Working at S&S is fun for me, I get to use both my undergraduate engineering and graduate marketing background. On the marketing side, I get to manage the classic 4P’s (product, price, place and promotion) of our Sports and Games lines, and on the engineering side, I get to design, develop, and bring new products to market.
Recently S&S has started to sell 3-D printers and that means we now have a few that we can use when developing new products. Instead of designing an item and then investing thousands in dollars in production tooling to see if my design was correct, I can now print out a 3-D prototype. The prototype allows me to see, touch, and even try out a design to see if its correct or needs further improvement. Better yet, in some cases, I can design a part and print it out all in the same day instead of waiting 2 to 3 months for a production mold.
An example of item I’ve been working on is a clip for use with hula hoops. There are already a number of products on the market that allow hula hoops to be clipped together, but none that allow two hula hoops to be clipped together side by side. I’ve always thought this concept would be neat! Once clipped together, kids could then hula 2 to 3 hoops at once, they could be placed on the ground to provide a toss target with a greater depth, or allow hoops to be rolled a further distance without falling over.
With this in mind, I designed a simple clip on my CAD software that could snap onto two of our Spectrum Super Hoops or No-Knott Hoops. The advantage of my design is that it allows the clip to be placed on the outside of the hoops when hula hooping or on the inside when trying to roll hoops. Once my design was done, I uploaded my file to the MakerBot software that creates a file that can be used to print prototypes to our 3-D printer.
The initial design worked okay, but did not grab the hoops tight enough. I modified my original design to make the clips wrap around the hoops a little more and to increase the width of the clip. The 2nd versions worked much better.
I took a number of 3-D printed hoop clip prototypes to the recent Shape America Nation PE Teachers Conference in Seattle where PE teachers could see them and provide feedback. The clips were well received and I even offered to send a few teachers that had 3-D printers at their schools the file that would allow them to print some of their own clips.
Based on the positive feedback, we are moving ahead with production tooling that will allow the clips to be produced in high volume and a much lower cost than printing them one at a time. If you have a 3-D printer and would like to download load the file to print your own clips, click here. If you do print some clips, note that 3 clips are usually used to secure two hoops together and are equally spaced around the perimeter of the hoop.
Author: Brian Feeney, Merchandising Manager of Sports, Recreation & Physical Education for S&S Worldwide