One-of-a-Kind Tooling Solution Validates Volume Manufacturing

Thalmic Myo Case Study

Background

In January 2014, Model Solution, a Laird business, was contacted by a Canadian start-up company trying to validate the mass production potential of its wearable device design. Thalmic asked Model Solution to help determine whether its innovative Myo touch free control design could be efficiently produced through tooling. The Myo armband offers touch-free control of technology with hand gestures and motion. Via a wearable presentation remote, the Myo gesture control armband reads a users muscle activity and hand motion to control presentation software. In order to move forward with the next round of funding, Thalmic needed to prove to investors that the touch free controller could be manufactured at a reasonable cost.

Challenge

Thalmic approached more than 20 companies trying to verify its final product design for mass production. None of the 20 companies believed the Myo wearable device was suitable for mass production. The device contained a long flexible PCB that was very difficult to work with because it did not have the restitution force necessary for efficient assembly or injection molding. Choosing suitable materials to be used in the injection molding process also proved difficult. The wearable device also needed to utilize a flexible, yet rugged material to provide a comfortable user experience with high reliability.

Solution

Model Solution accepted Thalmic’s cooperation development offer and took on the additional challenge to reach the mass production stage instead of just stopping at development support stage. Working with the Thalmic engineering team over a seven-month period, Model Solution’s design engineers created a one-of-a-kind manufacturing solution that included insert molding and sub-overmolding. This included making a thin flat FPCB into a U-shape, increasing its force of restitution. After selecting a suitable material, Model Solution was able to draw upon its advanced concept of quick-turn tooling and utilized a combination of semi-automatic and manual tooling. Model Solution not only helped Thalmic prove out the design, but also developed a way to hold the flexible PCBs in place while molding around them. The Myo armband was the first device to be made from this type of tool.

Results

After numerous pilot runs, testing, design and tooling development, and continual exchange with Thalmic engineers, selection and procurement of materials, and incoming inspection, Model Solution delivered a finished, working Myo armband to Thalmic. In total, 14 individual tools were used to produce the production run. The Myo muscle recognizing wearable device was successfully shown to the public, and drew keen interest and attention. As a result, Thalmic successfully received sufficient development funds from its investors. Thalmic continues to introduce new products to the market and is in the stage of growth. This case demonstrates Model Solution’s ability to provide solutions to start-up companies in need of materialization of their product designs.

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Thalmic Myo Arm Band Production Model
Thermoplastic polyurethane with flex PCB and laser markings