Prototyping for Technology Development
A key to the Technology Development Platform's effectiveness is having the right tools for prototyping. Platform engineers use conventional manual and CNC milling machines and lathes, but primarily use a system developed by inventor Dan Gelbart, co-founder of Creo (later a division of Kodak) in Vancouver. The key tool is the waterjet cutter, which uses a mixture of sand and high pressure water to cut any material from stone to tool steel, rubber to glass.
A further advantage of the waterjet cutter is the ability to work with sheet metal, particularly steel. This allows bending and spot welding, techniques quite underutilized in most laboratory shops, but which turn 2D sheet into 3D parts very quickly.
One of the drawbacks of waterjet cut parts is that they do not have the fine finish of CNC machined parts. The waterjet leaves a sandblasted surface on the cut sides, and the flat surfaces are not finished.
To give parts a finished look, Platform engineers use a small-scale powder coating facility. Powder coating covers surface blemishes, saving vast amounts of time in comparison to anodizing.
This waterjet based prototyping approach enables one-off mechanical parts to be produced with unprecedented speed, and with a quality of finish that makes them truly ready for validation in whatever process under development.