Bioptigen Envisu Image System

Bioptigen, a technology leader in ophthalmology from Morrisville, North Carolina partnered with Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC to create the Envisu, a state-of-the-art OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). The Envisu is a system that produces detailed images of the internal structure of the eye for both clinical and research applications. 

Designers at Bioptigen needed to advance their product and they selected Porticos’s engineers for the design. Porticos optimized Envisu by utilizing the proprietary “engine,” while also mitigating annual production costs. 

Ultimately, Bioptigen considered a reduction in size & weight, with improved thermal performance and shock resistance. The designers also added the ability to disconnect specific components, which made the unit easier to build and service.

Porticos’ engineers partnered with multiple Bioptigen teams to identify the device’s most essential features, as well as areas that needed to be improved. Following multiple iterations of industrial design concepts and mockups, Porticos designed a new system that met all of the objectives.

This led to the creation of the probe interface module, which allowed interchanging the scanner probe in the base unit.  This module required adding a new connection point in the main optical fiber. The connection was executed with minimal signal loss and included a clever dust cover for the optical connection.

Separate optical and electronic modules were created, which were independently removable from the chassis for servicing.  This configuration assisted with assembly while a hinged electronics enclosure aided with debugging, allowing service personnel to access the interior while operating the unit.

A component layout was established to maximize thermal performance, and this was eventually coupled with the positive pressure fan cooling system. Hot swap hard disk drives were implanted, with custom shock mounts, rounding out the internals Bioptigen was looking for.

A unique optical fiber routing tray that accommodated an array of fiber lengths was fitted with size and weight distribution that, along with handholds in key locations, enabled disassembly of the unit to assist with portability during transport.

Porticos implemented lightweight and strong structural chassis, low-cost thermoformed covers, and removable spool to improve transportability, as well as adapted OEM medical cart to complete the system.

Overall, Porticos worked to improve product aesthetics and ergonomics, along with manufacturing methods compatible with a limited annual production volume and a simplified design. The engineers provided expertise with Design for Manufacturing (DFM), Design for Assembly (DFA), and Design for Service (DFS).

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.

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.

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.

Product Design and Development Example: Redesigned Gear Mechanism

Say this five times fast… custom involute gear mechanism that can convert rotational motion into precisely timed intermittent linear or reciprocating motion.

At first glance, this commercial generic gear mechanism is what the Porticos team needed. After looking into the fine details, however, it had many flaws, and it was a good start for a redesign.

Redesign Projects in Product Design: Proof of Concept

The team had a tall order with a short timeframe ahead of them to make a new design work as a proof of concept prototype. Detailed design included analysis of the gears, the turn knob, the spring and life of the spring, plastic and sheet metal component design of 27 custom-made parts, analysis of assembly tolerances, materials selection, detailed 2D part drawings with associated tolerances.

The team worked up several concepts, each building on the last. The final prototyped gear is by far easier to manufacture, has larger and stronger teeth, and alignment concerns have been eliminated.

When Product Design Leads to Patents

Kudos to the Porticos team as the customer submitted at least one design patent application with Porticos engineers named as the inventors.

Sleek New Design for Paper Product Dispensers

A new sleek, streamlined, and consistent look for paper product dispensers were designed and developed by Porticos engineers for the Von Drehle Corporation. The Porticos engineers were on board from concept through installation in customer locations.

Listening to their customers, the Von Drehle Corporation knew it was time to redesign and update the look of their paper product dispensers. They looked to the system engineers at Porticos who worked through multiple design requirements to fit various sizes and dimensions of products that could potentially be used in the new dispensers.

Product Design and Development Services

From initial ID sketches and requirements definition, prototype design and functional prototype testing, and all the way through to working with customer specified suppliers, Porticos met design challenges and tight deadlines to achieve an efficient, reliable, and attractive final product.

New Product Design for Paper Product Dispensers

The new designs have an improved locking mechanism for ease-of-use and high capacity towel and tissue capabilities which lessens the burden on maintenance staff.

Porticos product design example - Von Drehle tissue dispenser
New TranscendTM model. The twin jumbo dispenser is considered a controlled-use dispenser. It can only be used with von Drehle tissue to reduce waste, maintenance demands and costs, and holds almost 2,300 feet of soft 2-ply tissue.

White and a stainless finish are new color options in addition to the traditional black.

As an example of new product to the line is the Center Pull Towel Dispenser. This dispenser limits waste and cost by dispensing one towel at a time. This design also keeps the dispenser germ free and there will be never be a need to replace batteries. This design is perfect for kitchens, restrooms, food service areas, and anywhere a center pull towel dispenser works best.

For more information about this project, check out the case study here: Paper Product Dispensers Get a New Modern Look.