Making (light) waves01 August 2011
Richard Sant is excited for OceanLED's future in the super-yacht market. On his office wall is the blueprint for a vessel measuring 148m in length; having six engines, several decks and lots of lights. Despite yachts like this costing hundreds of millions of pounds, business is booming. To capitalise on this, OceanLED plan to move beyond bespoke super-yachts to develop higher-volume products for other growth sectors: a plan involving a fundamental rethink of the firm's manufacturing techniques, inevitably leading them to rapid injection moulding.
OceanLED 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. Its new, smaller consumer lights are made from polymers, meaning they can be mass-produced economically. Compared to traditional light sources, LEDs are very energy efficient, producing less heat. As a result, boats can use more light units, while keeping their weight and energy costs low.
Richard pointed out OceanLED had no experience of making plastic injection moulded parts for lights. "Although I'd been using SolidWorks to design mechanical products for a long time, this was my first plastic injection moulded product. Like most people, we started using a Chinese company, but, frustrated with the quality and costs, we looked for someone who could do a better, faster job – that's when we found Protomold."
Richard was pleased with Protomold's online ProtoQuote® service, enabling him to upload his 3D CAD
and receive a detailed breakdown of manufacturing costs and manufacturability report, literally within hours. "The Protomold process allows an injection-moulding novice to design and order a part," he says. "It gave us complete control and it's close to home – it's good to know we are using a company in the UK."
Once OceanLED had finalised the design of the mounts, he was able to order relatively low volumes of production-quality parts from the same mould. As a result, kits can be sold separately, retailing for around £15-20. "At the moment, we order 500 each time," he comments. "Using traditional steel moulds in China ,we would have to run off thousands to make the tooling economical."
Looking ahead, Richard Sant sees even more promise in the architectural lighting. "Our lights are essentially a green alternative to traditional lighting, making them valuable as both decorative and functional building lights. We intend to make the most
of it, with the help of Proto Labs."
Proto Labs, Limited
T +44 (0) 1952 683047
F +44 (0) 1952 683048
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