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.
Police need reliable technology that can work overtime. Fire responders need loud, clear communication tools that work in any environment. EMS need multiple communication channels, so they’re always accessible. They all need their equipment to be as tough as the people using them.
But just like the rest of us, emergency responders also need their technology to be portable. When Harris, a leader in communications technology, was ready to work on the development of a smaller, LTE-capable portable radio, Porticos was proud to answer the call.
Harris has been a leader in radio technology for over 80 years, meaning many of Harris’ customers have already purchased accessories for other radio series. They knew that the new radios would need to remain backward compatible with these accessories while channeling cutting-edge advancements in size, durability, and quality.
The radio would have to offer the best in communications technology, including extended battery life, superior audio quality, plus GPS, Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi, and LTE capability.
Most important, they would need to be built tough: sealed against water, protected against drops, and ready to work in fast-paced, sometimes dangerous environments. Furthermore the radios needed to be easily upgradeable to allow the customer to take advantage of LTE technology or upgrade from single-band to full-spectrum at their convenience.
Balancing the need for durability and portability is a challenge that Porticos has met before. Porticos team members focused on each aspect of the design to ensure that the modular construction wouldn’t impact the durability. For example, in order to meet this project’s goals for extended and upgradeable battery life, Porticos developed an external, replaceable battery with an innovative latch system that is both easy to remove in the field and durable enough to stay in place during harsh use. This allows for easy battery replacement in the field or upgrades to higher capacity batteries for customers who need it.
“We tested the product in some incredibly harsh environments to ensure that these radios will be reliable in the field,” said Porticos engineer Mike Kiplinger.
With the end customers in mind, the Porticos team also spent a lot of time considering ergonomics. As a result the radios’ side buttons and top switches were designed to be easy to operate and replace, but also reliable enough to stay in place during use.
Porticos is proud to have been chosen by Harris as a development partner and of our ability to achieve world class results by developing the smallest full-spectrum LTE-capable portable radio on the planet; the Harris XL-200P.
The popularity of IoT—or, the Internet of Things—isn’t difficult to understand; after all, IoT is the field of smart watches, phone-controlled homes, and t-shirts that can measure your heart rate. It’s a field brimming with innovative startups, investments from tech heavyweights, and research in medical, military, industry, and consumer applications.
As an engineering firm helping companies meet product-design goals in those same fields, Porticos proudly sponsors NC RIoT, our state’s IoT think tank.
The NC Regional Internet of Things, or as it’s better known, NC RIoT, is one of NC’s largest meetup groups. Hundreds attended last month’s RIoT IX event, which asked asked RIoTers, “If you had $10M to invest in IoT, where would you invest?” Keynote speaker Daniel Chu of Verizon Ventures was on hand with his answer, describing his organization’s investment approach when funding IoT companies.
“The power of Porticos’ sponsorship goes beyond their investment,” said Larry Steffann, General Manager of the Wireless Research Center and co-founder of NC RIoT. “It’s true that we couldn’t do what we do without our sponsors’ monetary support, but we also need expertise. RIoTers can look to the team at Porticos for examples of successful product design, for case studies about testing and verification, and for guidance on how to grow ideas into manufactured products.”
NC RIoT found a home in our area for the same reason that Porticos decided to open in the RTP: local talent. Porticos’ team of engineers have undergraduate and advanced degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and quality engineering, plus experience across industries—making our team uniquely qualified for any product development challenge. The Raleigh area is similarly unique; with major names in higher education, medical research, and tech, our area is poised to foster the research need and opportunity of IoT.
“Porticos is excited to be a new partner and sponsor of the RIoT phenomenon,” said Porticos CTO Kevin Carpenter. “RIoT isn’t just about building our local skills and connections. It’s about encouraging other companies to relocate to this area, because Raleigh is where real IoT gets done. This is where you go to find the expertise. This is where you go to take that next step and actually develop a product.”
Both Porticos and NC RIoT benefit from the talent and opportunity in our unique area, and NC RIoT is helping more and more companies learn that Raleigh is where IoT is happening.
We also have a similar focus on innovation. NC RIoT’s mission is to harness the power of IoT and turn that energy into opportunity for our region. Similarly, Porticos works to harness the power of good ideas and to develop innovative solutions that bring products to market effectively. Whether we are working with a customer on research and ideation, concept development, prototyping, testing and verification, or manufacturing support, we innovate at every stage of the product development process.
Like NC RIoT, openness to new ideas is at our core. We hope to see you at a future RIoT event. Check out their schedule at www.ncriot.org, and make sure to stop by our booth to learn why Porticos is product design for the way we’re designed.
When your inventory and your company assets are expensive, it’s good to know where they are and how they’re doing. But tracking devices can be bulky and cost prohibitive, meaning only the biggest of budgets can afford the luxury of resource tracking.
ViaTRAX QuickCheck Asset Management (VQAM) is the new solution: it’s a uniquely durable and cost-efficient GPS-based asset tracker, about the size of a deck of cards. Its affordability could bring the security and logistics of asset tracking to more industries than ever before. Built by the ViaTRAX Automation Corporation, VQAM is one of the smallest, longest lasting and simplest GPS asset trackers in the world, at a price in reach of small- to mid-size companies and individuals.
But because the device needed to be both small and capable, ViaTRAX Automation partnered with Porticos to develop the product’s plastic enclosure. ViaTRAX realized that to achieve the form factor and durability required, they needed to partner with companies experienced in developing rugged wireless devices. Porticos and Device Solutions were the obvious choice to meet ViaTRAX’s development needs.
The Porticos team had to meet very demanding product requirements for this design. The team had to ensure the plastic enclosure would keep the device small while also providing room for a battery, circuit board, sensors, and mounting flanges while maintaining a small footprint. Furthermore the device needed to meet ingress protection standard IP67 (waterproof to 1 meter and dust tight) while maintaining a discreet look.
“After decades in the tech industry, our core team has a lot of experience in software and business in general however we are relative newcomers to hardware design and manufacturing,” said Sean Webster, VP of Business Development. “Porticos has been so helpful in the design process. They were friendly, attentive to detail and helped us learn along the way. We are very pleased with the final design and are impressed with the final product. We would not be where we are today without the help and expertise of Porticos.”
What makes the VQAM even more capable is that it can provide location information even when a GPS signal is unavailable,” explains Porticos Lead Project Manager Ludmila West. “In those situations, for example if the asset is inside a metal building, the VQAM switches from GPS location to using the cellular towers for location.”
The VQAM is a small, durable, battery powered GPS asset tracker which can be easily mounted to the asset. It is built to operate for up to three years with periodic location and health reporting. Overall, this dynamic unit is ideal for inexpensive asset tracking across industries and consumer types. The ViaTRAX VQAM is another example of how Porticos Designs Products for the way We’re Designed.
Porticos is a proud to be a bronze-level sponsor for North Carolina’s premier electronics trade show, PCB Carolina 2015.
In addition to exhibiting at the event,Porticos President Greg Patterson will be leading a session, “Designing the Complete Product.” The lecture, one of the 11 technical sessions this year, will look at the importance of inter-discipline collaboration with regards to successful product development and provide the hardware and software disciplines with insight into the thought process of the mechanical engineer.
Mr. Patterson will illustrate case studies of good design practices and how they might impact hardware or software as well as describing the tools available to the mechanical engineer, including when they are used and how they can improve the quality of the design.
“This is our fourth year supporting the PCB Carolina event,” explained Porticos CFO Sean Ahr. “We are proud of the success that the event has achieved and our small part in helping to achieve that success. We are especially honored this year that they have invited Greg to speak at one of the sessions.”
Visit www.pcbcarolina.com to learn more about the event and sign up to attend. If you aren’t able to attend Mr. Patterson’s lecture scheduled in Classroom 4 from 9:30 to 10:30, please stop by the Porticos booth to say hello and learn how Porticos does Product Design for the way we’re designed.
As Back-to-School supplies fill store shelves, Porticos prepares to say goodbye to three interns who will be returning to their academic careers after a summer of work with the engineering team.
Before the interns returned to their books and labs, their Porticos mentors took time to spotlight their impressive contributions in product design, prototyping, problem solving, and more.
Intern Multitasker Extraordinaire
“Alex is the most entrepreneurial intern that we’ve ever had,” said Kevin. “He finds something important to work on with little direction, and does it in a way that benefits his colleagues. He’s an excellent communicator, and his grasp of the engineering sciences is stellar.”
Alex was in demand at Porticos this summer, often pulled onto two or three projects at the same time. He multitasked and prioritized, while keeping the focus on his main project – the design and prototyping of a wine storage device. In the fall, Alex returns to an intensive dual-degree program, including a combination bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University and a double-major bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and Mathematics from Elon University.
“I enjoy working at Porticos because I get to pester a team of creative and intelligent engineers by asking way too many questions, which is not only allowed—it is encouraged,” said Alex. “I am fortunate to be able to shadow a group of well-rounded engineers who are able to view a product from the lens of each step of the process, and analyze the details from different viewpoints without losing sight of the overarching goal.”
3-Time Porticos Intern
“Now finishing his third summer at Porticos, Ryan is simply part of the team,” said Porticos Partner and Chief Engineer Kevin Carpenter. “That is high praise: a rising senior functioning as a full-time, degreed R&D engineer.”
This summer, Ryan was largely responsible for the development of two different products, and the Porticos team hopes this is just the beginning of a lengthy portfolio. He’ll be sorely missed in the fall when he returns to NC State to complete the final year of his Mechanical Engineering degree.
“Porticos is unique in that the work I get to do is very similar to the work done by the full time engineers,” said Ryan. “I spend the week working on projects, creating models and drawings, interacting with professionals from other companies, and working through real engineering problems. After talking with my friends who have found internships with other companies, I have not found any other company that gives its interns this much experience and responsibility.”
The Inaugural Summer Intern
“Andrew shows great potential and impressed everyone with his attitude and maturity,” said Greg Patterson. “We look forward to having Andrew join us again next year.”
Andrew, a rising sophomore at Villanova, joined Porticos’ intern program for the first time this summer. However his “newbie” status did not prevent him from providing valuable contributions to several projects under the guidance of Porticos’ senior engineers. He was involved in a variety of activities ranging from prototype build and assembly efforts in the workshop to creating dimensioned drawings. In the fall, Andrew continues his major studies in mechanical engineering with a minor in environmental science.
“While working at Porticos, I’ve most enjoyed watching employees solve problems,” Andrew said. “Porticos employees that I’ve worked with have impressed me with their unique creativity when tackling problems that arise during projects. I have loved shadowing them in the workplace and I have learned so much from it.”
Thank You, Interns!
Ryan, Alex, and Andrew made significant contributions to the Porticos team this summer. We appreciated the opportunity to work with them and wish them the best for their fall semesters.
To learn more about the projects that the Porticos engineering team has worked on, take a look at our portfolio.
The students focused on how the vest might be used by firefighters, one of the many applications of the CO2-powered cooling vest. They had to evaluate important factors related to firefighter equipment, harsh environments, and user needs to develop possible design changes.
David and PJ were at Porticos in April to review their project goals, design challenges, and recommendations with the Porticos engineers and local community members. They demonstrated the new features of their vest design, discussed possible areas of future research, and took questions and suggestions from the audience.
Check out clips from the students’ presentation:
The students’ main findings were that small amounts of energy could be captured and saved using thermoelectric generators, thanks to temperature differences in the vest. The students suggested that this energy could be used for a lower-power signaling technology, applicable to the needs of firefighters and possibly other industries, such as medical or military.
“Porticool is an exciting early technology application for the thermoelectrics being developed in ASSIST, and we are grateful to Porticos for providing such a fantastic educational opportunity for our students” said Tom Snyder, Instrusty Liaison with the NSF-funded ASSIST center at NC State.
The students’ revised design used two CO2 tanks, rather than a single large tank, for a more balanced fit for the user. The students were able to design the vest so that the main connectors were inside the vest, which results in less of the cold being lost to the environment during transfer. Additionally, their vest fabric used a lighter weight, melt-resistant antimicrobial fabric.
Porticos designers will be able to explore more of the students’ design, and their test results, now that the project has concluded.
“I was very pleased with the level of creativity David, Brian and PJ brought to the project and the subsequent results they were able to achieve. I anticipate that we will integrate some of the concepts that they developed in future upgrades to the production design,” said Porticos President Greg Patterson.
After presenting the project to Porticos, David, Brian and PJ took the project to the Textile Engineering & Textile Technology Senior Design Poster competition, which was held in conjunction with Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), and the Engineering Entreprenuer’s Program (EEP). 84 projects were presented, and the team won 3rd place in technical design category.
The senior design course provides TECS students a chance to design, create, and test complex engineering systems before they graduate. By sponsoring this project, Porticos supported a real-world, goal-based project for these three students, challenging them with the kinds of technical problems, commercialization processes, and product design challenges that the Porticos engineers engage with every day.
Porticos would also like to thank Dr. Jur and Dr. Gorga for the opportunity to sponsor this senior design project and looks forward to sponsoring more projects in the future.
This season, the Porticos team continued the holiday tradition of giving back to the community by working with Durham non-profit CAARE, Inc.
Our crew helped establish an innovative healing garden that will provide therapeutic benefits and skills training for our nation’s veterans. Our Porticos volunteers pitched in to construct raised garden beds and a hoop greenhouse, built an ornamental pond, and spruced up the existing building to make an inviting space for therapeutic activity and relaxation.
“The work that Porticos did advanced the Aquaponic / Horticulture project at CAARE towards completion. It will be extremely beneficial to veterans who will eventually live at CAARE Durham facility. It is very rewarding to know that we used our engineering skills and helped build something that will in turn help Veterans transition back into civilian life and learn invaluable skills about organic, energy efficient and self-sufficient healthy food growth,” said Porticos Design Engineer Ludmila West.
Supported by partner Aquaponicfood4thought, the CAARE garden will help disabled veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. The energy-efficient, aquaponic design features a greenhouse and handicapped accessibility. By working on the garden from seedlings to harvest, veterans will learn the ins and outs of sustainable food production in a multi-function aquaponic garden. Organic produce and fish raised by the veterans will be distributed locally—in the community kitchen, the CAARE food pantry, or at market.
Because healing takes more than just medical care, CAARE supports clients with a range of approaches to health and healing. And because we are committed to serving our community and helping those in need, Porticos is proud to be a part of this promising project.
Special thanks to Porticos employees for contributing their time and energy to the project. For more information about the therapeutic garden and aquaponics, see CAARE, Inc. and Aquaponicfood4thought.