hundred parts to many thousand, giving customers more data to validate the final design and production process in order to prepare for volume production.

  • Production Tooling. The final step is the design and manufacture of actual production molds from hardened steel for high-volume runs.

When involved early in the design  process, Phillips can help create designs that result in  high quality, reduced overall costs and shorter time-to-market

In offering this wide array of services, Phillips has worked with engineers designing parts for all sorts of industries, from automotive and consumer products to defense and telecommunications. Medical, in particular, has been a booming area for Phillips, and now accounts for about 60% of applications.

Phillips’ work with Verus Pharmaceuticals, a California medical company, demonstrates the “no limits” philosophy that the molder brings to customer service. Verus initially called on Phillips to mold several plastic components for Twinject®, an FDA-approved device that allergy sufferers use to inject up to two doses of Epinephrine in cases of severe reactions. However, when Verus embarked on its second-generation product, its managers approached Phillips for even greater involvement, including design optimization, prototyping and the actual repackaging of the drug during final assembly.

“This required us to undergo inspection by the FDA in 2006 and successfully gain registration from the agency as a drug repackager,” explains the Phillips account manager on the project. For years, Phillips has offered customers FDA Class 10,000 clean room assembly facilities and Class 100,000 production and assembly capability.

Such examples are not unusual at Phillips, where a large staff of industrial design, project, tooling and manufacturing engineers always welcome new challenges. Says VP of Engineering Bill Welch: “It’s all about understanding the customer’s needs, being flexible and harnessing the many tools we have available.”

// Additional Resources

Tooling Capabilities

Medical and Clean Room Molding

Video Tour of Phillips Facilities

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