Inside Google ATAP: Blending Preproduction and 3D Printing

The Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab focuses on the future of products and production.

The Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab focuses on the future of products and production

The Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab focuses on the future of products and production, using problem-solving methods accessible to any company. Discover how the team used the Formlabs Form 2 and High Temp Resin to develop a process enabling them to bypass a complicated supply chain and cut turnaround time for a component by 85% and saving over $100,000.

The team, according to Formlabs, was stuck. They were in the pre-production manufacturing phase dialing in the overmolding process for a wearable device, and needed faster results. The process was novel, the supply chain was complex, and they had to get past this to ship, Formlabs reports.

“What we had was electronics that were overmolded, then overmolded again, and that gave us this flexible, waterproof object that we could use in the wearable space,” said David Beardsley, model shop manager for the Google ATAP lab.

For an overmolded part without electronics, a factory might shoot thousands of first articles at a cost of pennies per part or assembly. The ATAP team, however, was doing a second overmold over an overmolded electronic sub-assembly—a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) with complex electronics that was sourced from another factory—so the first articles were expensive, and reliant on how quickly the first factory could produce and deliver the PCBAs.

The team understood going into pre-production that the cost of first articles would be much higher than for a typical injection molded part. What they had not anticipated was the supply chain bottleneck; it took three weeks to source the overmolded electronic sub-assemblies they needed to run these tests. Beardsley needed to shorten that to ramp up production and ship product.

They needed to find a process and material that could stand in for the PCBA. The replacement had to be both dimensionally accurate and represent the exact geometry of the real sub-assembly so that fill could be characterized, and robust enough that the tool could shut off to the part without breaking or deflecting, leading to excessive flash.

The Form 2 and High Temp Resin are part of the variety of tools in the Google ATAP lab that help engineers and designers solve complex problems and realize ambitious hardware projects, Formlabs reports.

Sources: Blog materials from the company.

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