Spiraling & Sleeve Cutting Machine
Client: Safeplast Oy
Safeplast Oy specializes in producing high-quality plastic spirals and textile sleeves. These are primarily used to protect hydraulic hoses from external threats, while also protecting the operators from possible hose failures. The majority of customers purchase these plastic spirals and textile sleeves in rolls.
Plastic spirals are measured and cut before being mounted on hydraulic hoses. They can be attached to the hose by hand or using simple tools. The problem with all available solutions is that the spiral needs to be measured and cut before mounting, a process that is time-consuming and susceptible to human error.
Preparing a sleeve piece is usually done by measuring and cutting it with scissors. As sleeves are made of woven materials, when the textile is cut, the fibers at the cutting point become loose and tend to come out. This could weaken the sleeve, limiting its ability to provide proper protection. Additionally, loose fibers can make it difficult to insert the hose into the sleeve. As a result, edges are often melted with a hot knife, torch, or similar methods because there isn't a better solution available. The problem with this approach is that it is slow and the melt quality is inconsistent.
Safeplast wants to transition from being a product provider to a solution provider. To move towards this goal, they have decided to invest in developing better solutions for using plastic spirals and textile sleeves. This would help strengthen their relationship with customers and potentially increase the demand for their products.
Therefore, the main objectives of the project are:
Developing a better solution for mounting spirals on hoses.
Developing a better solution for cutting textile sleeves.
We began the process by conducting a comprehensive desktop study to gain a better understanding of the solutions currently available for mounting spirals and cutting sleeves. The insights gathered during the research phase helped us understand the pros and cons of existing solutions.
We decided to use the Stage-Gate model to have a clear structure for the innovation process. Initially, we generated many ideas and tested them quickly and inexpensively. We engaged customers in the process from the start, asking them to participate in both brainstorming and testing. This approach allowed us to receive immediate feedback that could be used for the next iteration.
After testing and discarding many ideas, we found a few with high potential. Gradually, we built more sophisticated mock-ups and conducted time and cost studies on old and new processes to compare their performance. When we observed a significant improvement in terms of time and cost savings, we made a business case to get approval for further development of the spiraling machine and sleeve cutting machine concepts.
After receiving approval from Safeplast's management team, we built alpha prototypes for both machines. These prototypes were used for extensive internal testing to refine and optimize the machines. Afterwards, we built the beta prototypes, which were placed in selected customers' production lines for longer-term testing. The objective of this project was not the mass production of spiraling and sleeve cutting machines, but rather building them for key customers upon request. Therefore, there was no need to build pre-production prototypes.
The main outcome of this project was the design of two viable solutions for the spiraling and sleeve cutting processes. The performance of both machines was significantly better than the products available in the market. Furthermore, they improved the working conditions for operators on the production lines, which was a major advantage.
We created technical documentation and user manuals for the machines. Additionally, based on the data gathered from the machines' performance and customer feedback, we constructed a one-page document for each machine to highlight key selling points and product limitations as seen below.