Concept to reality at warp speed: Phase V

August 21, 1998

According to Jack Dispenza, design supervisor at Lucent Technologies' Industrial Design Center (IDC - Whippany, NJ), there are two major foundations in turnkey product development. "Technology, first and foremost, is the enabler," he explains, "and the other half of the equation, teamwork, is the binder."

The way Lucent puts these two resources to use illustrates a great marriage of human and technical capabilities, according to both internal and external customers. The IDC consists of five integrated product development teams that focus on industrial design, mechanical design, rapid prototyping, product marking, and exhibit design. The goal is to help customers bring cost-effective, ergonomic, and differentiated products to their target markets as quickly as possible.

Thanks to gas-assist injection molding, this electroless nickel-plated, plastic computer register chasis designed by Lucent's IDC was one-fifh the cost of its sheet metal predecessor. The gas channels function as runners or continuous gates enabling parts to be flat, square, and perpendicular with little molded-in stress. The $32 molded part replaced a $168 sheet metal assembly.

"For a manufacturing company, market introduction of a new product is critical," Dispenza says. The IDC approaches new product development by first entering a "low-risk" environment, namely computer-aided design, engineering, and prototyping. CAD offers experimentation via solid models, analysis programs, and photo-realistic rendering, allowing designers, toolmakers, and customers to evaluate various design candidates. RP tools let IDC teams produce physical models overnight. Dispenza and others use 3-D printing or fused deposition modeling for quick prototypes, high-speed CNC for larger models, and routers on servomotors for study models.

As for teamwork, the IDC houses a diversified staff that comprises the product development team. "We partner with resin suppliers, toolmakers, and molders, both in-house and externally, for production input as early as the concept stage," Dispenza says. Working concurrently helps everyone - industrial designers, model makers, mechanical engineers, marketing personnel, and factory representatives - to build a high degree of confidence sooner in the development cycle. In addition, it allows for some degree of cost modeling. The team can optimize cycle times, secondary operations, and material cost electronically before committing to a final design.

An example of the process in action involves a circuit breaker protector that contained thick and thin walls (see photo p. 42), a part formerly produced in metal. Dispenza recalls the customer believed it to be the "part that couldn't be molded." But together with creative toolmakers, designers at IDC came up with a scheme to laminate the tool so that it vented across the entire thick/thin feature, preventing a molding disaster. By converting to plastic, part count was reduced from 47 to one.

Rules are made to be broken. This plastic circuit breaker panel replaces metal plates, protective ribs, label designation strips, knockouts and assorted screw, lock washers, and nuts - about 47 parts. The singular injection molded part contains both heavy walls for the free standing ribs and thin walls to create the knockouts. A creative toolmaker suggested laminating blocks to form the mold cavity. These laminations, placed at each rib, enabled the mold to vent extensively for easy processing.

Dispenza also believes in the single database for all elements of design and development, including appearance, human factors, part consolidation, mold filling, stress analysis, and documentation. "All of the tools we design are paperless - we send files electronically to our toolmakers; they send the data directly to CNC equipment for cutting tools or electrodes for EDM." He stresses that production tooling lead times can be shortened in this way, by providing solid models for programming toolpaths or creating electrodes.

Facts and Figures

Lucent Technologies' Industrial Design Center was created with an ye toward current product development trends. As a result, rather than a sequential approach, IDC teams take an interated, cross-functional view of the process. To build products that make it to market more quickly, at less cost, and with higher quality, the IDC believes product development must be concurrent and responsive to customers' needs.

Whippany, NJ
Pro/E, EDS Unigraphics, Cadkey, Mastercam, C-Mold
Prototyping capabilites:
Foam models, SLA, CNC, and FDM parts
Industrial design, mechanical engineering, rapid prototyping, tooling, and short-run manufacturing
Major customers:
Lucent Technologies, AT&T, regional Bell operating companies, Ventures

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