Keyless entry fob
When I started working at KIWI, they had decided they wanted to move away from their off the shelf product that they had been using to house the electronics for their wireless entry key fob. After a brief bring up time at the company, I was asked to try and design a new enclosure for their product. By working with an industrial designer they had previously hired, and some work already done by him, I finished the core design work to bring this product to production.
My first task was to produce a large quantity of forms that could hold the battery required, and had enough space for the PCB and antenna for the functional component. Each of these designs are moldable with work, and have features for attaching to a keychain. The first round of internal user testing allowed me to establish which of the designs had a chance of matching the brand aesthetic we were looking for at KIWI. Once this initial design work was done, I moved on to physical testing.
Once I had a few viable candidates, I went to FABLAB in Berlin to have the parts printed. As the only mechanical engineer at KIWI, the in-house tools were very limited. After printing, with parts in hand, I returned and began passing the form parts around for user testing. Because the parts had to live on a keychain, I had to make sure that the form would not cause issues while stuffed in a pocket. In the end simplicity won out, and the smallest design with a square shape won out as the favorite from user testing.
Beginning with simple form renders from the industrial designer which did not quite suit our needs, I built the form in CAD and continually refined the profile to have slimmer lines while still having the required geometry to hold the PCB and battery. From there I began to work with the manufacturer to make sure that my features would be moldable without any large issues. After a substantial back and forth, and multiple refinements, I was able to lock in the mold design.
The final design consisted of four pieces: the case, battery, electronics and top sticker. The case, PCB and battery are potted together to make the PCB more impact tolerant and make the KI impossible to crush on accident. The top is a printed plastic sticker, which allows for easy customization for different customers such as DHL or Deutsche Post. This Ki was designed to have a multi-year battery life, and as such the Ki was not designed to be user replaceable.
By the time I finished my ten week internship, we had purchased mold tooling and it was being cut. Fast forward in time, and the part that I designed is integral to their core physical product. This was my first industry exposure to injection molding, and was a tremendously important learning experience. Thank you to Jeff Katz for asking me to do this project, and when I said "I have no clue how" for throwing an injection molding manual at me and having me do it anyway.