The best ideas are always the result of solving an everyday problem. For filmmakers and photographers, one of these problems is the sheer amount of kit that has to be carried around, so any products that can double up and serve more than one function make life a whole lot easier.
Nori Equipment founder Kevin C. W. Wong saw a gap in the market regarding this. He decided to manufacture a unique lighting reflector that can double up as a rain shelter. The SquareBounce, as it's called, is the first product of its kind: a unique innovation that stops filmmakers and photographers from getting wet and can also operate as a light reflector.
Wong conceptualised and designed the SquareBounce with 3D printing, among other manufacturing methods. He had tried a few fused filament fabrication 3D printers in the past, but these failed to create parts with repeatable results, and with the strength and durability for life at work.
3D printing composite parts
This led him to look for a 3D printer that could fabricate stronger parts. Markforged quickly caught his eye, thanks to CADMicro. Wong was drawn to the Markforged Onyx Pro because of its ability to 3D print Onyx, which is part nylon, part chopped carbon fibre. On its own, Onyx creates parts around 5x stronger than plastic, and when reinforced with fibreglass, parts that are 10x the strength of plastic.
Onyx filament is a nylon and chopped carbon fibre hybrid; it is exceptionally tough and durable with outstanding thermal properties. Fibreglass CFF filament is a strengthening material; you can use it to reinforce Onyx parts with continuous strands of fibreglass, for unparalleled strength. In tests, parts printed in Onyx with Fibreglass CFF reinforcement are as strong and as durable as 6061 aluminium.
When printed, Onyx is black with a unique texture. When you print a plastic and carbon fibre together, print quality tends to suffer as the composite count rises. Onyx is pre-made with a certain amount of carbon fibre, to deliver good strength and a high-quality finish.
Wong invested in two Markforged Onyx Pro printers following a demonstration of their features and reviewing case studies. He saw immediately the potential to prototype products in-house at minimal cost with enhanced design freedom. After using his Onyx Pro 3D printers more extensively, his use cases extended beyond this stage.
“Initially, we were only able to use our 3D printers for prototyping and creating moulds,” Wong said. “The fact that Markforged parts are fibre-reinforced and come off the print bed with a smooth, good-looking surface finish was a game-changer.”
The development of SquareBounce was aided by how easy the Onyx Pro is to use, and the software that comes with it, Eiger. "With Eiger, we can pause and resume prints at any time, reload material, and check on details,” Wong noted. “This saves us time and material since partial prints aren’t wasted if we run out of material. We don’t like to waste, so this sits very well with us.”
Replacing traditional manufacturing processes
In addition to the strength and ease of design afforded by his Onyx Pro printers, Wong has also been impressed by the repeatability and quality of parts. Repeatability has been so consistent that Wong has been able to eliminate mould making, resin casting, and CNC machining from the production process, to reduce costs and lead times on parts.
Something else highly beneficial to the development of SquareBounce was the weight of parts: parts printed in Onyx are around 30-40% lighter over metal parts and some 10x stronger than plastic parts, so really, they offer the best of all worlds.
The quick turnaround of parts has also benefitted Nori's relationship with customers, who appreciate the quick turnaround on products and the ability to address problems fast. "As a small company, this keeps us agile and receptive to our customers’ needs,” Wong said. “We are creating proprietary parts in any quantity, at any time.”
“With 3D printers, I can leave the shop and go to bed knowing parts are being created and money is being made while I sleep,” Wong said. “How awesome is that?”
3D Printers: Onyx Pro, x2
This information was first published on the Markforged website. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our product design page. You might also like to read this case study about 3D printing a fibreglass camera cable harness with Markforged.
You can find out more about the Nori SquareBounce here.