industrial design

  1. Inventing a new design? This is what you need to know

     

    Establishing a successful startup in today’s ever changing business market can be daunting. We are regularly asked, by new entrepreneurs, questions such as “How do I take my concept design to production? What is the new product development process? How long will the engineering design process take? When should I file patents?” While the answers to these questions are unique to each design and startup, there are a few things you should consider when beginning the process and selecting a design firm.

    When time is of the essence to get your product to market, it is tempting to want to run to a design firm with paper napkin sketches. However, overlooking certain details and rushing into the process without a solid grasp of what is needed can cost you a lot later on. Before registering a Kickstarter account, or looking up local design firms, you need to do one essential thing first: research. What is the demand for your product? Who is your target audience? If your product does not solve a problem or fill a gap in the current market, then you may want to rethink your idea. Similarly if you are targeting a very small market or a market that does not have much use for your product, you may find your success to be limited. You should also research if there are similar products currently on the market. If so, how will you improve on what is currently out there?

    Along these lines, you need to research whether your idea is patentable. If a patent already exists for your product, then you will need to go back to the drawing board. USPTO.gov provides resources for searching patents, but the process can be arduous if you do not know what you are looking for. If you are unsure of how to proceed, you may want to seek out an attorney who specializes in patent law.  The Inventors Assistance Center (IAC) through the USPTO is a resource hotline that can answer your questions on how the patent process works and guide you on what forms you need. We recommend developing a marketable product, before beginning the filing process. If you file too early you can spend a lot of money adjusting the patent to mirror design changes made during the development process.

    Once you have some solid research under your belt, then you can start pitching your idea for startup capital. This money is used to develop your initial prototypes. Doing a quick google search will net you several avenues for seeking out angel investors and crowdfunding. Sites like AngelList and Gust allow you to search for investors in your area as well as your industry. Another option is to join an accelerator or incubator program. These programs offer resources to grow your business and connect you with venture capital firms as well as other business resources. Most of them offer mentor programs, business and marketing seminars, and networking opportunities. Additionally, check with your local university. Universities such as Northwestern and UConn offer courses and opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

    With some capital in your pocket, your next decision is choosing a design firm to engineer your product. Choosing a good design firm is essential to having a quality, cost effective design that you can bring to market in a reasonable amount of time. In our experience there are four elements to focus on when reviewing your options.

     

    1. Trust

    Trust begins with the first phone call. Are they responsive to your needs? Do they understand the product? Are you given the run around before speaking with someone? Are you able to speak with anyone at all or are you sent directly to a voicemail box, never to be heard from again? At Synectic we pride ourselves on always having a live person in the office available to answer your call. When you speak with one of our engineers you will not be bogged down in unpronounceable nomenclature and complicated acronyms. Our design process is broken down into easy to understand steps and milestones applicable to the client’s needs. This not only confirms you are speaking the same language but also conveys to the client how much more effort is possible beyond the current scope.  In fact, using terms that are more client based improves the communication to other stake holders not present in initial meetings.  This leads to a minimization of possible disconnects between the client and the design firm. A low pressure, educational based approach with detailed fixed-fee proposals, listed out deliverables, and a manageable timeline and cost, builds trust.

    1. Experience

    Typically, in even the most experienced and well-versed design firms, there is not an exact project that mimics a client’s new idea. As the client you want to ask yourself how much experience do they have designing similar projects? Do they outsource most of the work or can they handle it in house? Do they have the resources and experience needed to see your idea through the entire development process including production?  Synectic in conjunction with MACK Molding have over 130 combined years of development and production experience, giving us a complete portfolio of design projects that can be applied to any client’s needs. We have the ability to keep your design in house seeing it all the way from a white sheet of paper to a product ready to hit store shelves.

    1. Documentation & Communication

    Critical to any project is the communication and documentation of the effort. Projects stop and start all the time depending on a client’s decision making timeline, their cash flow, and major design changes. Keeping a history on how the design arrived to where it is, is critical. This design history file or DHF includes weekly updates, meeting minutes, test reports and all the quality documentation associated with your project. Ask the design firm how they handle documentation.  Are they ISO certified or compliant? How are you kept up to date on your design’s process? Can you call and speak with the team at any time? Most importantly get referrals from previous clients.

    Discuss the documentation process and communication process. How robust are the procedures in place and are they followed. This seems trivial, however, failure to execute good communication and documentation results in a project that is a complete waste of time and money. Here at Synectic we have seen it time and again where a client will bring what they believe to be a completed design to our firm, but will have none of the documentation to go with it. Without the required documentation you are left with two choices to either reverse engineer the design or to start from the beginning. To circumvent miscommunication we offer weekly meetings with the engineering team. Team members are available to discuss your design at any time and DHF files are meticulously kept in accordance with our rigorous quality guidelines, ensuring everything you need is in one location available at a moment’s notice.

    1. Functionality

    Websites today can make a one-man design firm appear significant. Taking the time to visit the firm, meet the team, and take a tour will quickly separate and distinguish one firm from one another. Not only will you see the infrastructure, but also potential resources that can be utilized for your current project as well as future endeavors. Typical one-man shops can create CAD models, but do they have a quality system?  Can they build and test prototypes?  Can they simulate on the bench the environment that the product will be used? Are they equipped to handle pilot production of your finished product? Synectic offers a fully functioning machine shop on site, 3D printing capabilities, wet lab and bench testing facilities. We can handle pilot and low volume production of your designs and our parent company MACK Molding can accommodate high volume manufacturing. When you visit our firm you will meet with our staff of engineers who will walk you through our process, before leading you on a tour of our facility so you can personally see what we have to offer.

    As demonstrated above, choosing a design firm is a big decision. Avoid committing to a big project and instead opt for a small project where you can add on additional scopes and phases as you become more comfortable with the team. Small projects allow you to dip your toes in before diving headfirst into a commitment with a design firm and provide an escape route if things go south once the honeymoon period is over. Good firms understand this and will want to build a long-term development relationship one proposal at a time.

    Synectic has been designing and developing projects for over 35 years. With capabilities in industrial design, mechanical design, medical device design, production design, and design manufacturing we have engineered hundreds of projects over this time period and have helped developed a robust process that can save time and money for each of our clients.  We would be happy to help answer any questions you may have about the new product development process. How can we help bring your product to market?

  2. Upcoming Show Schedule – Fall 2017

    If you missed Synectic at MD&M East and BIOMEDevice Boston, you can still see us at the following shows this fall:

    New England Design-2-Part Show
    September 27 & 28, 2017
    Royal Plaza Trade Center • Marlborough, MA

    DeviceTalks Boston
    October 2, 2017
    Westin Waterfront • Boston, MA

    Stayed tuned for additional details and booth information.


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  3. Announcing This Year’s MD&M East Raffle Winner!

    Synectic’s President Adam Lehman announces this year’s MD&M East Raffle Winner

    We want to thank everyone who participated in MD&M East this year and for everyone who visited Synectic’s booth this year. We had our best turnout this year and the show would not have been as successful without your support. We hope to see you all again at our booth next year.


    Learn more about Synectic

    View our case studies

    Find out more about our manufacturing capabilities

    Read our blog to stay on top of all that’s happening at Synectic

     

  4. How to Choose: The Truth About Resins

    By Scott Rishell, Design Engineer, Mack Molding and Kathleen Murray, Communications Manager, Synectic Engineering

    One of the largest advantages of choosing Synectic Engineering for your next project is its relationship with its parent company Mack Molding. As a leading custom plastics molder and contract manufacturer serving a range of markets – medical, industrial, transportation, energy/environment, computer/business and consumer – Mack’s customers are varied and so are their needs. Mack’s 95+ years of molding allows them to choose materials based on customer specifications, moldability of design, and cost. Choosing the right material early in the design process, streamlines the time and cost to market by picking the correct path every time. This a value add in the design cycle, for both our clients and our design process.

    To meet the diverse requirements presented by so many programs, Mack has vertically integrated services, including design, prototyping, supply chain management, machining, sheet metal fabrication, molding, painting, assembly, testing and even fulfillment. Working together, we are able to offer our client’s a full portfolio of services from concept to production. Synectic and Mack combined have over 130 years of knowledge and experience allowing us to stay competitive in an always changing market.

    One area where we often find the most distinctiveness is in resin selection. Mack has a wide portfolio of molded parts, and each is unique based on the customers’ requirements. Beyond aesthetics, like color, a material’s properties, processability and cost all play a key role in determining a resin’s suitability for an application. With thousands of grades to choose from, and new ones being developed to fill market niches, customers often turn to us to help them navigate the resin selection process.

    Here are some of our key considerations we weigh when making a selection:

    Mechanical Requirements
    A part’s strength requirements need to be considered as resin classes have various tensile strength, tensile modulus and elongation at break. Thermoplastic resins offer a variety of strength properties that can often be modified with fillers like glass or carbon fiber.

    Chemical Compatibility
    Many customers are concerned about how chemicals, including cleaning solvents and process reagents, interact with their resin selection. In these cases we consult published testing data from resin manufacturers that show a material’s performance in each chemical.  In some cases the data may not exist and testing with specific chemicals will be requested.

    Environmental Compatibility
    Parts that will be exposed to extreme hot or cold conditions need to be made with resins that are rated accordingly, making the long term service temperature and heat deflection temperature critical performance metrics. Other conditions to consider include exposure to UV light and high humidity.

    Commodity vs. Performance
    Whenever possible Mack strives to pair customer applications with commodity resin grades due to the inherent cost and availability advantages that come with higher volume raw material production.  Some projects call for specific properties – strength, heat resistance, etc. – which is where performance resins excel.

    Amorphous vs. Semi-crystalline
    Selecting amorphous resins can often be advantageous as they can provide wider processing windows and improved dimensional control due to their random molecular structure. They can be transparent and are compatible with many adhesives. Semi-crystalline materials offer improved mechanical and thermal properties but can be more difficult to process.

    Material Shrinkage
    The amount a resin shrinks during the molding process can have a huge impact on the ease of building a tool or developing a successful molding process. For this reason we try to select resins that have lower shrink rates whenever possible.

    Once all of these factors are accounted for, the list of suitable resins is typically cut down to a manageable number to consider. It is here that the Synectic and Mack team leverages its proficiency with particular materials, coupled with expertise in design and development, to make the final determination of a grade.

    Are you considering using plastic injection molding for your next project? Contact Synectic today and we will work with you to develop a product with the most optimal material selected for product performance and moldability. Let us show you how we can bring your ideas to life!


    Check out our other article in this series How to Choose: The Truth About Fixed-Fee vs. Time-and-Materials

    Learn more about our manufacturing capabilities

  5. Spotlight on STEM: Synectic at Polson Middle School

     

    What happens when you take a class of eighth graders, office supplies, and Synectic Engineering? You get the best STEM career day ever!

     

    Mac McMurray getting ready to speak with the students at Polson Middle School about product design

     

    Synectic’s Mac McMurray and Kathleen Murray visited Polson Middle School in Madison, CT for their Math and Science Career Day. They met with three classes of eighth graders to discuss product design engineering and put those concepts to the test. The students were given a scenario and some office supplies with the task of constructing a paper airplane.

    FDM printed 3D plane given to the winner

    Once complete, they were able to test and re-engineer their design, before competing against their classmates to see who could fly their plane the farthest. The winner of each class received a 3D printed stealth fighter from Synectic’s own FDM machine. Synectic wants to thank Polson Middle School for inviting us to talk about a rewarding career in STEM. We had an amazing time.

     

    Do you have a child who may be interested in an engineering career? Try out our airplane scenario at home and see where it may take them.

    • You will need:
      • Construction paper
      • Paper clips
      • Pencils
      • Tape
      • Scissors
      • Any other office supplies you want to add
    • Scenario: You need to get a message across a river using a paper airplane
    • Suggestions: Set a distance goal for the airplane that will be the river in this scenario. Have your child design what they feel is the ideal paper airplane using any of the above materials. Once they are done designing, they can test it out to see how far it can fly. Does the plane make it across the river? If not, discuss with them how they can make it fly farther. Talk to them about some physical and environmental challenges, such as wind and weight, which may prevent it from flying further. Have them re-engineer their airplane using the same piece of paper, and then retest. For an added challenge you can pretend that you are the client and give your child specifications for how you want the plane built, such as only using one piece of paper, two paperclips, and three pieces of tape. Does their plane fly better using the challenge items? Why or why not? Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

    Mac’s son Ryder with his paper airplane design


    For more STEM projects you can do at home click here

    To see what products the engineers at Synectic have designed and developed click here

  6. Just Arrived: Synectic’s Newest Product Design Engineer

    Synectic is growing and growing!  We welcomed Jeff Saller as a new Senior Product Design Engineer at the beginning of this year.  Jeff has a rich background involving multiple facets of engineering, including product design and development, bringing a lot to our organization.  A native of Milford for over 20 years, Jeff is excited to join a great team so close to home.  I was able to speak with Jeff for a few minutes about his background and here is what I found out:

    Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.  I know Synectic keeps you busy with all the new and interesting projects we have.  Can you tell me a little more about your background and what interested you in Mechanical and Product Design Engineering?

    • JS: My father was a chemical engineer and had a lot of influence on me.  My real interest started when I was 12 working on bikes and small engines.  I became a mechanical engineer and my first job out of college was at a small startup in Stamford.  When the company was sold, I transferred to Wisconsin and worked as manufacturing engineering on scientific instrumentation products for five years.  After that I came back to Connecticut and worked in manufacturing, product design, aerospace, and engineering management.  I gained a lot of experience and skills that have allowed me to grow as an engineer.

    Wow! You really have a varied background and must have worked on a variety of products over the years. Out of all the medical device development companies out there, what attracted you to Synectic?

    • JS:  I have worked for various start-ups in the past and I like the small team feel and fast pace.  Synectic offers this, but has experience and proven results that allow a constant stream of new projects and challenges.  In the short time I have been here, I have never been bored.  While I am learning new skills every day, I am also able to use my past experience working in manufacturing and production engineering to meet the needs of our customers.

    Jeff, since we can’t talk about what projects you are currently working on, what has been your favorite project you worked during your career?

    • JS:  I was part of a team that created a handheld spectrometer.  It had interchangeable heads to allow for a variety of sampling applications.  One of these was for detecting thermal damage to sections of an airplane, that had been struck by lightning, in order to identify areas needing repair.

    That is really cool!  You will definitely work on equally awesome projects at Synectic.  Now, enough about work.  What do you like to do when you aren’t designing medical products?

    • JS:  I’m an avid golfer and cyclist. I also like to play guitar. I’m married with two grown children and like to spend my spare time with my family and friends.

     

    To learn more about Synectic’s other Product Design Engineers click here

    Click here if you want to see medical products we have designed

  7. Meet Amanda, Synectic’s Newest Team Member

    Synectic is excited to introduce our newest Associate Design Engineer, Amanda Konieczny. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and is currently working on her Masters in Engineering Operations Management at University of New Haven. Originally a native of West Springfield Massachusetts, Amanda is excited to begin her career as part of the Synectic team. I had the opportunity to speak with Amanda to learn a little more about her.

    Amanda, women working in engineering is slowly becoming more common, but you still don’t see them every day. What interested you in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering?

    AK: No one in my family is an engineer. When I expressed an interest, I was discouraged by my peers and mentors and basically told that I ‘couldn’t do it’ which in turn motivated me to succeed and to prove them wrong. It wasn’t easy, and I learned mostly by doing. I originally wanted to work in aerospace, but sophomore year of college, I switched to mechanical engineering because I wanted a broader experience. I worked at Synectic as a contractor and really enjoyed working in medical devices. A lot of the stuff Synectic works on is very interesting and challenging.

    How have you overcome some of the challenges facing you as a woman in a male dominated field?

    AK: During my junior year of college I spent 8 weeks in Himachal Pradesh India as part of my Interactive Qualifying Project. Our project was improving agricultural practices in farm lands in Mandi by technological intervention. My biggest take away was how different cultures interact, mainly in terms of male to male and female to female communication. Most times, traditional Indian males will not even shake a female’s hand. From that experience, I learned that in order to be successful as a female engineering you have to exude confidence and poise as well as speak with conviction. If you act shy, then your male coworkers will steamroll you.

    Amanda, out of all the companies you could have chosen to work for, what interested you the most about Synectic?

    AK: The projects at Synectic move at a quick pace and you always have a variety of things to work on. During my time here as a contractor, I learned so much more then I could have ever learned in school. You are constantly getting challenged from both your boss and the clients, so I am never bored and I have a lot of autonomy in my work. Best of all, the people at Synectic form a close knit team creating a great work environment.

    We are so glad that you chose to work at Synectic! Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What are your interests and hobbies?

    AK: I’m an avid swimmer. On the weekends I teach swimming to special needs children and adults. I also love to go to the gym. When I’m not swimming or at the gym, I like to spend time with my three dogs Sophie, Lexi, and Maggie.

  8. Synectic continues to Grow and Improve!

    SYNECTIC® ENGINEERING ADDS NEW CAPABILITY WITH PURCHASE OF STRATASYS DIMENSIONS ELITE “FDM” PRINTER

    Synectic® Engineering is a product design and development company, servicing client engineering needs for 35 years. In this fast paced market for design and engineering services, Synectic® is keeping up to speed with our clients’ needs. As we continue to grow our services, Synectic® has always looked at ways of improving our capabilities by reducing cost and lead times. One of the new tools in our portfolio to improve in-house industrial design and human factors modeling is a new FDM printer.

    WHY A 3D PRINTER?

    The purchase of the Dimension’s Elite FDM printer enables us to have a more iterative design process, putting human factor models in customers’ hands earlier in the process than ever before. Within a matter of days, we now have the ability to design a part, print a prototype, review the part’s design, make changes and print another prototype to validate the changes made. In the past, this process would have taken one to two weeks to complete using off-site suppliers. Using this rapid–prototyping technology on-site, Synectic® can now verify ergonomics and aesthetics, as well as functionality, early on. This will allow our clients to experiment with their design concepts and test their engineering limits, saving time and money while improving on overall look and functionality.

     

    If you have any questions about FDM process or you have a project that needs quoting, please forward request to: info@synectic.net  We look forward to discussing your next project with you!