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Case study

Synetica – Flexible case design using MJF

Introduction

Established in 2008 and headquartered in the UK, Synetica enables their global customer base to reduce emissions and improve air quality. They design and make a range of air quality monitoring, energy usage and remote asset monitoring solutions.

Part of their range, the enLink OAQ Air Quality Monitor is designed for outdoor deployments. It measures up to ten key air quality parameters with class leading accuracy. The team created a flexible case design using MJF 3D Printing technology for agile, on-demand, batch manufacture.

Synetica OAQ module using HP MJF 3D Printing

The Challenge

Synetica OAQ module using HP MJF 3D Printing

Required to operate in a variety of environmental conditions, yet still allow air flow through the monitor. It must also protect the sensors while also being able to handle a variety of configuration options and alternate component designs. Lastly, it must reflect the quality and innovation of the technology it contains through a sleek and stylish design.

Synetica’s evaluation of existing approaches for delivering an external case and internal component mounting solution highlighted significant drawbacks.

  • “Off the shelf” cases would require significant re-work to meet their specifications and would still only deliver a generic final case design.
  • Injection moulding would require commitment to a single fixed design, and incur high start up and volume requirements to be cost effective. In addition, it could take anything up to six months to see final production parts.
  • The ability to incorporate both multiple sensor types and multiple component suppliers would make it hard to standardise on a single chassis design. This was brought into sharp relief in 2021 when global supply chain challenges made last minute design changes necessary on a regular basis.
  • While 3D Printing using FDM technology was understood and used by Synetica for prototyping, its application for batch manufacture using MJF for the case design was new to the team, and so to adopt it would need advice and expertise in the field.

Working with Midlands 3D - A consultative approach

Early in the design phase Synetica engaged with the Midlands 3D team to work on a suitable design, focussing on a design for the MJF process from the outset.

“Early prototypes using FDM technology just didn’t give us the product that we needed, either functionally or aesthetically. When we moved to the new MJF machines that really changed all of that” comments David Norman of Synetica. Working together the teams worked on the design, testing and enhancing it over multiple iterations. “With MJF we can achieve all sorts of things not possible with manufacturing methods like injection moulding for example” adds Dave. “We can incorporate intricate design details, like our own design of vent that gives us the air flow through the monitor that we need, without sacrificing the monitor’s weatherproofing. Doing this with any other technology would almost certainly require us to create a multi-part design, making assembly more complex and the overall cost structure more expensive”.

The Final Design

Synetica OAQ module using HP MJF 3D Printing

Working closely on design iterations, the team landed on a design that both met the brief and was cost effective using MJF. The design delivered:

  • A two part design with the exterior manufactured a single piece and a sliding chassis insert, carrying all the required electronics, sensors and when required, internal batteries to power the monitor.
  • Custom branding and design details specific to Syentica, enhancing the monitor’s aesthetic appeal and serving as a representation of the brand when mounted, often in highly visible locations.
  • The ability to flex the chassis design features and quantity required in any combination with each production run to accommodate different configurations, component suppliers and demand requirements.
  • Design for manufacture enhancements, such a cable routing to both speed final assembly and improve overall product quality.

Summary of Key Outcomes

Delivering Results on Multiple Fronts

Working with Midlands 3D to produce both the design and deliver the final batch manufactured part has delivered multiple benefits to Synetica:

  • A high quality, robust design meeting or exceeding its design specifications that reflects the overall quality of the final product and the Synetica brand.
  • No need to keep significant stockholding of finished parts, with batches of sometimes hundreds of cases ready for delivery, often with a few days of order.
  • The ability to incorporate modifications, customisations and/or enhancements at every build – right down to a single part level, with no cost implications. To date, around a dozen different versions are available to be printed in any combination, on-demand as required.
  • Easing supply chain issues elsewhere by the ability to accommodate multiple vendor sources for key components within the electronic design.
  • Identification of opportunities to make custom jigs to assist the rapid assembly of other products, cutting manufacturing time and costs for the business as a whole.

Looking to the Future

“We have a great working relationship with the Midlands 3D team and continue to work together to both enhance our existing products as well as explore new design ideas” says David. “The technology gives us great flexibility to experiment and try new ideas, not just for cases but for more more hidden use cases like custom brackets and fixings within the design of other products, as well as tools and jigs to ease assembly.  We can prototype something and get to full production in a matter of days when we need to, which for these kinds of more specialist products is a game changer”.

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"We have a great working relationship with the Midlands 3D team and continue to work together to both enhance our existing products as well as explore new design ideas."

David Norman

David Norman

Synetica Limited

Should You be Considering 3D Print Manufacturing too?

No longer just for prototyping, ground up 3D Print technologies designed for batch manufacturing, such as Multi Jet Fusion from HP make volume delivery not only a very real option, but also one that can offer significant advantages at both the top and bottom line. 

Contact the Midlands 3D team now to arrange a no obligation consultation and see if your next project could also benefit from adopting this innovative approach to your manufacturing requirements.