Télétact by IN3G
Télétact by IN3G
Paris-based IN3G - an award-winning product design office - has utilised Protomold technology by Proto Labs in its mission to assist the visually-impaired.
The three-man company headed by Christian Coudevylle specialises in the research and development of devices aiding those with hearing and visual impairment and works with numerous universities and public research organisations.
As well as producing important innovations for those with impaired hearing, IN3G is best known for designing and creating a device for the visually impaired, which goes by the working title of Télétact. Télétact is an award-winning device, comprising of a small box that is fixed to a traditional white cane with an in-built gadget that projects an infrared beam ahead of the user. The beam reaches a height of 70 cm and sweeps either side of the user in order to detect hazards and obstacles. If the beam is interrupted, the box vibrates the user's cane, which varies in intensity according to the proximity of the obstacle in his or her path.
Technical Director at IN3G Roger Leroux explained: "It can be very difficult indeed for a visually impaired person to move in a familiar setting without a sighted companion, but it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to move around alone in a new, unfamiliar environment. Télétact could change that; the visually impaired will be able to move around much more freely, with more confidence."
The first prototypes of the technology were made using sheet metal, but as the development of the gadget became more sophisticated, IN3G sought alternatives. At first, the company tried making parts with a 3D printer but to check the mechanical operation and fit of various components such as the opening cover of the battery compartment, they needed parts in production-intent resins. This is where Proto Labs' expertise came into play.
Leroux noted: "We originally found Proto Labs when we searched for ideas about how we could make parts for a previous product. We had our first experience with the company in 2011, which allowed us to see the potential of rapid injection moulding. Proto Labs inspired us to use their services again for the Télétact project, relying on the skills of their engineers to guide us."
The interactive, online system ProtoQuote developed by Proto Labs is amazingly useful. We loaded a 3D model of the parts and the system showed us the corrections we needed to make on the wall thicknesses, etc. Together with the direct support from Proto Labs’ engineers, we were able to optimise the part and the mould design and, of course, the price for the parts."
After two phases of prototypes, IN3G asked Proto Labs to launch the manufacture of moulds to produce parts for 1,200 Télétact test devices. Once the development was complete, IN3G made 500 working examples."
Roger Leroux said he appreciated Proto Labs' engineers' expertise, who offered their suggestions during their regular exchanges. The Proto Labs team was able to handle troubleshooting from IN3G and as a result, the process was made more efficient and the final costs of the project were reduced.
The main case and the battery compartment are manufactured by Proto Labs. The shells of the main case are black polycarbonate to protect the infrared system from external light. As well as the power source, the battery box contains electronic cards and the vibration device.
Mr Leroux stated: "With regards the choice of polycarbonate as the final material, we learned a lot from the samples and advice provided by Proto Labs. We examined the way the material extrudes, how wall thickness is affected and the surface finish we could expect. Thus, we built up a practical understanding of the potential pitfalls and what to avoid.
"The parts manufactured by Proto Labs were right first time. Thanks to them, we can say that the development process for the Télétact has been very time and cost efficient."
IN3G is proud to be the first company in Europe to win the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, which awards designers a share of a $250,000 (£155,173, €183,500) prize covering the production of parts from either Protomold or Firstcut services, giving them the chance to develop ideas for innovative products.
Mr Leroux said: "This award from Proto Labs made the product launch much easier. In fact, we were able to afford injection moulded parts for the entire device."