Product design is rarely straight forward; with so much to consider from manufacturing constraints, minimising production costs, engaging with the client to ensure the project is well aligned to their business and adding that little bit of LDT sparkle to ensure the product is a delight to look at and use. It’s often like spinning plates but when a product is successfully launched and the user feedback is positive it’s a great feeling and makes all the head scratching worthwhile.
I’ve recently finished the development of a night vision camera for a local client and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how the project went and some of the challenges I faced during the development.
As a company LDT spend a significant amount of time on the preparation stages of the project, it’s not the most glamorous or engaging part of the project but we find it’s absolutely critical in understanding and communicating the focus of the project to the client. Importantly it gives us designers an opportunity to ask questions and challenge traditional ways of thinking. Informal face-to-face meetings at this stage work really well for us, (particularly if bacon sandwiches are involved!). We are a friendly approachable bunch here at LDT and establishing good uninhibited lines of communication early on in a project has a massive impact on the speed and ultimate success of a project.
On this job the client put in place an internal project manager with a background in product development. The project manager could make day-to-day decisions relating to the product over instant messenger, a video call or a sit down meeting when a more in-depth conversation was required.
Instant connectivity – Skype / Google hangouts / Team viewer etc. is becoming an increasingly useful tool for myself and LDT Design. It allows the team here to remotely collaborate with clients and explain what are often quite complex issues with a greater degree of speed and understanding… Admittedly it’s probably not for all clients and I think a balance has to be struck between over involving the client and making informed choices based on our experience and the preparation stages carried out in the early part of the project…
The Sentinel ‘mini spotter’ product had two significant design challenges:
Firstly, the rugged outdoor nature of the Sentinel product presented a big challenge… not only did the product have to endure some robust handling and drop testing, but it also required a high level of ingress protection. Fortunately LDT have a good history of designing Successful ATEX and industrial products and I could draw on previous team members knowledge to guide the final design.
We ultimately chose to hi frequency weld the outer housing of the product to achieve a good water tight seal without incurring the additional cost and tricky to assemble gaskets. Even though I’d specified this assembly technique in previous projects, this is the first time I’d actually got into the ‘nitty gritty’ of calculating the size of the weld bead and become involved with the tooling… some valuable advice and insights where picked up during the development process which I can now draw upon for future developments.
Ingress protecting the outer housing was only half the story with this development. Behind the lightly sparked ABS outer body there is quite a lot going on!. From the outset, the client were very keen to not only minimise the size of the product but make it light weight and ergonomic to handle. They also wanted to optimise the tooling to enable a range of three products to be produced from the same tooling. LDT could draw on their knowledge of injection moulding design to achieve this.
To accommodate the differing wiring looms and PCB configurations we quickly came up with a moulded 2 part internal chassis design; not visible from the outside but this novel part of the design acts like a PCB toast rack and provides a degree of flexibility in the positioning and number of pcbs fitted inside! The resulting internal sub assembly also creates a nice tidy wiring loom which can be easily handled and tested prior to being permanently assembled within the final product.
LDT have a great reputation for designing products suitable for volume manufacturing and we implement a number of different internal checks and processes to control this. We believe in prototyping and testing at each stage to eliminate any chance of error and failure when the product reaches volume production. In addition to this, I find it good practice to engage with the manufacturing partners as early as possible to draw on any additional expertise that will benefit the product. Asking lots of questions and learning on every project equals a well rounded designer and a better outcome for LDT Design clients.
Due to the planning work, clear communication with the client, involving the manufacturing supply chain and adding the LDT sparkle this development went very smoothly into volume production. The whole project from initial Kick off meeting, to serial production took approximately 6 months.
The 3 product variants of the Sentinel Range were launched early in 2017. Sentinel base model, Sentinel Pro and Sentinel Ultra. The Pro and Ultra also come with a custom charging station. The Sentinel range has had an extremely successful launch and sales are increasing month on month. It has also won The BSIA award for “Innovative Security Project of the Year” which recognises projects that represent a first for the industry, a first for a particular market or a new application of an existing security solution.