Engineering to Save $5000

Upon receiving our pre-owned 3D Printer we discovered the machine was having a few issues.  However, we expected a bit of work to flush out the bugs.  When the print head was removed to troubleshoot a clogged extrusion nozzle, we discovered a much larger problem …

The material extrusion nozzle and heating tube appeared to have sprung a leak during the previous ownership.  There is quite a large amount of material now extremely hard and carbonized (plasticizers all cooked out).  Left unchecked, the material would continue leaking eventually rendering the head unusable and unrepairable.

Without knowing how the print head is constructed, the only option was to disassemble the entire head.  We were able to put the partially disassembled head back into the machine to heat the nozzles back up (seen in the picture above).  The material was slowly and carefully pulled away from the nozzle while soft.  Once the material was pulled from the heat tube, it solidified into a rock-hard substance within a minute.

We pulled out the heating tube causing the problem, removed the foil and fiberglass over-wrap.  Most of the leaked material residue came off with the foil exposing a clean heat tube and heating element.  It wasn’t until now that we identified the source of the problem.

In the picture above, notice the inlet buffer (tanish brown plastic looking disk) is broken leaving a small piece left in the center of the heating tube.  Also, note the material residue on the face of the inlet buffer.  The material had been leaking between the fractured inlet buffer.  This was most likely caused by a clogged extrusion nozzle in combination with a stress fracture in the inlet buffer from the heating and cooling cycle.

How do we fix this?  First, let’s call Stratasys and see if they have a replacement ….

PRINT HEAD, FDM2000, WATERWORKS ABSi …………………… $5000

Ouch!  Now, we’re totally dedicated to getting this machine functional as we have a decent bit of money already into its purchase price.  However, if we invest another $5k, we’re probably better off buying their new machine for $15k.  Now it could be suggested that this is Stratasys’ planned obsolescence.  Maybe, maybe not.  The head is so complicated and designed for low production (expensive to manufacture parts) that it actually does cost that much to rebuild every part in quantities of less than say 5 at a time.  You’ll get a glimpse of this in a second.

Now what?

The part we need is very simple and something we could make in about an hour or less with the right equipment.  Pull out the calipers and let’s get this done…


Only one question… What type of plastic can hold the tolerances we need (+/- 0.001″) throughout the temperature range of the heating tube (room temperature to 290 degrees C) ?  Phenolic? No.  ABS?  Not a chance.  Engineering plastics ?  Absolutely now which one?

Cut to the chase… Polyimide is typically sold in very thin sheets or adhesive tape for insulating electrical circuits but is also solid in bars at about $71 per inch.  We can’t just chuck up just one inch in the lathe and what if we need another one?  Wow… the hits keep coming.  We found a surplus 5″ bar for about $150 and got it done …

One minor improvement was made where the small boss meets the large disk.  We added a radius to reduce the stress caused from the coefficient of thermal expansion differences between aluminum and Polyimide.  A chamfer had to be added to the heat tube to clear the new radius.

Heating tube reinstalled into print head (on right).

Because the head was taken apart, the tip offset between the model and support tips must be adjusted.

Back in action…

After replacing the clogged nozzle that started all of this, the machine has worked quite well for us.  We’ve had some minor hiccups and a lot of calibrating to do but all is well now.

Read More

Rendering the Apple iPod nano 6th generation in SolidWorks 2011

Well, we’ve finally got SolidWorks 2011.  They’ve made some tremendous improvements with rendering through the new PhotoView 360 (in contrast to PhotoWorks from 2007).  Lately, we look for every excuse to render something.

Here’s the new Apple iPod nano modeled to exact dimensions (as provided by Apple) and rendered in PhotoView 360.  It took under 60 minutes to model, choose material and decals, adjust the scene and render the final.

iPod nano 6th generation rendered in SolidWorks PhotoView 360

The quality and time savings in comparison to several years ago is incredible.

Read More

A True Craftsman

Here is a gentleman who takes great pride in hand building vacuum tubes.  Not only does he build them by hand but he uses equipment that appears to be custom made.  If you enjoy watching a craftsman at work then checkout this two part video:



Read More

Beautifully CNC Machined Titanium Lanyard Rings

After many weeks, months, or years in development, every Engineer loves to finally hold in hand his/her work.  There is no better a reward than admiring something you’ve created (at least for the Engineering / Entrepreneurial minds) even more so if it works!  I am not sure why but I also thoroughly enjoy machining parts and watching parts being machined.

These are 6AL4V (Titanium) lanyard rings we had machined for a consumer product.  If I remember correctly, each one took about 30 minutes to complete on a 3-axis Vertical Machining Center.  These were beautifully machined by a very talented machinist and it showed.

Video Notes: This part is made from 6061-T6 aluminum and turned on a slant bed CNC gang lathe.  This was done by one of our partner factories located in Shenzhen, China.  We work with them quite often and have had great success thus far.  Check out the video annotations for details …

Need something like this designed?   Even if you are in the beginning stage of your project give us a shout and we can help answer some of those questions with no obligation. Visit our contact us page and lets talk!

Read More

How we manage our clients using web 2.0 CRM …


As any business owner will tell you, the back-end of the business is always the least enjoyed.  This includes administration tasks such as book keeping, managing client’s and lead’s contact information, invoicing, and project management.  To make all of these things less painful, we have evaluated numerous software packages and web 2.0 applications.  Here is what we’ve decide on for managing contacts, proposals, leads, and all things related to winning and keeping you as a client.  This is also known as a CRM package.

How do we keep track of your requests and information?

As a shameless plug for the service we use, I have included their banner at the top of this post.  Highrise CRM is one of the best web-based CRM packages available today.  In a nutshell, it allows us to keep client information, proposed, new, and ongoing business, and email chains.  We BCC highrise on all emails related to you or your projects so we can easily access key decisions and see conversation history.  When they receive a BCC’d email, their software will determine which client we sent it to based on the “to” address and attach it to their portfolio.  We can even break it down into projects in the event we have multiple parallel projects.

Why web based?

We evaluated other complete packages such as openERP to find that they were very complicated and had a steep learning curve.  Additionally, they would need to be installed and maintained on our server.  Not only does this add additional cost to our hosting expenses, but it means that we have to spend time on something that is not our core competency.  Highrise has very affordable month-to-month packages that are less than one billable hour of our time.  I spent well over 8 hours just installing and trying to learn openERP only to give up and look for something easier.  If you just consider the expense of switching from a standard web-hosting package to a virtual private server (VPS) required to host openERP is nearly the cost of Highrise CRM, then it becomes a no-brainer.

How does this benefit our clients?

This first and foremost reason is keeping our overhead down.  By keeping our overhead costs down, we can also keep your development costs down.  In the long run, these savings will allow us to maximize your funding to include additional features or even an entire additional project.

What’s next?

We have three other web applications that we’ve decided to start using for similar reasons.  These help us with project management, book keeping, and invoicing.  I will cover these in three separate posts very soon!

Let us add you to our Highrise CRM software and make you a customer today by visiting our Contact Us page!

Read More

Energy Harvesting and the Green

Here at Incredilution, we are always on the lookout for new and upcoming technologies to use in our client’s projects.    While energy harvesting is not new, many of the most promising concepts leverage cutting edge technology.

Energy harvesting is the process of capturing and storing ambient energy.  This energy can be in the form of radio waves, heat, vibration, wind, solar and  many others.  We are especially interested in harvesting techniques that can be leveraged for use in an embedded or small device environment.  Below we’ve identified some ideas worthy of further investigation and monitoring for improvements.


Here is a company that specializes in Piezo energy harvesting.  They use large piezoelectric elements with lever arms that vibrate at a specific, narrow band of frequencies to generate power.  Their units are relatively large for their power outputs and they must be used within certain narrow band frequencies.  However, this may be a good solution if your requirements fit within those constraints.


Just about everyone is familiar with solar technology using the standard monocrystaline silicon wafer (blue/green metalic look).  The problem with these is that usually they’re quite large for an embedded application.  Additionally they have very low output voltages making them tough to economically integrate into a design.  A company by the name of Clare (an IXYS Company) has taken a similar technology and repackaged it  in the form of an IC (integrated circuit) that can be directly soldered to a printed circuit board.  They’ve used new technology called silicon-on-insulator (SOI) to fabricate a tiny, yet high voltage solar cell.   We can take an array of these in parallel and build a very small device that is either solar assited or completely solar powered.  These ICs cost around $0.60 in quantities over 500.  In the world of energy harvesting, this is pocket change.

Electroactive Polymer (Artificial Muscle)

EAP (electroactive polymers) material is quite neat.  They will change shape when a voltage (typically very high >1KV) is applied to them.  Depending on how the material is layered they can bend, contract, or turn into crazy shapes.  One of the technologies that falls under EAPs is dielectric elastomers.  These can also be used to generate power by flexing, bending, or streching the material.  There are thousands of applications for this type of energy harvesting.  One interesting one was the concept of sewing this material into a shirt.  The deflection of the material from normal human movement would generate a small amount of power.  Check out the link and video below:

Read More

Don’t Miss Out on the next Wireless Boom!

In the last decade or more we’ve seen the proliferation of consumer-oriented wireless devices.   These devices use technologies such as Wifi (802.11) and Bluetooth (802.15.1) to achieve long range and/or very low power functionality.   As these technologies are perfected, they are gradually making their way into smaller, less expensive devices like cell phones, headsets, mp3 players and the list continues. These standards however are not going to create the next wireless boom. Look out for something much smaller in much higher quantities.

The ARC Advisory Group predicts  “The market for wireless devices and equipment in process manufacturing will grow to over $1.1B in 2012, a growth rate of 32% per year…”  They go on to explain the reason for this large growth is due to large reductions on installation cost.   As an engineering company, we see many semiconductor manufacturers coming out with new wireless chips and modules.  There are two large paradigm shifts in how wireless devices are being designed that we’ve noticed in the last 5-7 years.  The first is one-chip radio solutions where only a single chip (IC) is required to provide wireless functionality.  The second is called a System-on-a-Chip or SoC and refers to a one-chip radio and microcontroller solution.  This allows the system designer to not only add wireless functionality to their device, but integrate it into the existing “brain” or microcontroller that was already in their  system.  Essentially, they’re consolidating what used to be many chips into a single one.  This integration lowers the cost to develop, certify (regulatory compliance) and manufacture a device.

Here is a device that has USB 2.0, a UHF radio transceiver, a Microcontroller, AES Encryption all on a single chip the size of your fingernail!!  Imagine the possibilities!

These new SoCs also have several other interesting benefits.  The two most notable are that of size reduction and power consumption.  By integrating the wireless and processing “blocks” into a single chip and sometimes even the same die, the chip manufacturers are able to drastically reduce the chips footprint.  The SoCs are also able to share some functionality thereby saving power.  Furthermore, advances in semiconductor manufacturing technologies have allowed the chips to be manufactured using a newer semiconductor process.  This new process helps the chips to run at higher speeds while consuming less power.

So why is all this important to you as our client?  These new advances allow for many product ideas that may’ve previously been impossible now very possible.  The new wireless boom isn’t limited to industrial uses.  There are already entrepreneurs putting these devices to use in the most obscure of places.  Some of the ideas we’ve heard include winery humidity monitoring, soil moisture monitoring, personal sensor networks, road, bridge, and building monitoring.

Come up with an idea and give us a call!  We can help you find the best solution to ensure your product is sucessfull!

Read More

Why you should LOVE the Snuggie (or the marketing of)?

Yes, yes, yes… I know, you HATE the snuggie commercials right?  I didn’t mind them so much initially even though I felt the product was ridiculous. Now that I’ve seen it so much I can’t help but mute the TV.  There are plenty of parodies on YouTube regarding the snuggie.  I won’t post them here as they’re not appropriate for wide audiences. If you’d like a good laugh, head over and check it out.

A quick search on Google will yield results that show just HOW popular the snuggie is.  According to multiple sources (through Google), they’ve sold over 4Million snuggies!!  This translates into over $80M in gross sales.  How?


Marketing 101:


EASY to purchase:  Check out their website (NOT affiliated) and what is the first thing you notice?  Their landing page is ALL that they need!  You don’t have to dig for the price as it couldn’t get any bigger on their site.  They have a video which explains how it works and you can purchase right on that same page, ingenious marketing!!


NEED: Using their video, they’ve conveyed the problem and the solution to something you may’ve not even been aware of.   They created a need.  You don’t have to instantly convert but guess what?  The next time you use a regular blanket I bet you’ll at least think of the snuggie.  If you ask nearly any female who actually uses blankets with regularity, they will agree then it IS a pain to have to snake your arms out of a regular blanket.


VALUE:  In the beginning of the video they imply you can keep your thermostat low to save money while using the snuggie.  This helps the consumer justify the purchase.  In their mind they compare the $19.95 price to the cost of raising their thermostat a few degrees.


FEELING: Did you notice the video on their website uses a monotone filter for the first portion of the video where they show a distraught blanket user?  They then switch to normal full-color video with vibrant snuggie colors and pleasant music (somewhat).  If you didn’t, go look again.  This gives you feelings regarding the old blanket vs the snuggie.


I didn’t cover all aspects of their marketing but you get the point without the boredom.  Pretty neat huh?  It doesn’t take much of a product just a great team.  We are that team and while we may not be the marketing and promotion experts, we can help you get in contact with the right people.  If you are successful, we are successful!


Want some more pain?  Maybe you’ve seen the Bumpits?  If not, check out their website… and look for another post about them soon!!


Read More

MADE IN CHINA … Is Sourcing Overseas Right For Your Company?

Sourcing overseas has become so common that it’s almost impossible to not consider it when selecting new suppliers for your business. Thousands of companies offer every product and service under the sun, and it’s hard to imagine the good ol’ U S of A could ever compete. There are definitely downsides though, so arm yourself with knowledge to ensure you make the right decision for your business.

1.) US standards do not apply … so go overboard on details and specs for quote requests.

The tiniest detail left unspecified can easily translate to a quote that’s for something close to – - but not exactly what – - you want. If your requirements are flexible, you can get some amazing deals. If not, you might find yourself extremely frustrated. The grade of material may be different than what’s considered standard here, a plastics plasticizer used might be something ok in China but banned under CA’s Prop 65, or your Pantone color match might be a few shades off. ALWAYS get samples before making a production order, to ensure that you really know what you’re buying. Ask plenty of open-ended questions to be sure you’re fully understood, and even ask for photos of the factory if your product would require specialized equipment. It’s very common for people to farm work out to others without telling you, which adds another layer of potential problems and miscommunication.

2.) It takes thirty to forty-five days to get my stuff? And then I have to go through Customs??

Logistics and transportation are no small matter when electing to purchase offshore. Ocean freight is cheap, but it generally takes 30-45 days. Your shipment will have to go through US Customs after it arrives, requiring a whole host of paperwork and fees. You’ll probably have to hire a company to act as your Freight Forwarder and Customs Broker unless you’re really adventurous and want to try to navigate through US Customs yourself. Even with a Broker you’ll be juggling details like whether your supplier is sending the original Bill of Lading by air, or if they’re doing a Telex release. If the details aren’t ready in time, your shipment will sit in Customs indefinitely while you pay storage fees. Air freight (like UPS) is much faster (2-5 business days), and they’ll handle all that paperwork for you … but you’ll be paying at least $4/kg. It is not at all unusual for airfreight to be more expensive than the products being transported. Yikes!

3.) This whole transaction looks shady … is this really the norm for China/Taiwan/India?

A lot of oddities that might indicate fraud in the US really are just the norm overseas. Yes, the person you’re emailing will probably call themselves by an English name that you’re pretty sure they made up (Paul, Salina, Alex, Tiger, Coke … I’ve heard a lot of interesting ones!). Yes, their email address is often hotmail, yahoo or gmail. No, their English isn’t all that great (I send lots of pictures along with any specs … with plenty of arrows, circles, comments, etc.). Yes, they’ll want 30-50% wired to them before they begin work. No, their banking information does not seem in any way related to the name of their company, and may not even be in the same town. Yes, they’ll want the remaining balance before they release anything for shipment … and if what shows up on the boat 45 days later doesn’t look like exactly what you want, you’ll probably have a very difficult time getting any type of resolution.

Side note: On large amounts, you may be able to negotiate a Letter of Credit rather than just a cash wire transfer – - highly advisable if at all possible, as it brings a bank’s oversight into the equation. The money is still effectively gone from your account as soon as you set it up, but you do at least have some recourse if issues arise.

Bottom line … there are great opportunities available in China, Taiwan and India for the wary buyer who puts in the extra work to mitigate potential risks. Weigh the pros and cons, do your homework, and you’ll be ready for success.  If you have any questions feel free to give us a call or email us.

Read More

The Harbor Freight Phenomenom – Leveraging China

This place is like a grab bag of randomness for the tool junky in you. If that isn’t bad enough their website is from 1989 and they have an unending supply of catalogs and I seem to be at the top of their list. Just when I’ve finished reading one catalog partially for entertainment factor and partially for interest, I get another one!!! I’m not quite sure why I read them when it’s much easier to find parts on their website (as bad as it may look).

We’ve all heard about it before … manufacturing being moved overseas and people losing their jobs. Even though most people refer to this as the China syndrome, China isn’t the only guilty party. India, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea to name a few, all contribute to helping us move our manufacturing overseas. The interesting part of sourcing overseas comes when you find out that its not nearly as easy or as straight foward as it may seem. Each country has their own manufacturing specialty, communication idiosyncrasies, payment policies, and costs of business. Look for the nitty gritty on these areas and more in upcoming articles written by Kim our “Master of Sourcing.”

A healthy side effect is the affordability of many of the items manufactured overseas. This article is entitled “The Harbor Freight Phenomenon” to cover just that. Below, you will find some incredible pricing disparities. I won’t say that the quality, support, or even functionality is equal for what I’m about to show you. I will say this, for the prices involved one can nearly afford to discover the quality of the item and dispose of it without incurring much financial harm. We would never endorse such wastefulness, however it is a very real side-effect of this pricing model that all of us as humans must deal with in the form of land fills and recycling.

Exhibit A:

So I have a project I’ve taken on at home that involves building some wood cabinets. Since unfortunately Engineer != woodworker, I rely on my woodworker friend to advise me. He said I should get a corner clamp to make my life easier when gluing and nailing my boxes together. What he didn’t realize is where I intended to purchase it from or the price at which I’d obtain it.

Here is one that can be found on Woodcraft’s website for $29.99 and is part #145962. I wouldn’t say this is a terrible price however it is all relative. The marketing experts say one of the first actions a customer takes is to evaluate what they feel the product is worth. If their evaluated price is close to the sale price then the rest is history.

Woodcraft Corner Clamp

Here is a similar unit from harbor freight for……….. a whopping $1.99 part #1852-7VGA. They are not exactly the same but for an expert woodworker such as myself, I obviously have made the decision that they will both work and are equivalent for my intended purpose. I do have one of the Harbor Freight units on order but it is backordered so I’ll have to wait to give an opinion on it’s quality.

Harbor Freight Corner Clamp

Exhibit B:

Once again, my woodworker friend recommended that, for a clamp, I look for something called a pipe clamp. I know most mechanical engineers and woodworkers are familiar with these. I, on the other hand, was not and recently discovered how handy these guys can be. It’s essentially a clamp that can be made as long as you have pipe (within reason). Once again I visited my favorite tool junkie website, harbor freight.

First I will show you an option this woodworker “friend” (is he a friend if he isn’t looking out for my pocket book? debateable!) suggested. This is from his favorite place, woodcraft. For a low, low price of $15.99 you can get the beauty seen below part #15I01.

Woodcraft Pipe Clamp

… But wait, call now and receive this guy (below) for only $3.99 part #3813-1VGA pipe not included.

Harbor Freight Pipe Clamp

I received this exact part today (actually 2, what good is only 1 clamp?) and examined it closely. As you can imagine it is a low quality casting with a paint job looking like it was done in billy bob’s front yard. The wedge (slanted silver strips of metal seen in the woodcraft picture) that allows the second half of the clamp to hold onto the pipe is not at all designed like the woodcraft version. It uses a toothed, camming lever that wedges itself up and against the pipe. I have my doubts as to how well this will work but for $4, how can you go wrong? Surely I will be able to modify it or use it for something else.

Exhibit C – Finale

Getting older is full of many wonderful and not-so-wonderful experiences. There are many times when just knowing how to do something correctly could’ve saved me hours, days, or even weeks of frustration. One of these such times is when I discovered that many of our interior and one of our exterior doors don’t actually latch. Instead, the striker hits the plate instead of entering the opening in the plate to secure the door. This is an easy fix but being an engineer, I figured there HAD to be an adjustment somewhere on the door. I looked everywhere (short of consulting Google) and found nothing. Finally, I mentioned it when we had an inspector in the building and boy was I embarrassed to find out the answer. Dumbfounded was I when I listened to him describe to me how to move the striker plate down using a chisel or router (fancier). It seemed such a hack to me, like adding jumper wires to a circuit, I despised of the thought I’d be left with a chiseled door frame. I shortly got over it and fixed what I needed to. The only problem is I used a screw driver instead of a chisel. Yes, it was a pain. Yes, it was ugly. Yes, I didn’t remove enough material. Thus I lead you to my last and final purchase…. CHISELS!!!!

Woodcraft Chisels (Qty 4) part #148104 for $34.99

Woodcraft Chisel

Harbor Freight’s Chisels (Qty 6) part #3816-1VGA for $5.99

Harbor Freight Chisel

Now I have to say that I know these are no where near the same quality however for MY intended purposes cheap is on the order of the day. Just for the record, I DO appreciate nice quality tools however it is hard to convice myself when the choice is between NO specialty tool (screwdriver vs chisel) or a budget specialty tool. For good measure I have included a picture below of some of the nicest chisels I’ve ever seen. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve caught myself lusting for…. chisels for $45.99.

Beautiful Chisels

My point of this entire (overly lengthy) post is that great savings can be had by considering overseas sourcing. It does not matter what industry you are trying to source parts as nearly all are affected. There are some exceptions and they usually are in cases where there is little to no human labor and a large capital investment or the cost of shipping becomes the limiting factor. A shipping limitation example would be for something such as a large plastic water tank. They cannot be stacked inside eachother and each one holds thousands of gallons of water. If you can only fit 100 in a container your cost of even ocean freight may exceed the cost of manufacture. In this case it may be possible that it is still economical to source these overseas but this isn’t always the case.

We can help you with all of your Engineering and Supply Chain needs. Sourcing overseas is not trivial and we have all the bangs and bruises to show for our education. We would love to share what we’ve learned and help you design and source your products. Give us a call and we can talk you ear off or give you some quick insight.

Here’s a link that has a LOT more regarding Harbor Freight and the quality of their tools.  It even has a list of the ones not to buy.

Read More
Page 1 of 212»