SLA Production Solution Cuts Tooling Costs in Wireless Device Testing

Faced with injection moulding as the preferred choice by its competitors, IndexSAR, specialists in performance testing the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for wireless devices in the mobile phone industry, needed to find a cost-effective way to produce low volume, high accuracy parts on a regular basis.

Mike Summerfield, director of IndexSAR, commented, “If we were to play against our biggest competitors, we needed to get the production solution right, and quickly. The mobile phone industry is fast-paced, responding continuously to new technological advances, so requests to test mobile wireless devices come in regularly. We had to find a flexible way of generating parts to hold the many variants of mobile device within different positions tailored to the testing requirements. It needed to happen quickly and without the repeated need for expensive tooling costs associated with injection moulding.

SLAs offer a cost-effective solution. The added value for us lay in our supplier relationship; it was not just about the machine. We’ve benefited from knowing modelmakers and engineers would be on the receiving end of files for checking and problem solving where necessary.”

IndexSAR has grown significantly, now claiming a 40% share in the marketplace.

IDC Models has produced numerous parts with low dielectric properties used to position the mobile wireless device in a phantom hand in relation to the dummy head developed by IndexSAR during the testing process. The positioning is repeatable and representative of how the devices are typically held by users. Each variant set of parts is distinct but all parts built for that variant must be geometrically identical to ensure consistency when testing devices across the mobile communications industry.

Stephen Knowles, managing director of IDC, explains, “This is an unusual application of SLA printing because it is not just a quick-fix option. It demonstrates how an SLA can work to directly impact a company’s bottom line as a considered low volume production solution. With low set-up costs, flexibility and fast response rate at its core, this really shows how 3-D printing can offer a balance between cost and precision efficiency which brings lucrative benefits to businesses.”

With the recent emergence of regulatory bodies concerned with safety around the use of wireless devices, IDC Models will continue to work with IndexSAR to provide a full production solution which will make use of IDC’s range of engineers, model makers and designers to deliver the best option for safety testing new mobile communications devices.

9 May 2014