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Time to buy stuff!

March 21, 2012

We came to China to find suppliers for parts for our bike, so it was time to pull the trigger on at least one item.  Last Friday Tom and Ned hired a car and made the trip back to Star Prototype to talk to them about making the plastic box to hold our LCD instrument panel, the LED indicators, and some pushbutton switches.  In case it isn’t obvious, making plastic parts is a huge headache for small-volume producers.  Most of the plastic gizmos surrounding you right now are injection molded and the cost of the part is de minimis.  However, the cost of the mold is exorbitant — tens of thousands of dollars.  For small volumes, Star uses a technique where they make a mold out of silicone rubber and then pour in urethane plastic for the part.  We saw them making some really sharp looking parts using that technique in our last visit.

So Gordon Styles and his crew got in a scrum with Ned to talk about the fine points of making the part.  For the silicone mold method, there really aren’t many fabrication issues.  However, we wanted to have a design that could be rolled into injection molding later without many changes.  And I was amazed at the staggering amount of detail that needs to go into designing an injection molded part.  So the next time you throw that Happy Meal toy in the trash, think of the engineer who sweated blood to make it happen!

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