Proto Labs Helps Scion-Sprays to Win €4million Order
When it needed fully functioning prototypes for an affordable, engine management system to impress a potential customer, Scion-Sprays Ltd, based at the Hethel Engineering Centre for advanced manufacturing, chose the award-winning, rapid manufacturing services of Proto Labs®.
Founded in 2002 by Jeff Allen (a former Chief Engineer at Lotus Engineering) Scion Sprays grew out of research into the electrostatic atomisation of fuel. In the process, Jeff (who is now the firm's Technical Director) came up with the idea of a small, low-cost 'constant volume displacement pump' to control fuel flow rates. Richard Hoolahan, Manufacturing Manager, says, "That pump proved to have greater market potential than the original research because of its efficient, clean-burn credentials and its simplicity." Jeff and a small team set about developing Scion-Sprays' innovative engine management system called Pulse Count Injection (PCI) and with the help of rapid prototyping services Firstcut® and Protomold® from Proto Labs, are now moving out of development and into production.
By 2006, Scion-Sprays had produced their first working PCI prototype, which in turn led to the development of a fully integrated Quantum Fuel Injection (QFI™) system. The modular design of the QFI system includes a throttle body (designed by Richard when he was the company's Design Engineer), PCI technology, sensors, idle control and ignition.
It was while developing a prototype of their QFI for a prospective European customer in the early part of 2010 that Richard turned to Proto Labs. "I needed about 15-20 pre-production QFI systems for customer-testing, which meant they had to be fully functional and made from similar, if not the same materials that would be used in actual production units. I used different rapid prototyping services to produce less-critical components," says Richard, "but chose Proto Labs for the throttle crank and the stepper motor arm because there could be no compromises in the mechanical qualities of those parts: and the production method and the materials would be very similar to what we would use in the final version."
Richard decided to use Proto Labs' Protomold injection-moulding service to produce the stepper motor arm from glass-reinforced nylon. However, he says: "I chose Firstcut's machining service to make the throttle crank from the same material, partly because I wanted to compare the processes and partly because creating a mould for the throttle crank would not have been cost-effective. At this stage in the product development, it is very important to minimise costs."
Richard contacted Proto Labs using the company's two interactive, online quotation systems: Protoquote® and Firstquote®. Both systems let him upload his 3D CAD models and then within hours sent back an accurate quote – not an estimate.
The machined parts were delivered within three days of Richard accepting the quote: "And that was their standard delivery – they can do it even faster if want. The moulded parts took slightly longer but that is because the tooling required. Nevertheless, they were with me in a matter of days, not months, like other suppliers."
Proto Labs Ltd
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