Case study

Smart home blinds

  • Smart home blinds system.
  • Gearmotor mechanism for opening and closing integrated blinds.
  • Brushless gearmotor solution with reduced footprint and cost.
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Challenge

  • The customer, a building company, had assembled a team of electronic engineers to add ‘smart home’ functionality to their pre-fab builds.
  • Their engineering team contacted us seeking a motor control system for blinds which would be used to automatically control external heating during summer, alongside traditional functions such as privacy.
  • The customer had designed and prototyped a system that would enable the motor to be placed either side of the blind roller, but had performed no design-for-manufacture studies.

Solution

  • We studied the design that the customer had prepared, and immediately noticed the challenges surrounding how readily it could be manufactured.
  • The customer had designed their transfer gearbox with a specific motor in mind. We were able to counter-propose a smaller brushless gear motor with sufficient performance that would fit within the dimensions of a regular blind roller.
  • This greatly simplified the mounting and integration of the blinds, the manufacturing costs, and enabled the customer to market the blinds outside of their regular pre-fab houses business.

Results

  • We recognised that the customer’s engineering team had great ideas, but little experience in mass production, so proposed a different route for them to head down.
  • Our final solution was more useful in a wider range of situations owing to its 60% more effective use of space with the blind cavity.
  • Our mechanism was estimated to be 35% less cost to produce their design, which itself was far from being production ready.
  • After only one engagement with PMD, our customer choose to make us a long-term partner.

Project scope

Solar powered motorised blind mechanism for pre-fabricated smart homes 

Our customer is a building company that manufactured pre-fabricated homes. They wanted pre-integrate electronic ‘smart home’ products into their builds to meet evolving customer expectations.

Their team of electronic engineers were smart and had great ideas, but lacked the experience of mass production. We reviewed their prototype designs and discovered that a considerable amount of design for manufacture was necessary to bring them to market.

The customer had gone down this route, because they hadn’t clearly understood what motor form factors were available. We were able to identify a package that would operate the blinds from within the internal void of the blind roller – space that had previously been wasted.

This enabled the customer to not only fit them more efficiently in their builds, but enabled them also to sell them as stand-alone solutions outside their existing market.

Solar powered smart home

STAGE 1

Designing for application

  • We started the project with a design review of the customer’s existing design.
  • The design looked great on paper, but had been created with an imperfect view of the gear motors that they could use.
  • Their design was also impractical to manufacture efficiently without a lot of additional design work, and they had missed a different approach that saw the gear motor integrated inside the blind roller, instead of outside it.

STAGE 2

Testing and finalising

  • Our proposed design was smaller, simpler, consumed less power but was not built like a tank. It was rather built under our value engineering principles, and was therefore more than ‘good enough’, but not overly engineered.
  • We manufactured prototypes and proceeded to test them on our longevity dynamometers with the same loading they would experience in application.
  • They passed, and the customer placed orders for their expected 18 month demand.

STAGE 3

Results and relationship

  • The cost of manufacture was estimated to be 35% less with our design than with the original design, although this did not include any of the DFM work that would have been required (and amortised) on the customer’s design.
  • 60% more effective use of space.
  • After only one engagement with PMD our customer choose to make us a long-term partner responsible for the design of the complete product including manufacture, assembly and packaging.

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