Ocean LED, Nuneaton, UK
Proto Labs, Maple Plain, MN
Richard Sant, Chief Designer at OceanLED, sought a fast and flexible way to make low-cost, high-quality components for the firm’s latest LED lights. He found the answer with Protomold®, the rapid injection molding service from Proto Labs®. Sant worked with the company's Telford, UK location, which has a full manufacturing and sales facility.
Ocean LED's Chief Operating Officer Nigel Savage originally set up the company to produce simple, maintenance-free marine lighting, but went on to develop what many in the industry regard as the world’s most advanced underwater lighting system. Owners, designers, and builders of private super-yachts use OceanLED’s light-emitting diode (LED) products to give their yachts a touch of elegance, including the firm’s trademark ‘unbroken halo of light.’
However, the company is now pushing into the fast-growing private boat market; hence the need for lower-cost, higher-volume products for direct sale to consumers, as well as the firm’s traditional bespoke lights for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Marquis Yachts and Viking Sports Cruisers.
Although OceanLED designs and assembles its lights in-house, they choose to partner with select UK engineering companies for manufacturing of the components. The new, smaller consumer lights are made from polymers, which means they can be mass-produced economically. Boats can use more light units, look great, and still keep their weight and energy costs low. LEDs don’t just appeal to the marine sector – they are increasingly used to illuminate docks, swimming pools, and buildings.
Richard Sant expects particularly strong demand for the firm’s latest Amphibian range which can be used above and below water. These advanced, high-output lights use injection molded polymer bodies that contain all the drivers and the dimmer functions, therefore “providing superior operation and versatility with fewer components and connections.”
As Sant points out, OceanLED had no experience making plastic injection molded parts for lights. “Although I’d been using SolidWorks to design mechanical products for a long time, this was my first plastic injection molded product.”
Protomold’s online ProtoQuote® service enabled Sant to upload his existing 3D CAD designs and receive a detailed breakdown of manufacturing costs and a report highlighting any design issues within hours. “The Protomold process allows an injection molding novice to design and order a part without any problems,” he says.
At first OceanLED used Protomold to make prototypes of the various mounting brackets for all three models in the Amphibian range, including the ‘foot and bridge’ components that make up the clamp. “Originally, we thought of making the mounting kit in steel,” says Sant, “but it was ugly and expensive.” He wanted the mounting system to be versatile, which meant being lightweight, strong, low-cost, and able to fit as wide a range of mounting points as possible. He found using ProtoQuote was ideal for optimizing the design because users can upload as many modifications as they like.
“Protomold makes and gives away various educational ‘toys’ to help explain the technicalities of rapid injection molding – but we soon realized they are definitely not gimmicks,” Sant stresses. “We found them very useful, especially the ‘cube’ and the ‘puzzle’. They helped us understand the process, the characteristics of different plastics, and what’s possible.”