Heavy metal design
When you’re in the business of laser cutting thick pieces of steel to a high degree of accuracy, it’s critical that your equipment is powerful, precise, fast and reliable while being easy to maintain and operate.
MegaFab, an American manufacturer of industrial fabrication equipment, came to Design Concepts with a new, state-of-the-art fiber laser cutter that delivered on performance and reliability. The bulky visual design of the enclosure, however, did not reflect the power and performance inside.
They realized they needed a thoughtfully crafted visual language to effectively compete with the German and Asian brands that also occupy the high-performance segment of this market. With prices starting around $800,000, this equipment is a serious investment for any manufacturer and is often the showpiece of their fabrication operation – making it their Ferrari of the factory floor.
The design goals included creating an aesthetic for the enclosure that visually communicates the product’s best-in-class performance, crafting a distinct design language for the Whitney brand in this product segment, and enhancing the brand’s value while maintaining a connection with its history.
Our Industrial Design team worked within a myriad of design constraints including the existing internal component architecture, overall product footprint, parts cost and manufacturing capabilities as well as regulatory and technical considerations.
The team also had to consider the size and weight of all enclosure components as they related to ease of assembly, manufacturing and maintenance. MegaFab’ s previous prototype design had proven too difficult and expensive to assemble and maintain due to these factors.
We collaborated closely with the MegaFab development team to explore, refine and document the enclosure concept. Using 3D CAD modeling from the start of the project allowed us to design quickly and accurately to ensure our initial concepts addressed the key constraints around form and function. 3D CAD renderings allowed for evaluation of colors, materials and finishes in a realistic and timely manner. In all, the design project took less than eight weeks to complete. We remained in the loop during MegaFab’ s engineering development process to consult on DFMA issues that effected the aesthetic design so that we could arrive at smart compromises where necessary.
The final enclosure design demonstrates how aesthetics can visually enhance a product within the context of its purpose while elevating a brand’s perceived value.
Leveraging a simple soft-rectangle profile makes this intimidating machine approachable and distinctive within a minimal overall footprint. The design team cleverly enclosed an awkward volume of associated electronics by introducing simple asymmetry to the profile shape at the operator control side of the machine. To visually convey speed and technology, the enclosure features horizontal color bands, a smooth skin with no visible fasteners, and an unexpected angular accent line on the long side surface. These design elements serve to reduce the perceived size and weight of the equipment and give the enclosure a modern, high-tech appearance.
We also designed a custom-manufactured articulating user interface console that is cantilevered from a single support arm machined from solid aluminum. The design and location of the console allow the operator to position the controls where needed to enhance overall ease of use. The form language of the arm visually conveys the rotational function of its joints resulting in intuitive usability.
Oversized laser-proof glass windows and doors provide visibility inside the enclosure to showcase the amazing speed and drama of the powerful laser cutting head in action.
A brushed stainless steel header wraps the top of the enclosure, providing a visual embodiment of the equipment’s metal cutting function while creating a billboard for the Whitney logo. The team integrated illumination into an architectural break above the header to convey the functional status of the machine and create a distinct accent unique to the industry. The color scheme of white, black and grey builds on the existing Whitney brand color palette, creating a visual link to their strong industry history.
MegaFab officially announced the Whitney 1350 Fiber Laser at FABTECH 2016 in Las Vegas with the first working unit available for sale on the show floor. Given the positive feedback from customers, they're bullish on the revenue potential for their new flagship product.
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