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.
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 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”.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even the best drivers in the world have to worry about dents. You might maneuver carefully into a parking spot, but then someone carelessly parks too close, opens their door too fast, and—ding! Other cars can dent ours, no matter how careful we are.
Inventor and entrepreneur Mike Ardrey is striving to make these annoyances more preventable. He invented Dent Prevent, an adjustable, magnetic door guard that protects cars from bumps and scratches. For owners, that means peace of mind. Imagine being able to leave your freshly painted car in a crowded parking lot—completely stress free.
The challenge in creating Dent Prevent was the look: how could the device be attractive and effective?
Unfortunately, when Mike first created the project, he partnered with a manufacturer in China that returned low-quality results. Dent Prevent was a small startup dealing with a manufacturer on the other side of the word—communication didn’t improve, and Mike knew he needed something to change.
Mike met with Porticos US and Porticos Asia, to see if they could help with a redesign of the product and a better manufacture. The goal of the redesign was to ensure that the device was thinner, more attractive, strong enough to withstand environmental conditions, easier to remove (with absolutely no scratches!), and affordable for consumers.
When Porticos started the project, they had access to Mike’s original prototype. Unfortunately, the prototype’s quality plans were flawed, so Porticos redesigned the piece, focusing on fit and mechanism design details to improve manufacturability. The Porticos US team also worked directly with Porticos Asia to consider the supply chain, doing material identification and developing a specific quality plan with part level and final assembly standards. As they worked on the redesigned product, Porticos also developed an intense tolerance and reliability test plan, which could replicate the potentially harsh conditions Dent Prevent would face.
Together, Porticos US and Porticos Asia considered cost; they used a variety of material and enclosure combinations to align with the design and function requirements.
The redesigned device is a thin, inconspicuous product that can be easily elongated or shortened to fit the length of each door and secured in place with the incorporated magnetic strip. It can withstand motion and weather, and can be left on while driving and during inclement conditions. The device is affordable, and if the driver no longer wishes to use it, they can easily remove the apparatus from the door; it will not scratch the exterior, and will leave the vehicle looking damage free.
The effective product design, manufacturing and testing plans, and clear communication resulted in a higher-quality, impressive end product for Dent Prevent. The successful product redesign is an example of how Porticos US and Porticos Asia partner together for product design and high-quality manufacturing. For more technical details, please view the Dent Prevent case study in our portfolio.
We’ve all been there: worried that a loved one isn’t taking his medications or, perhaps worse, is taking medication improperly. It can lead to hospital stays, the inability to live independently, and lots of stress on patients and loved ones.
Spencer Healthcare Solutions, an RTP-based company, has developed a hardware and software platform to address this medical challenge.
The “Spencer” is a smart, connected health hub that dispenses the right pills at the right time. Since patients and pharmacists don’t have to sort or count pills with Spencer, the danger of human error is drastically reduced. Plus, Spencer can send reminder alerts and even connect patients to Spencer-trained pharmacists for questions and advice.
So patients and their loved ones can feel confident that medications are taken properly and at the correct time. If you’ve ever worried about a loved one on multiple medications, you know peace of mind is life changing!
Porticos Design Challenge: 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 Spencer device can properly dispense. For the Spencer that means a cartridge containing prepackaged foils of medicine. To meet this need, Spencer Healthcare Solutions engaged Porticos to develop the “Spooler”. The Spooler allows the pharmacist to efficiently and reliably package the patient-specific foils into a cartridge that can then be put into the Spencer unit for dispensing by the patient.
Creating a product with such a high-stakes role in patient health presented several challenges. First, the Porticos 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 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 to 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 engineers ideated a variety of unique mechanisms and performed design 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 a critical part of patient care.
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 manufacture. Case in point was an obstacle that was identified during initial prototype functional trails; specifically engagement and disengagement of the Spooler “arm”. The arm interfaces with a hub in the cartridge to perform the winding function. Originally, Porticos designed a traditional latching mechanism to secure the arm in place, but the team soon realized that optimizing (1) the forces necessary to ensure good engagement with the cartridge hub and (2) the need for the pharmacists to easily disengage the arm was problematic. To solve this challenge Porticos engineers devised a unique magnetic solution that not only meets the functionality requirements but exceeds the life cycle requirements as well.
As further testament to Porticos innovative contribution to the Spooler and Spencer products, Porticos engineers were named inventor on multiple patents.
“Porticos engineers did an excellent job of developing the spooler unit,” said Jeremy Bridges, Hardware Manager with Spencer Healthcare Solutions. “They worked very well with our team and were very responsive to our needs. We were especially impressed with some of the innovative solutions that they develop and were able to integrate into the product.”
Porticos Production Challenge: Balancing Cost and Medical Standards
Once the Spooler was designed, Spencer Healthcare Solutions needed a cost competitive production plan that could also meet the high-quality standards for medical equipment. Porticos Asia, the 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. 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.
Meeting The Challenge: Another Product Design Partnership
Through both the development and production stages, Porticos US and Porticos Asia were proud to support Spencer Healthcare Solutions.
“We consider Porticos to be a valuable partner in reaching our company goals,” said Ben Wetzel, Finance Manager at Spencer Healthcare Solutions. “They have provided excellent engineering and manufacturing support. Furthermore they have remained flexible throughout our engagement to meet our changing needs.”