Making (light) waves
Richard Sant, Chief Designer at Nuneaton-based OceanLED, needed a fast and flexible way to produce low cost, high quality components for the firm's latest state-of-the-art LED lights. They used Proto Labs' injection moulding service, Protomold.
Richard Sant is excited for OceanLED's future in the private super-yacht market. On his office wall is the blueprint for one vessel measuring 148m in length; it will have six engines, several decks, the finest materials and most importantly, lots of lights. Despite sumptuous ships like this costing in the region of 100s of millions of pounds, business is booming.
To build on their success, OceanLED's strategy is to move beyond the bespoke market of super-yachts in which it started to develop relatively higher-volume products for other growth sectors; a plan that involved a fundamental rethink of the firm's manufacturing techniques which inevitably led them to begin using rapid injection moulding.
OceanLED had no experience of making plastic injection moulded parts for lights. "Although I'd been using Solid Works to design mechanical products for a long time, this was my first plastic injection moulded product. Like most people venturing into plastic mass production, we started by using a company in China but became increasingly unhappy with the quality and costs. So, we looked for someone who could do a better, faster job – that's when we found Protomold®."
Richard, who joined OceanLED in 2005 after a long career as a mechanical design engineer, was particularly pleased with Protomold's online ProtoQuote® service. This enabled him to upload his existing 3D CAD designs and receive not only a detailed breakdown of manufacturing costs but also a report highlighting any design issues, literally within hours. "The Protomold process allows an injection moulding novice to design and order a part without any problems," he says. "It gave us complete control and it's close to home – it's good to know we are using the best option and it's a company in the UK."
Once OceanLED had finalised the design of the mounts, it was able to order relatively low volumes of production-quality parts from the same mould. As a result the kits can be sold separately and retail for around £15-20. "At the moment, we only order 500 each time," says Richard. "If we were using traditional steel moulds in China we would have to run off thousands just to make the tooling economical."
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