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Case Study - Development To Production


A prospective Client contacted EPower Corp about a planned heating element product that was made of aluminum and stainless steel. Unfortunately, due to constraints from their engineering team, they were unable to confidently define the right materials, specify the needed finishes and address other factors that stalled the development and delayed production. To expedite the speed of development to production, they asked for our input and then contracted the project to us.

Challenges

In order to bring this product to life as efficiently as possible, there were some concerns with the initial product design. The Client faced a number of challenges in which they needed an experienced team to quickly provide engineering and technical support. Some of the challenges they couldn’t resolve were:

  • Tolerances

  • Tight tolerances of 0.002” (0.05mm)

  • Texture & Finishes

  • Sandblasting - Finish was uneven and rough (unacceptable)

  • Brushed Metal - Finish was inconsistent with defects (unacceptable)

  • Powder Coat or Anodize - Which method is best?

  • Pad Print or Dye Sublimation - Which method is best?

  • Defining the Materials

  • Magnetic for stainless steel

  • Cost/Value analysis and decision

  • Price/Cost

  • The initial design was too costly to produce. Could changes make it competitive?

  • Time Constraints

  • Trade Show - The Client was attending a trade show in 90 days and needed mass production ready samples

  • Distributors - The Client has pending commitments to provide mass production ready samples

The Client provided EPower Corp with these challenges and gave us the freedom to make changes as long as product life, durability, and quality were not affected. EPower’s experienced team expedited the project and delivered the solution the Client needed.

Solution

The engineers at EPower Corp were able to analyze the product and quickly find solutions. We took the lead on the project and recommended changes that would do three things.

  1. Maintain/improve overall product quality and appearance

  2. Maintain/improve product life or durability

  3. Reduce costs and improve competitiveness

We successfully completed the project by implementing the following solutions while also meeting the tight time constraints set by the Client:

  • Tolerances

  • For CNC milling, EPower Corp can guarantee tolerance of 0.00039” (0.01mm)

  • Textures & Finishes

  • Overall - With our experience in sheet metal manufacturing, EPower Corp was able to recommend some processes that would provide the desired textures and finish for the product.

  • Sandblasting - The Client’s main concern was that sandblasting the product would affect hundreds of crevices with a radius of 0.07”. EPower Corp was able to recommend the finest grade of sand that would not affect the crevices and that would also provide the right texture.

  • Brushed Metal Finish - This process services two purposes. Provides a finish that hides raw material defects and provides parallel lines to add a “stain like” appearance.

  • Powder Coat or Anodize - Since this project was going to be CNC milled and stamped, we recommended anodizing the parts instead of powder coating. This is because with CNC milling, the material characteristics are more suitable for anodizing.

  • Pad Print or Dye Sublimation - This was dependent on the imprint design as well as the number of colors needed. Pad printing is typically used with single color designs, while dye sublimation is better suited for multi-color designs.

  • Defining the Material

  • Magnetic Quality - EPower Corp chose Stainless Steel 430 that had the necessary strength as well as being magnetic while the Client’s first choice, Stainless Steel 304, was not magnetic.

  • Cost vs Value - As there was a lot of processing (over ten minutes per individual part, with 5 CNC’d parts) reducing the price of the material was critical because the processing time was fixed. We were able to analyze the value of each part to decide the best material grade that we would use. For an example, we changed one part from aluminum 6061 to aluminum 5052 which cut 5% and didn’t jeopardize the reliability of that part.

  • Price - The majority of the price came down to process time. Each part had an estimated time of 10 minutes to be processed and there were 5 CNC parts with a total of 50 minutes of machining. With 5 machines processing these parts we had a cycle time of 10 minutes. With these fixed times, we minimized downtime and ensured the machines had constant output which was measured during production. Also, by changing the material to a more cost-effective alternative helped lower the cost further.

  • Time Constraints

  • Trade Show - From the start, we had a fixed development time that needed to have production samples ready in 90 days. In this short window, we successfully changed and validated the materials, defined the anodized coating, improved the sandblasting process, and more.

  • Promises to Distributors - While we were tasked with delivering prototypes, we also needed to scale up for production. We were able to successfully launch and sustain a production volume of 10,000 units/month.

EPower Corp Advantage

The Client quickly realized EPower Corp had the experience, team and tooling to deliver the right solution and meet their tight timeline. The key factors were:

  • Provide engineering & technical support

  • Provide services faster than the competition

  • Adapt quickly to changes in the marketing environment

  • Reach and sustain a high level of output

Results and Summary

The key outcome for the Client was that they were able to provide samples to their prospective Clients and distributors at the trade show. With their strength in marketing, they were able to secure contracts that resulted in EPower Corp continuously manufacturing 10,000 units per month at a consistent price of $15.00/unit. As popularity grows, future monthly output by Q3 of 2019 is expected to reach 20,000-25,000 units per month.

To learn more about EPower Corp and discuss your project, schedule a meeting now.

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