In the past we have 3D printed and used Reaction Injection Moulded (RIM)plastic parts in-house, which is fine for a small batch of products. For a mass produced AgileVR the engineering team need to make changes, and the AgileVR needs to be designed for the correct mass-manufacturing technique.
Each new process requires different design requirements, and 2 major changes.
Firstly, the AgileVR has now been re-designed for injection moulding. This will allow the team to produce the product in large quantities and this will be outsourced to professional moulding companies.
Secondly, the electronics will be outsourced to specialist printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturers. Initial small quantities have already been purchased and are being tested.
Most of the parts are to be injection moulded, including the foam padding, however, to maintain high precision and quality, the joint will be CNC machined out of high quality aluminium. This again will be outsourced to a professional supplier.
All final assembly, testing and quality control will be done in-house.
If you are not familiar with the injection moulding process, here is a small workflow to help understand why we are going to this form of manufacturing.
Plastic Pellets are added to the hopper and heated up during its movement from the hopper and through the screw. It is then injected under pressure into a high precision mould tool. The tool will be split into 2 or more pieces and will pull apart to reveal a plastic component after cooling. Injector pins will automatically drop the part out of the tool ready for clean-up.
This manufacturing technique allows parts to be made very quickly and to high tolerances. Cycle times can be less than 30secs. Due to the complexity of each mould, they can be very expensive and the process is only viable for bulk orders of parts.
Assuming we have a successful Kickstarter, a series of further prototypes will be made which will be thoroughly tested by us for quality and durability.
These prototypes will be in-house 3D printed with our own FDM and DLP 3Dprinters. Testing of components and assembly will be done during this stage. All design for manufacture (DFM) will be completed as well.
Once the first batch of AgileVR prototype are completed, testing for consumer use will begin. This will include in-house gameplay testing, focus group gameplay testing and community initial testing.
At Mechatech we want to produce the highest quality product as possible for the consumer and initial backers. DURABILITY, QUALITY & FIT are the key parameters for the mechanical prototype.
As mentioned before, the electronics have been prototyped and manufactured for our first prototypes. Connectivity between the custom electronics and the VR games and experiences will be tested thoroughly. This will involve hours of gameplay in the office on the major VR titles and major headsets. Testing for minimal latency and stable connection as well as many other parameters will be completed at this stage.
We then will take them to electrical and safety pre-compliance testing by certified companies to make sure they are legal to sell worldwide. The consumer can have confidence that the product they receive is safe and meets all regulations.
The early version product has provided a great base for compatibility. The new product will use the same methods to make it compatible with many top rated games and headsets straight out of the box.
Only once we are completely satisfied that the product is suitable for mass-production will we greenlight the production of the mould tools – which is the major outlay. We aim to complete our testing and final design changes by the end of July 2020.
The tools will be machined from steel and this is very expensive. One set of tools will allow us to make 50,000 AgileVRs. The plastic parts also need to be ordered in bulk, which is one of the main reasons for the Kickstarter – it gives us a big first order.
We have already designed the product with injection moulding in mind and lined up a series of quality suppliers. The mould tools will take up to 2 months to make, so will be ready to use by mid/late September 2020.
As part of the mould tool production process, our supplier will send us a small batch of parts for us to review the quality. This is part of the DFM, as they will want to check we are happy with their work. We will also order a batch of the final production electronics to arrive at this time.
This is a key point in the design process, it will be the first time we test our production quality prototypes!
We’ll assemble these, testing for quality and fit of parts, and then put them through exactly the same set of tests as above. We will again focus on durability, quality, fit, electronic connectivity, compliance and compatibility.
We also plan to attend some industry shows and get 100's of people to use them. By mid-October 2020, we will know if any final changes are required before the green light is given to mass-produce.
There is a small chance that the manufacturing technique and design could cause unwanted flaws or problems, so any changes to the design and to the mould tools will be done at this time. This may take a further month to turn around.
We are planning that by late November, even with revisions, we will be able to order the first final design mass production run of electronics and parts, which should arrive in late December early January.
We will need some new members of the team to assemble and test the products, along with support staff for the software setup etc. We’ll be hiring and training them in November/December 2020.
Once we assemble the production models, we will test them in house, pack them in our custom packaging and begin distributing them to the ultra and early bird backers first, followed by everyone else. This should start in early January 2021.