Case Study

Concept to tooling transformation drives award-winning new product design

Phillips Plastics

Phillips Plastics’ focus on innovation and time-to-market enable rapid development of sleek, patented chemical splash goggles

A complete solution

Phillips Plastics won a contract from American Allsafe to design and produce a new chemical splash goggle that was modern-looking, one-size-fits-all and easily assembled during production. Phillips Plastics’ motto is “Total Design Solutions from Design through Production.” The company, a custom injection molder, can assist its customers with every aspect of plastic part development, from conceptual design through to production. A critical element of this work is tooling design – creating the molds that will produce the plastic parts. Product designers work closely with tooling designers to ensure that what they create can actually be built. “This is important because time to market is most critical to our customers,” explains Wayne Phillips, a senior design engineer at the company. “It doesn’t work to release a design to tooling and then have them say, ‘Sorry, it can’t be built.’ We can’t afford those kinds of delays.”

NX™ digital product development solutions support Phillips Plastics’ start-to-finish development strategy. It allows the company to take a product from concept to tooling design using a single digital representation. The chemical splash goggles designed for American Allsafe provide a great example. The customer wanted a goggle that was low profile, lightweight, futuristic-looking, snug, comfortable and easily assembled. It also wanted one size to fit all users. Another key consideration was ventilation. The goggles had to be ventilated in such a way that chemicals, if splashed, couldn’t enter through the ventilation openings.

“We knew it would take dozens of design iterations to meet all these criteria, so we needed the flexibility to change the model easily,” says Wayne Phillips, who was the design team leader on this project. “That’s one of the reasons we chose to do this project in NX. It gives us the flexibility to constrain or not constrain geometry as we see fit, so changes can be made quickly. We also chose NX because while it has the freeform modeling capability necessary for creating sleek surfaces, these surfaces are also geometrically highly accurate, which supports our design for manufacturability strategy.”

Designing steel while designing plastic

Concept sketches of the goggles were drawn by hand and then imported into NX. The customer had supplied Phillips with a physical model of a human head, so that was laser scanned. The point data from the scan was converted into surfaces, creating a digital version of the head in NX. With this as a start, and some baseline data such as lens thickness criteria determined by an optics expert, the design work on the goggles began with the shaping of the surfaces using NX’s freeform modeling capability. As Wayne Phillips worked, he kept the tooling in mind. “When I’m designing the plastic, I’m designing the steel, too,” he says. Using NX’s solid modeling capabilities, he did things that many product designers don’t normally do, such as creating parting lines and core and cavities, as a guide for the tooling designers.

NX data was leveraged in a variety of ways throughout the development process. For example, it was transferred to mold flow analysis software to evaluate mold filling. It was also used to create physical prototypes. “We built SLA models from the NX files, and from those we created silicon molds,” explains Phillips. “Then we used two-part urethane to get a good representation of the finished product. This let us ensure a snug and comfortable fit without spending lots of money to build an actual two-shot mold.”

No production problems and an award-winning product

During the design phase, the tooling vendor gave its input about the manufacturability of the goggles. So when it came time to release the design to tooling, there was no “Sorry, we can’t build this,” even though the tooling was quite complex. The goggles required a two-shot mold with slides and side actions. The tooling vendor took the NX data and used it directly as the basis for the CNC programs that cut the tool steel. The fact that the design data was immediately manufacturable was key to helping Phillips meet its schedule on the goggles.

The end result of this project was what the customer had requested, and then some. The sleek look of the goggles, combined with the patented ventilation system, won the product a 2004 Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA) in Bronze from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and Business Week magazine, one of the most prestigious industrial design competitions in the world. This is just one example of how NX helps Phillips Plastics live up to its motto of “Total Design Solutions from Design through Production.” By giving the company extensive design functionality that integrates seamlessly with manufacturing, NX makes it possible for the company to create innovative products that can be built accurately and delivered on time.

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