Prototyping is at the heart of our business. Since our foundation we have always had extensive workshop and prototyping facilities in the centre of our studios.
This enables us to explore, test and iterate concepts at increasing levels of resolution throughout a project and is a fundamental part of our product development and risk management processes.
We can produce accurate, high quality, visual models for use in hall testing or focus groups. The feedback from such events supports our evidence based design approach.
These visual models often include a degree of functionality, particularly in relation to user interface elements. The material properties, finishes, colours and textures of the final product are also replicated as closely as possible so that the user response to critical touch points can be accurately gauged.
Functional rigs and prototyping
Even the best computer simulations only provide virtual predictions of actual behaviour. From early mechanism concepts to full design validation, the best way of really knowing how something works is to practically test it using rigs and prototypes.
Our model makers and electronics technicians are adept at producing functional rigs and prototypes for a wide range of products from high volume injection pens to train interiors. They are used to developing early proof of principle rigs at one end of the development process and highly accurate pre-production prototypes using representative manufacturing materials and processes at the other.
We offer a range of rapid prototyping (RP) processes in-house, including high speed 5-axis CNC machining, Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), 2D laser cutting and ProJet 3D printing.
These in-house capabilities satisfy most of our day-to-day RP needs. FDM provides us with robust ABS parts where functional performance is more important than visual appearance, while parts from our two ProJet printers are the most accurate available from any RP system. 5-axis CNC machining is quick, versatile and provides unmatched finish quality, part accuracy and flexibility on material options.
Where alternative RP processes or materials are needed, we have developed strong links with a select list of preferred bureaux in the UK and overseas that we know through auditing can meet our exacting standards for quality and responsiveness.
Through these approved bureaux we are able to access a full range of RP technologies for the creation of master components. Where injection moulding is the target production process, our facilities for finishing and texturing these master components and vacuum casting can then be used to produce multiple parts in resins selected to closely replicate the production plastic properties.
Ergonomic rigs and models
At one extreme our ergonomic rigs can be handheld models used to evaluate the detail of product form and tactility around key touch points and the operation of user controls and displays. Alternatively, they may be representative of larger equipment and environments and used to check man-machine interfaces, people flows, sight lines, user comfort and service staff access.
Ergonomic rigs and models are often designed to be reconfigurable to allow a range of different options to be trialled and evaluated. Structured studies can then be arranged to record and analyse the interaction of representative user groups with the rigs. We combine the results from these formal assessments with theoretical data to optimise the human factors aspects of our design solutions.
Large scale mock-ups
We regularly undertake the design and construction of full-scale mock ups for transportation projects and other large product developments. These range from basic re-configurable ergonomic rigs to fully representative full-scale visual mock ups.
Our large scale mock ups and rigs are usually constructed around steel frameworks. These are designed and analysed by our mechanical engineering team to ensure that they are capable of accurately locating and supporting the mock up panels and fixtures and to aid lifting and transportation of the finished mock up.
Testing and evaluation
Our five in-house test laboratories are equipped with a comprehensive range of testing and inspection equipment, including automated force and torque measurement stands, precision balances and CMM touch probe and vision based measurement systems.
We have a specialist wet laboratory for liquid based testing and an electronics laboratory for the construction and testing of electro-mechanical systems. Our two computer controlled environmental test chambers allow us to cycle components and assemblies through specified thermal profiles as well as carrying out functional testing at elevated and reduced temperatures.