Design Tips


Precision machined trophies for Core77 Design Awards

Each year, the industrial design website Core77 hosts the Core77 Design Awards, where it “celebrates the richness of the design profession as well as the insight and perseverance of its practitioners.” Aimed at both students and professionals, the Awards cover everything from furniture to commercial equipment to packaging. One of the most unique aspects of the contest, now in its eighth year, is its trophies. These special prizes function as both traditional trophies and working molds, allowing winners to duplicate their trophies in plastic, wax or even something like chocolate. This effectively allows design teams to give an individual trophy to each member of the team — very diplomatic! For the 2019 edition of the awards, the responsibility fell to 3ERP to fabricate all 36 trophies, which we were able to turn around in just a few weeks. Here’s how we did it. 2-in-1 trophies Since the spectacular Core77 trophies are designed to functional as molds, we went about the task as we would a typical rapid tooling order. That meant firing up the CNC machining centers, using a high-quality aluminum alloy, and applying precise finishing procedures. When complete, the hollow underside of the metal trophies could function as a mold for molten plastics or other materials. However, since the trophies were also supposed to be aesthetic pieces in themselves, we had to make sure the two-in-one items had a perfectly smooth and presentable finish on the top side. This meant a lot of hand-polishing was required to give that professional mirrored appearance. In this sense, the trophy project was fairly unique. We’re used to carrying out precision CNC machining for metal prototypes and end-use parts, and we’re also experts at CNC machining metal tooling for molding applications. But we rarely do both at the same time. The step-by-step process

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Xbox Controller Prototype

In October 2019, Microsoft began trials for its cloud gaming streaming service, Project xCloud. The service, which runs games on remote servers, allows users to play those games without dedicated hardware. Although xCloud will not run on a console, Microsoft has filed patents for new gaming controllers,  leading some to believe that the company will imminently release new joypads to be used with non-Microsoft devices like iPads and smartphones. Ahead of that potential release, the gaming fanatics at Yanko Design created their own xCloud controllers based on the Microsoft patents. Industrial designer Sarang Sheth brought the two-part design to life with a visual concept, and then gave 3ERP the exciting task of creating a physical prototype of the Xbox controller. We were only too happy to oblige. Fabrication We fabricated the controller using a combination of CNC milling, CNC turning and vacuum casting — processes we considered suitable for the complexity, scale and unit quantity of the project. The body The main body of the Xbox controller prototype, which comes in two halves so it can be clipped onto either side of a portable device, was CNC machined from ABS. To achieve a professional-quality finish, we then sanded and painted the two parts, finally adding the logos and “XBOX CLOUD” text using silk-screen printing. Backplate The controller is designed to be as ergonomic as possible, so the rear side of the controller features a rubberized backplate. For this section, we used the process of vacuum casting before adding aesthetic details using silk-screen printing. Buttons and flippers The buttons and flippers will function as the controller’s inputs, and for these small components we again turned to CNC machining. Unlike with the main body, we used a high-gloss paint for the buttons and flippers, resulting in an almost metallic finish. For the flippers,

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Customize Shoes for Lady Gaga

When rapid prototyping is mentioned, the first thing that pops up in our minds is always what it can do for industry. But rapid prototyping is also used for things we want in daily life. People are always looking for unique products to fit their own personal style. That’s why 3D printing services are becoming more and more popular, allowing everyone to get their own designs made for an affordable cost. Here is an example of how rapid prototyping can bring your own individual style from imagination into reality. This is a pair of shoes we did for Lady Gaga awhile ago. It is not just a concept model to review how it looks. It is also a pair proper shoes to wear in daily life. Our task is to make it safe & lightweight. Comparing with a few materials, our customer finally picked up polycarbonate. Instead of making it in solid block, we make it hollow with ribs. In order to make the thin heel strong, we place a titanium tube in the heel. Wrap the whole part with carbon fiber layers. Compare with other prototyping providers, our project managers are experienced enough to combine various manufacturing technologies, provide valuable suggestion for different project types. To ensure you get your parts made fast with better price. Project Details The main body of each shoe is made by CNC milling in PC (lightweight polycarbonate plastic), and wrap with carbon fiber to ensure strength. The tip of the heel is made by CNC turning in stainless steel. The golden men are made by SLS (selective laser sintering) in PA (polyamide), with a chrome sputtering finish. Our customer finished the shoes with leather and then attached the golden men.

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Diamond Cut Lamborghini Model

This is an old project we did for UN in 2013. In order to stay within budget, we made it using SLA (stereolithography) and painted it black. The result we got was OK, but not brilliant. This is due to the limitation of the SLA process: the visible layers of the build process is the main problem. Recently, we came up with the idea to make this prototype using 5 axis CNC milling. in order to find a better solution for similar kinds of projects, meanwhile test out the accuracy and stability of our new machine. Challenges of This Project For this kind of model, it is very important to keep all the lines of the edges as sharp as possible. In some areas, the angle between the two surfaces is very large, almost 170 degrees, which means the join line is almost flat. To maintain these fine details is a challenge for our machine as well as for the hand finishing process. To avoid using sandpaper, the overall milling roughness should be under Ra 0.6, so that we can polish the surface directly with the cloth. The material connecting the rearview mirrors to the car body is extremely tiny, and will break easily during CNC machining or hand finishing. To remove plaster after machining the second surface is also a difficult job. The air inlets are designed with undercuts, so we have to use a very long small cutter. And the edges as shown is very thin and sharp, so any vibration during milling will break those edges. Our machine and tool holder accuracy is +/-0.005 mm, but it is also important for CNC operators to keep the cutter accuracy around +/-0.005 mm at the same time.

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Rapid Tooling for Tail Light Project

For this tail light project, we needed to fabricate a housing, reflector, light guide, bezel, outer lens and other components. The overall assembly size was about 600 x 400 x 150 mm, which is relatively large, and the customer wanted to test real materials. In this case, 3D printing, CNC machining or vacuum casting would not have worked; prototype molding was the only option. Can you imagine attempting to make prototype tools for over 30 components in just two months? Our customer desperately needed 200-300 sets of tail lights for testing, but mass production tools wouldn’t have been ready for eight months. They needed a solution to get good quality moldings by their deadline and at a much lower cost than production tools. How do we shorter the manufacturing time? Fully understanding the project – As a rule of thumb, fully understanding the project at hand can help save a lot of time, as it reduces the need to constantly go back and forth with the customer. For this project, we got to grips with the task quickly by finishing the mold design and analysis within a week — a process that normally takes a month for traditional mold-making companies. In the meantime, we ordered all the materials for the project, so we could start work as soon as the customer gave the go-ahead. Choosing the right material for each tool — aluminum or steel — depends on what type of moldings we are going make, and our engineers are experienced enough to identify the appropriate material for each component. Identifying components that are suitable for aluminum molds is particularly helpful, since these can be made in a shorter time. For mass production molds, the mold cavity will normally be made in one piece to ensure a mold life of

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