Plastic Prototyping Reduces Chassis Development and Improves Quality
March 28, 2013
Rugged computers are usually designed specifically with a certain purpose or mission in mind. If the rugged computer system can’t perform that function at a no-fail level, it is not usable. One way to make sure that the quality level is met is to subject the model to multiple environmental tests. At Germane Systems, we perform these tests in our Mechanical Engineering Lab at our Chantilly, Virginia location.
The first step in developing a new chassis is to transfer the SolidWorks CAD design to our Stratasys 3D plastic prototyping system. The 3D printer creates a full size chassis using an ABS-like thermoplastic that is both rigid and can withstand high temperatures.
There are lots of articles in the press lately about how 3D “printers” will soon be in every home. While this may be true for the desktop hobbyist the $500,000 to $1M price tag for a system large enough to create a computer chassis makes these tools a major investment.
The advantage to developing an ABS working prototype for rugged computer systems is the creation of a full scale product. The plastic material creates the right strength prototype surface. The 3D printer allows for a quick turnaround time. A 3-dimensional chassis for server, computer or storage system can be printed and assembled, in 48 hours or less.
Once the prototype is built it serves several purposes. The actual computer components can be installed to check for proper fit. Once a working server is fully assembled in the plastic chassis testing for airflow, thermal, and electrical operation can be performed. Because of the wide temperature tolerance of the material the prototype can be fully tested in in the thermal chamber.
If a problem is located at any point in the development process it is easy for the Germane engineering team to design the modifications and quickly “print” another chassis to validate the new design.
Companies that don’t make the investment in plastic prototyping tools spend weeks and large amounts of money having actual aluminum or steel chassis prototypes fabricated. If they have design changes it becomes necessary to repeat the process until they have solved all the issues that can occur during a design. This cost in time and money may make it tempting to take shortcuts or make decisions to live with less than optimal designs.
Germane’s decision to invest in a 3D prototyping system saves their customers weeks of design time and development cost. Along with the in house prototyping system Germane’s Mechanical Engineering Lab also has a shock table, vibration table, acoustic chamber, air flow test bed, thermal chamber (temperature, humidity and pressure) and a machine shop all at our facility in Chantilly, Virginia. By having an entire environmental test suite in one place we can dramatically reduce the time required to develop a rugged computing solution that meets your specific requirements.