Porticos Helps Create Mail Insertion System

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, partnered with technology and service innovators, Bell & Howell on the creation of The Ascender 16. The Ascender 16 is a mail insertion system that can insert a variety of shades of sizes as it pertains to mail and packages. Porticos’ hardware engineers collaborated on the development of the 4920 Format Turn Module for the Ascender 16 system itself.

This module makes the changeover process more efficient and accurate. The system’s changeover from a letter mail job to a flat mail job used to require time and a knowledgeable system operator, but this module reduces changeover need, and the amount of time needed to ensure the safe and reliable insertion of mail.

Module Hardware Design Specifications

The 4920 Format Turn Module contains a feed-through mode—or a “no turn” mode—which feeds unfolded and folded material with dimensions from 3″ to 12″ in length, and up to 0.25″ in width, or thickness. The module itself fits inside the Ascender system in the place of a previously used module, but adds no increase in size while also providing all the functions of the old module in addition to the format change capability that the module brings forward.

Porticos’ hardware engineers produced a software to accompany the module that is reconfigurable to either feed material straight through, or rotate flat stock material 90 degrees. The module is able to handle up to 1/4″ of materials that are 8.5 x 11 or A4, and turns 10,000 cycles per hour.

Concept Design Highlights

Porticos’ hardware design engineers originally faced some surface speed variations between belts and rollers, which posed as a challenge to consistent feeding. However, carefully tuning pulley sizes during prototype testing resulted in smooth operation.

Attention to all inertias and motor capabilities were important in the design concept. To accomplish the turn, the system is required to decelerate each packet from a transport speed of 150 inches per second, to a full stop. From there, it rotates 90 degrees then accelerates back to 150 inches per second. All of this occurs in about 1/4 of a second. Porticos was able to forsee the frictional characteristics and the durability of the rollers that accomplish the format changes were critical for proper operation. This then gave Porticos the foresight to carefully select materials, specialized coatings, and roller configuration. Overall, this led to a design that could precisely accomplish rotating the material 90 degrees while enduring long-term testing.

Porticos worked with Bell & Howell to develop the original, state-of-the-art Solix™ Mail Tray Loader, which handles up to 30,000 envelopes per hour. The revolutionary Ascender 16 system now has a module that enhances one of its more difficult processes, thanks to teamwork, innovation, and experience within Porticos’ hardware engineering team and concept design expertise.

QScout Farm Lab Production

Advanced Animal Diagnostics (AAD), a diagnostics center in Morrisville, NC recently partnered with Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC,  to create an innovative, cutting edge device that tackles the common and costly disease called mastitis in dairy cows. It’s impossible to determine if a cow has subclinical mastitis because it cannot be detected by the naked eye—that’s where Porticos and AAD come in!

Porticos’ engineers listened to the needs and ideas of AAD, then collaboratively designed QScout MLD Test to search for and detect subclinical mastitis within minutes. Not only can it be used outside, on a farm, it’s powerful, rugged, and easy to transport, making it available to be used by dairy farmers around the world.

Subclinical mastitis infections  don’t cause any visible changes in milk or udder appearance, and can often times be insidious–harming the cow long before farmers are able to notice and remedy the problem. These infections reduce milk production, decrease milk quality, and suppress reproductive performance. With the QScout Farm Lab, farmers are able to diagnose, detect, and treat quickly and without the risk of losing over 1,500 pounds of milk per cow.

Learn more about this incredible device below!

Porticos Creates Small HD 500 Series On-Camera Monitor

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, created yet another innovative, essential device—a 5-inch, full high-definition on-camera monitor. This on-camera monitor has a brilliant display, desirable form factor, and is easy to transport. Porticos’ hardware engineers’ goal was to design a durable, minimal, small-sized yet visually appealing, HD monitor that would be easy and reliable to manufacture and assemble.

Product Design Challenges Overcome

The concept design for the on-camera monitor required no major changes to the existing printed circuit board (PCB). This means that Porticos’ hardware engineers were able to create a design that reinforced the delicate HD display to improve robustness in both manufacturing and the end-use of the product. Porticos also created the design to shock-mount the display for improved product durability while simplifying product assembly. This ensures that in both transport and use, the on-camera monitor stays in place, and consumers can use without wondering if the device will go flying off their camera at any point in time.

The innovative monitor was created with an extremely durable chassis design, compatible for manufacture by machining or die casting, and its battery contacts is integrated into the rear cover. While there is a requirement added to integrate an infrared transceiver for remote control after the initial mechanical design was completed, it was done in such a way that it did not add to the size of the overall product.

Porticos’ hardware engineers created designs for mini-joysticks and placed external buttons in minimal space that are still easy to access and press, as well as an overall clean-looking design for use with or without a user-replaceable screen protector. However, this product was designed to be durable enough to work well without a screen protector, which can largely be attributed to the shock-mounting of the product to the camera itself. To maximize the small amount of space given, a hinged SD card access door was created and is located on the device in a manner that did not compromise the look of the exterior appearance.

Concept Design Highlights

Due to the demand for an on-camera monitor, the customer was able to utilize the same mechanical design for their 700 series monitors—which contains a larger screen—by scaling it up, reducing both the cost of development, and the time it takes to market. Additionally, the larger monitor size was able to sustain the same build chassis as the 500 series monitors which provided it with the same stability and durability.

Porticos Designs High-Impact Shield Mount for Construction Equipment

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC. This project is an example of Porticos’ design and engineering expertise, crafting solutions for heavy industrial machinery and other heavy equipment.

For the operation of large construction equipment, such as an excavator or backhoe operator, shields are undeniably crucial and necessary to execute the operation of said machinery effectively. During the hammering operation at quarries and in mining sites, shields protect operators from debris, and keep them moving forward steadily on difficult terrain.

With so many different cab models, it can be extremely difficult to focus on suggesting a certain type of shield while respecting industry specifications. This is due to the variety in cab frames, the sizes of the cabs, and what those who are handling the machinery hope to gain from a shield. The geometry and curvature of the cab’s glass also has to be considered, along with the location and availability of bosses.

Many frame designs require a unique attachment strategy for each cab style—because of the variety in location, depth and the number of bosses welded onto a cab’s frame. This leads to distinct and obvious issues with parts, training, installation, cost, and more.

Porticos’ hardware engineering team sought to create shield mounts that could both be strong enough to protect operators, and flexible enough to accommodate multiple cab models. This innovative concept design required attention to the industrial standard, and an awareness of the mechanisms used to make the cabs themselves function above all else.

To solve this unique product design challenge for this particular heavy industrial machinery, Porticos worked with many industry partners. From there, Porticos’ hardware engineering team developed a distinctive mount—a combination of brackets with slotted holes, universal ball joints and threaded rods that enabled the shield to mount to the frame of any cab without any issues.

Through this process, Porticos was able to find the perfect solution to reduce the number of unique parts needed for the installation of a sheila, and make a modular kit that is flexible enough to accommodate the majority of the varied cab model styles.

Porticos Develops Automated Medication Dispenser

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, and Porticos Asia, the Hong Kong team which leverages Asian manufacturing for US and European clients, collaborated on a concept design that ensures accurate and consistent medication dosing for those concerned for their loved ones.

This smart, connected health hub dispenses the right pills at the right time of day. Since patients and pharmacists don’t have to sort or count pills with this devices, the dangers of human error are drastically reduced. Plus, the device can send reminder alerts to patients and connected them to trained pharmacists who can answer questions and give them advice.

Finally, patients and their loved ones can feel confident that medications are being taken properly, at the correct time, consistently with this wireless device that could fit easily into any home. Those who have been ridden with concern for their loved one on multiple medications are finally afforded some peace of mind with this life-changing device!

Detail Design: Balancing Precision and Ease

One of the fundamental pieces of the platform solution is to provide the medicine to the patient in a format that the device can properly dispense. For this innovative machine, that means a cartridge containing prepackaged foils of medicine. To meet this need, Porticos developed and designed “The Spooler.” The Spooler allows the pharmacist to efficiently and reliably package the patient-specific foils into cartridges that can then be put into the unit for dispensing by the patient.

Developing a product with such a high-stakes role in patient health presented several challenges. First, the Porticos product design team needed The Spooler to be agile and dependable—small enough to fit on a countertop, fast enough to produce a medication pack every 30 seconds, and reliable enough to be a life-or-death part of a healthcare plan. It also needed ethernet capability, and an easy-to-navigate touch screen, so even the least tech-savvy patient could use it with ease.

As the name suggests, The Spoolers’ main function is to wind and unwind the foil packets of medication to fill the cartridge. One of the obstacles faced by performing that function while meeting the time requirements is for the medication packs to jam or be torn by the mechanisms during that process. To overcome this obstacle, Porticos’ hardware engineers developed a variety of unique mechanisms, and performed designs of experiments to prove out the concepts. As a result, Porticos was able to create a Spooler that winds and unwinds smoothly every time—a reliable solution for the most critical part of patient care for this device.

One of the key steps that Porticos advised all customers to consider as part of the design process, is to prototype the design to allow functional evaluation before proceeding to production manufacturing. Case-in-point—an obstacle that was identified during initial prototype functional trails, specifically engagement and disengagement, was the Spooler’s “arm.” The arm interfaces with a hub in the cartridge to perform the winding function. Originally, Porticos’ hardware engineers designed a traditional latching mechanism to secure the arm in place, but soon realized that optimizing the process necessary to ensure good engagement with the cartridge hub, and the need for the pharmacists to easily disengage the arm was problematic. To solve this challenge, the team of hardware engineers devised a unique magnetic solution that not only met the functionality requirements, but exceeded the life cycle requirements as well.

As further testament to Porticos’ innovative contribution to the Spooler and overall product, Porticos’ engineers were named as inventor on multiple patents.

Hardware Production Challenge: Balancing Cost and Medical Standards

Once the Spooler was designed, a cost-competitive production plan that could also meet the high-quality standards for medical equipment was needed. Porticos Asia, the hardware production services arm of Porticos US, was able to identify the perfect production spot for a custom build—one that could match quality and cost efficiency with an aggressive delivery schedule. Ultimately, they were able to ship the first batch of Spoolers just twelve weeks after the start of production—all the while analyzing the manufacturing flow for further cost reduction in future production runs.

For more examples of how Porticos is Product Design for the Way We’re Designed, visit porticos-us.com.

24/7 In-Line Monitoring Filter System

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, continues to revolutionize manufacturing, with a filter system that uses a series of in-line sensors to monitor fluid condition and filter performance 24/7. This system is not only beneficial to the manufacturing sector, it opens the door for product design/development of similar types within any sector of the industry.

The filter has been engineered to include data 24/7, meaning that consumers will never again have to monitor filters beyond what data is made relatively available to them. Cloud-based software then translates this data into easily understandable information, which reduces the amount of time needed to determine what the system is trying to convey. The filter also maps current conditions against historical trends, process variables, and predictive algorithms—another innovative product design decision.

The filter has also been designed to alert the user when the filter needs maintenance, and the RFID technology streamlines maintenance, verifying health and remaining life of filter. For many users, a product designed to take care of itself while doing the job it’s been tasked with doing is not only cost-efficient, but time-saving. This enables users to keep a close eye on the health of their manufacturing systems, without the hassle and inefficiency of weekly or monthly fluid testing.

Product Development Process

To create this filter system, Porticos’ engineers created a 3D print prototype of the filter, incorporating a RFID tag reader, RF-coupled antenna boards, LED ring status lighting, and an electrical box that gathers and communicates data wirelessly to the cloud. This prototype was then used to test electrical and software components, and Porticos’ engineering team developed several sizes of 3D models for injection molding, based on customer-requested design updates.

Porticos is proud to have been involved in the development of this innovative technology, and is responsible for the prototype, testing, and final product.

Porticos Attends SolidWorks World 2019

Porticos provides a substantial professional-development allowance for our engineers to keep them current on the latest methods and tools.  We intend to ensure that Porticos is efficient at finding and implementing the optimal solution for any engineering challenge.

Six Porticos engineers traveled to SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019 in Dallas, Texas.

SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019

Our engineers attended numerous classes and workshops with titles like:

  • Electronics Thermal Management
  • Using Structural Simulation Engineer to Solve Real-World Problems
  • Free Surface Flow Simulation
  • Designing for Additive Manufacturing
  • 3D topology optimization

They also met with partners specializing in additive manufacturing, robotics, materials, and other tools that make Porticos engineers ever more capable and current.

Porticos Travels to Dallas – and Establishes an Office

The conclusion of three days of education coincided with the cancellation of all Dallas flights due to smoke in the TRACON.  Our squad was forced to spend one more day in Texas.

Ever diligent, they found a way to get to make that day productive, establishing a temporary Dallas “office”.

Your Product Design and Development Engineering Consulting Firm is Growing. And 3D Printing.

With great support from our customers, employees, and partners, Porticos continues to grow. Here are some new things you might see around our office.

New Capabilities and Equipment

Every year, Porticos adds to our infrastructure to support upcoming projects.  In the last few months we have deployed:

  • Google Cloud “Virtual Machine” to speed up simulations. This virtual computer boasts up to 96 CPUs running in parallel, which dramatically accelerates Computational Fluid Dynamics and Structural FEA simulations.
  • Three-axis CNC machining center. Fabrication of Proof-Of-Concept prototypes no longer relies on manual machining or outsourcing.  We can now go from CAD to physical part in the same day.
  • Laser Cutter. This machine has been used every single week since we installed it in January.  It can cut shapes from most non-metal materials up to ¼” thick.  We’ve used it to make custom rubber seals, structural mounting plates, and alignment jigs.
  • 3D Printer. We’ve added even more 3D printing capability with a benchtop unit that can print up to 5 materials in a single model.

New Knowledge – No Rest for the Learned

We’re proud of our extremely well-credentialed staff.  Of course, every employee has an engineering degree, but some have gone further:

  • 6 have Master of Science degrees
  • 2 hold a Professional Engineer license
  • 8 have advanced CAD credentials (e.g., Certified Solidworks Professional)
  • Several have additional degrees including Mathematics, Physics, Material Science, Environmental Engineering, and Economics.
  • Plus a host of technical certificates like Six Sigma, Systems Engineering, Refrigeration, etc.

On top of all that learning, our top three inventors are named on 30, 27, and 24 issued patents.  Porticos employees now boast 115 issued patents, with more slated to issue later this year.  We are going to need a bigger wall…

Porticos Patent Wall
The Patent Wall at Porticos

Growing is a Pain!

Almost 12 years ago, Porticos purchased 7500 square feet at the Copeland Oaks office park.  It’s been our home and Global HQ ever since.  Back then it was more space than we needed.  We leased one third to another firm, and installed a pool table to take up floor space (and lunch breaks.)

Then we expanded.  We had to turn the “spare” bay into a workshop.

Then we grew again, banishing the pool table in order to add more offices.

Now the office and the workshop are both at capacity, and we are looking forward to continued growth.  What does the future hold?  A second site?  A mezzanine?  A new pool table?  Stay tuned…

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” -Benjamin Franklin

Collaboration on Medication Monitoring Device: Porticos and Porticos Asia

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, and Porticos Asia, its manufacturing partner, recently collaborated on a medication monitoring device that helps patients and caregivers keep track of medications via a smartphone app.

The device can be attached to prescription pill bottles at the pharmacy, and it tracks the weight of the pills with a high-precision sensor to determine if they are being taken as directed. The device then communicates via Bluetooth to the patient’s smartphone app. Downloading the app brings the patient into the device eco-system, providing the patient with medication reminders and providing their caregivers with a complete record of their medication compliance.

Product Design and Manufacturing Partnership

Porticos worked directly with Porticos Asia to rapidly deliver 2,500+ units for user trials on a tight schedule, working throughout weekends and holidays to meet deadlines.

Headquartered in Hong Kong and working with suppliers in the Shenzhen region, Porticos Asia is in the advantageous position of being able to provide low cost, high quality production to customers who may otherwise not have access to such capabilities. The focus on production services will include part, sub-assembly and full production manufacturing, supply chain management, cost reduction, quality control and order processing.

Product Design Challenges

Porticos is proud to have been involved in the conceptual design and development of concept of operations and device feasibility, and was responsible for the definition of requirements, the research of available sensing technologies (capacitive, resistive, strain gauge, etc.), and the proof of concept performance testing of sensing technologies.

Porticos also designed and built a fixture to efficiently program and test PCBAs during inline assembly testing, and designed and built a fixture for end-of-line checkout of devices with initial device calibration.

Porticos is proud to have been chosen for this project. For more on Porticos’ engineering consulting services, click here for a services list.

Product design for cooler pet beds. Literally.

A cool concept. A bed for your pet that will help them keep their cool, literally.

The Porticos team was approached to redesign a non-functional cooling pet bed.

Product design: Engineering challenges overcome by critical thinking

An interesting concept that had several pieces and parts from the different components involved in the bed itself, analysis of dc adapter or ac power, how to keep the fan quiet, portability, and cost.

Then there were design challenges the Porticos team met with enthusiasm such as: how to simulate a dog in a computer thermal situation, what device to use to actually cool the bed, what the proper amount of cooling should be appropriate for a model-sized dog, and which materials would be most efficient.

Engineering consulting for Fido

This was another successful design completed with a pet bed that becomes cool to the touch in only a few minutes, and can provide enough cooling for even a 70-90 pound dog.

See more about the cool pet bed by reading the technical case study here.