Keyshot Tutorial Series

If there’s one thing the Brighton Product Lab does better than most it’s teach. When we’re really good at something there’s nothing we enjoy more than sharing it with others so you can look to build on your own expertise.

Ex-University of Brighton Product Design student James Coleman has had immense YouTube success with his Maxwell Render tutorials, over 60 tutorials with nearly 150,000 combined views.

Now we look to another CAD render package, Keyshot, and this time the skill of James Palmer. To date, James has produced a few Keyshot tutorials with aims to release a whole load more. Simple to follow and well guided through, the tutorials make light work of showing you how to improve you’re renders tenfold even just using some basic skills and a powerful software package in Keyshot.

Brighton Product Lab Keyshot Series: Introduction

View all of the videos on our Brighton Product Lab Video Blog or check them out on our Keyshot YouTube channel and wait in anticipation for more.


Pentagon Plastics: Design for injection moulding masterclass 2014

Pentagon Plastics visits 12th and 19th March 2014

All images are courtesy of Martyna Konopka and Chloe Fong.

pentagon plastics 1

Injection moulding is a fascinating technical area. It’s one we hear of constantly in the design world, and for most designers it’s the knee jerk response to the age old “how’s it made?” question when designing anything plastic (often without really thinking about if it really is the best way). But it’s only when you go and see a real injection moulding company, and get to talk to real experts that you find out how much goes into getting parts made this way.

On a hazy but sunny spring morning after a nice cruise through the Sussex countryside we were greeted by Gabby Day (Business Development Co-ordinator) and Paul Edwards (Managing Director) who whisked us up into their small but professional seminar room. Paul then spent a good 50 minutes giving us an overview of the business and a masterclass on his experiences in the injection moulding industry. The company is a proudly UK, family run business with 28 staff based in Horsham who specialise in production injection moulding of thermoplastics as well as the tool making for these moulds. This is a rarity, most companies tend to specialise in one or the other, not both. It has a real benefit for Pentagon, since they understand both sides of the coin, they can find the best ways to do production runs, and they can design tooling (and everything that goes with it) to fit these production needs. They take responsibility for key stages in the moulding process, they have good input into designs (and do some design work themselves), and they need to know their stuff inside out meaning that they need real expertise: and they’ve got it! What’s great about Pentagon is that they’re open minded, they’re happy to work with people to meet their needs, and they’re happy to open their doors and share their knowledge to disseminate best practice and ensure the best possible result for their customers, for themselves, and for the industry overall.

Design Assistance

The company do design assistance to ensure that products that leave their factory are based on designs that are suitable for moulding, are well made and meet the overall needs of the client in order to be commercially viable. For instance, if a part has a hole, clip or undercut, then this may require an expensive side action on the tool, where it might be possible to redesign the component to minimise these tooling costs, or to setup the tooling to maximise the effectiveness of each shot. Often Pentagon finds that part materials can be over specified, with impressive materials that include high UV resistance or talc or glass fillers or other properties, which are often experimental or in some cases not necessary for the job and would bump up the cost of the parts considerably. They can also advise on the possibility of tool wear, and the implications that this might have for the costs down the line for the customer. For instance, if the material being used is a particularly hard thermoplastic and lots of parts are required for production, then the tool might be best designed with multiple cavities (e.g. to make 8 or 16 parts for every shot), or the tool might need to be reworked at some point down the line, or the tool might be best designed to have an insert that can be replaced later on once the tool wear gets beyond a certain tolerance. That’s where the experience and knowledge of the team at Pentagon come into their own, they are able to advise in such situations and work with customers to arrive at the best, most cost effective solution for the job.

pentagon plastics 2

On the back of such experience, Pentagon have produced their own Design Tips specifically for injection moulded parts, and also a useful Troubleshooting Guide to help understand some of the pitfalls and problems that occur with this process. These complement the guides produced by materials producers like Dupont and BASF, by big technology companies like GE and by other injection moulding companies like Protomold. Pentagon have kindly allowed me to publish them on my blog, and below are links to these:

Tool Design

Pentagon typically offer two types of mould tool solutions for injection moulded parts.

Firstly, a basic mould tool which involves a straight pull action, where the tool simply opens and shuts and the part pops out (or is popped out by hand or with pins). These tools have no inserts and tend to be the simplest to setup but require the entire tool to be purchased.

Secondly, there’s the modular insert systems for relatively small parts, often with lots of detail. There are screw in or push in types, and this allows customers the option of buying either the whole tooling setup, or just the modular inserts for individual parts.

Pentagon have 9 impressive machines, with the ability to deliver shots of plastic ranging from 1/2g up to 500g in mass, in thermoplastics with melt ranges from 150degrees C (e.g. PP), up to 390degrees C (e.g. PEEK). The platens of these machines (what the mould tool is mounted to) can deliver loads from 22-280 tonnes of force, which is required to resist the pressure of the molten plastic as it’s inserted (remember that pressure = force/area, so the force required is injection pressure x the external surface area of the part!). These machines are mostly automated, but not always since parts can be removed by an operator when production numbers are low enough, and when there is a special requirement for this (e.g. when there is a side movement required or when a loose insert is to be placed in the tool).

pentagon plastics 3

On Tour

According to Paul as we walk around the factory, the UK market for tooling and tool design is bouyant, since the lead time is actually better for tooling made in the UK (between 3-5 weeks quicker), when compared with the far east, and since some UK companies have had bad experiences with far east manufacturers, and UK manufacturers like Pentagon are now gaining from the reputation they’ve acquired as experts who’ve fixed problems that have been generated elsewhere. The other caveat that many UK companies have discovered over the years is that often tooling purchased in the far east doesn’t include ownership of the tools themselves, which often comes as a shock when attempting to move the tooling to a new manufacturer. Pentagon on the other hand don’t own the tools they have on the shop floor. There are over 2000 products made by Pentagon, all with tooling to go with them, and as we walked around inspecting the wide range of tools they have stored, it’s clear how much experience is available right there on the shop floor.

We are very grateful to Paul and Gabby and all the other staff at Pentagon who kindly took out so much of their time to share their knowledge, expertise and facilities with us over the period of two days.

Pentagon have also written a post about our visits to their facilities. To read their article, click here.


Read the original article on the ProductDes blog HERE

Reverse Engineering Products

The exercise of reverse engineering products involves taking things apart. Shown here is a simple Phillips Norelco Shaver (courtesy of Tristan Rose), displayed in a similar way to the mounted disassembled bike from Todd McLellan’s “Things come apart” image exhibition and now a book also showcased on the BBC website. I love this abstract method of visual display of a product. It’s amazing when you see the object in this form – there are so many parts, so many materials, so much design! Sometimes this can be done elegantly with a screwdriver, other times it needs prizing with a screwdriver, other times it’s an act of destruction by cutting things in half (or quarter) with a blade or saw, other times things can be unpicked, unlocked, unsnapped, or even thrown to the ground to be smashed (although only as a last resort!). You can take apart pretty much anything, but really good products to reverse engineer are those whose insides we’re not used to…those products we may be familiar with on the outside but whose insides are a mystery. Examples include remote controllers, cameras, shoes, phones, gearboxes, game consoles, joysticks, toys, other electrical goods like printers, irons, toasters, speakers, computers, VCRs (do they still exist?) etc. Ideally use something that’s defunct, that doesn’t work anymore, so if you break it (or can’t reassemble it!!) then you’re not too bothered. Freecycle is great, Ebay can be good too, so can charity shops, skips, or ask family and friends for broken things.

Figure 1: Philips Norelco Shaver (courtesy of Tristan Rose)

Figure 1: Philips Norelco Shaver (courtesy of Tristan Rose)

When reverse-engineering a product (and I recommend doing this often! – it’s a great way to learn), you should consider two things:

Firstly, consider what your objectives are. There’s lots to learn by taking something apart, but what are you specifically after? Try to refer this to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) principles by Boothroyd et al(2010) where possible. Below are a list of things SOME that you might want to consider.

Secondly, consider what you’ll need to disassemble the product. Will you need specialist tools? will you require personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of gloves, goggles, lab coat? will you need a cutting mat? will it be messy? will you need lots of space? how will you lay out the object to the best effect? will you need to re-assemble the object, in which case how will you layout and/or label the objects? when you record the process, how will you do this? pen/paper? photographs? if so, how will you stage this to get the best effect using a tripod? or how will you keep your camera/phone still? and with good lighting? with a suitable clean backdrop? will you be able to capture it all in one go or will you need to piece images together in photoshop? (for the big products – like the tractor – Todd McLellan (2013) did just this).

A sample list of things to take to a reverse engineering party:

  • pen and paper
  • a decent camera (or camera phone) and something to mount it on (ideally tripod) – also consider how you’ll take pics to maximise the visual effect (a nice matt white background is always good!)
  • white sheets of paper taped together to lay things out on
  • steel and plastic rulers
  • screwdrivers (normal size and small terminal size), both phillips and flat head
  • other flat tools for prizing open troublesome products
  • allen keys (and other specialist tools for unfastening?)
  • sharp stanley knives and cutting mats
  • blue tak or superglue (to hold small parts on the table)
  • sticky tape and masking tape
  • digital callipers
  • scissors
  • possibly board (painted white) and pins/screws/wire/fishing line to mount things permanently!

For the super keen, mount all the parts neatly onto a piece of painted board (possibly with a small label) and we’ll put it up in the studio!

General assembly/disassembly considerations (related to Design for Assembly – DFA guidelines):

  • how many parts does the product have? often products have individual part numbers actually shaped into an internal surface.
  • how many of the parts are standard? how many are “designed”?
  • how many different materials are actually used?
  • what is the assembly process?
  • to what extent is the product able to be disassembled at end of life?
  • what type of fit is there for the product? is it possible to measure the tolerances for any mating components to understand how much clearance or overlap is there?

Plastic specific considerations:

  • how was the part made? is there any evidence on the part to give you a hint? this could be a parting line (showing where the mould cavities meet), or an ejector pin mark.
  • what material is it? often it’s labelled.
  • what draft angles are used? you’ll need to measure this!
  • has the product been glued, ultrasonically welded, riveted, screwed, snap fit, other? look for clues before you take it apart.
  • what features are included internally and why? consider tabs, ribs to stiffen, bosses to screw into, slots to guide, other mounting features, strain relief etc.
  • what are the material wall thicknesses? these vary from main walls to ribs, bosses, other features. There are recommended wall thickness for different plastics. It’s always good to check that the material you’re looking at fits with these guidelines!
  • what are the thick to thin wall transitions like? are they suitable? are there voids or sink marks present on the part?
  • what are the surface finishes like on the surfaces of the part? these should give you a hint about the quality of the mould, or the requirements of the part itself. They can also help to show or hide any manufacturing problems (e.g. masking sink marks).
  • is there a mix of flat or curved surfaces? does the quality of their surface finish differ?
  • for any living hinges what’s the material thickness? and how have they designed this into the part bearing in mind moulding processes? this is clever indeed!
  • for any snap fits, what is the shape of the cantilever that “bends”? does it taper or is it straight? how does this fit with the design guidelines for snap fit? (or not!) are there signs of strain at the join?
  • if it’s a moulded part, is it a straight pull mould (ie where the mould can be pulled straight from one side to leave the part – with no undercuts), or would inserts be required to allow for undercuts to be produced? often there is evidence in the sign of parting lines to indicate various inserts for the mould.

Electronic specific considerations:

  • try to identify what electronic components are present?
  • try to identify which are sensors and which are actuators?
  • how are things mounted to a) each other, b) the case?
  • for any circuit boards, are the components surface mounted or through hole mounted?
  • are the technical specifications of the components obvious? what are they?
  • what does the main circuit look like? can you draw this? for battery driven products, are the batteries in series or parallel? and if so what’s the voltage?
Figure 2: Nikko radio controlled ford fiesta RS (courtesy of Chloe Fong)

Figure 2: Nikko radio controlled ford fiesta RS (courtesy of Chloe Fong)

Electrical specific considerations:

  • how has strain relief used for mains cables?
  • is there an earth? what colours are used for the wires? do they conform to relevant BS safety standards?
  • how is the wiring connected to terminals/pins?
  • is the casing suitably insulative?
  • is it waterproof? it’s worth looking into IP (ingress protection) requirements for electrical products.

Sheet metal considerations:

  • what processes were required to make the part? these could be cutting, bending, punching, rolling, stamping, etc…
  • in what order were these processes done? is there a way to tell?
  • what kind of fastening was used? welding, rivets, screws, glues, etc.
  • what kind of tools or punches were used to make certain features?
  • what are the bend radii for any bends?
  • are there any notable design features, e.g. reliefs in the corners?
  • are there any surface treatments used to finish, coat or debur the part?

Machining specific considerations:

  • what processes were required to make the part? drilling, milling, turning?
  • in what order were these processes done? is there a way to tell?
  • were any tertiary processes required to finish the part to give a particular surface finish or detail?
  • how was the object held while it was made?
  • are there any key datums, e.g. surfaces on the part?

Others? there are plenty more things to consider and to learn from these exercises!


Boothroyd, G., Dewhurst, P., and Knight, W. 2010, Product Design for Manufacture and Assembly, Third Edition, CRC press.

McLellan, T. 2013, Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living. Thames & Hudson.


Read the original article on the ProductDes blog HERE

Institution of Engineering Designers

iED talk 1

This afternoon we welcomed Laurie Rowe BSC (Hons) IEng MIED, a Design Ambassador from the Institution of Engineering Designers, in to the design studio to talk about the benefits of joining the iED as a student, a graduate and a practicing engineer and how gaining membership with the iED can lead to registration with the Engineering Council.

Laurie’s own engineering design career journey has seen her work on everything from Sheffield steel to Estée Lauder and from orthopaedic hip implants to Xbox.

iED talk 2

Membership to the iED provides professional and international recognition for engineers and designers and is a great way to further your engineering career.

Find out more about the iED and registration HERE | Find out more about the Engineering Council HERE

Post of the week: 3D Print a Pizza

3D printing is nothing new but in the last year 3D printing has crept out of the labs and workshops confined to printing solid prototypes, and in to new and unexpected fields.

The murmur of 3D printing food has seemed like a dream to many but with Barcelona based start-up Natural Machines developing the Foodini kitchen appliance perhaps we’re one step closer to designing, making and printing our own food without getting our hands dirty.


The Foodini is intended as a domestic device, and looks aesthetically clean in the house, while managing the time consuming parts of handmade food preparation that often discourage people from cooking at home, like rolling pasta dough, filling individual ravioli, and crafting cookie silhouettes. Streamlining the process, the 3D food printer creates shape, height, and volume independent of the user and can generate both large products like chocolate figures, and flatter foods like crackers. So far, the natural machines team have printed a bean patty, roll, and cheese sauce onto a burger, crafted pumpkin gnocchi, and fashioned a pizza from printer to plate. – Designboom


the Foodini home appliance 
image courtesy of natural machines