We joined the Spyder5 project after the original industrial design company dropped the project midway through. The task in front of us was to fit a newly developed optical module into a housing design that had been worked over for months with the industrial design firm and already had buy-in from Datacolor’s key decision makers.
A major obstacle was that the newly developed optical module would not fit into the designed housing without significant adjustments. Injection molds for the optical module were already completed and a tooling change so late in the timeline was out of the question.
On the other hand, the product management team feared the Spyder5 housing that had been so carefully designed would be compromised if it were changed to accommodate the large optical module.
No work had been done yet to engineer the housing for manufacture. It only existed as a CNC machined foam shape. A host of small but potentially time-consuming engineering challenges still lay ahead:
A method to create the correct amount of drag on the USB cable to allow it to be adjustable for hanging on center vertically on a wide range of monitor sizes needed to be proposed and refined. The team had several ideas, none were immediately practical considering the time constraints.
A dust cap was a key feature of the housing concept, but there was as yet no good way to affix the dust cap onto the housing reliably.
There were various other small questions that commonly appear in enclosure design:
How would the enclosure be fastened together?
If screws would be used, how would they be concealed?
How would strain relief be handled?
At the time of this project, Zaic Design had only recently been incorporated, and my wife and I were based in south west China, in the Yunnan Province. We took a series of flights to New Jersey and got to work.
Within four weeks and several rounds of prototypes, all the issues in question had been resolved and we had a solid mechanical design ready for injection molding.
We returned to our home in China to work on the engineering drawing package. To ensure that the molding process went smoothly, we flew to Shenzhen for a first article inspection. Within a few days we were able to work out all remaining details related to fit and cosmetic quality, so that the design could be released to pre-production assembly on schedule.
Spyder 5 had a worldwide release and enjoyed a very successful product life until it was recently replaced by the completely redesigned Spyder X product.
Credits: Zaic Design, Datacolor AG
DC200 Enclosure Design and Mechanical Engineering
We were contacted about this project while in the middle of a move from Yunnan, China, to Tokyo, Japan. This would be the first of several projects that made us realize the need to invest in prototyping machines to minimize downtime.
We flew to New Jersey for a project kickoff meeting with Datacolor. The task was to design a housing for Datacolor’s DC200, a new benchtop instrument that would replace the popular but aging workhorse, the DC110.
The challenge was to replace the old housing and extruded aluminum frame with a more modern looking injection molded plastic enclosure over a sheet metal frame, while at the same time keeping the COGs at or below that of the older unit. This was especially challenging because overseas labor costs were rising year over year by multiple percentage points.
We returned to Tokyo and got to work, using local Japanese 3D printing and sheetmetal vendors for prototyping, with my wife Yumi as translator. We found very few tradesmen in Tokyo who could communicate at all in English. We were also frustrated by the fact that any prototyping work in Tokyo would have multiple week lead times, which was far longer than what we were used to, albeit with flawless quality.
These unexpectedly long delays forced us to spend long hours adjusting prototypes with hand tools the best we could, and a decision was made to purchase our first CNC milling machine and 3D printers to enable same-day prototyping whenever needed. Despite unexpectedly long hardware lead times, we delivered completed prototypes on schedule and got to work creating a full drawing package for manufacture. The DC200 quickly moved to production with minimal surprises and is currently an active Datacolor product.
Credits: Zaic Design, Datacolor AG