Aqualab is Speedo’s highly confidential research and innovation facility, dedicated to developing the latest sports science technology and products.
With so many vital stages within the development cycle, Aqualab realised the need to make the development process more efficient.
3D printing offered the ideal solution for reducing the timeframe within the prototyping stage of product development. Providing fast, accurate, cost-effective results, Aqualab invested in a Stratasys Polyjet Connex 3D printer from Stratasys Platinum Partner: SYS Systems.
Aqualab’s product development cycle can typically take anywhere between 5 to 10 years to be completed. There are many integral steps within this process, the self-proclaimed primary being feedback and insights provided by internal and external partners to develop product ideas and understand the needs of the market.
Aqualab works with elite athletes (including Rebecca Adlington and Michael Phelps) to ensure their products are the best available.
Head of Aqualab, Dr Tom Waller, explained:
“Consumers are at the heart of everything we produce, their input and feedback helps us to refine our designs, helping us to affirm our position as the number one swimwear brand.”
Unable to reduce this part of the development cycle, Aqualab explored other ways in which the cycles’ timeframe could be minimised without compromising on the dedication, detail or quality of their research and end use products.
Aqualab began to research the latest prototyping technology, and (after consulting with Dr Waller), concluded that the Stratasys Polyjet Connex350 printer was the optimal solution.
The Connex350 offers the unique ability to print parts and assemblies made up of different mechanical or physical properties, by jetting multiple model materials simultaneously.
The Connex350s ability to produce parts on demand has revolutionised Aqualab’s prototyping process. It has not only reduced the timeframe significantly but has allowed greater flexibility and variation within the design and prototyping process, all at a lower cost.
Following its instalment, the Connex350 has been in use almost every single day at Aqualab, allowing designs to be digital in the morning and poolside by the afternoon. This has created a faster prototyping and overall development process for Aqualab, who are able to print multiple pairs of goggles in just 3 to 7 hours, often simultaneously.
The thermoplastic rubbers and silicone materials used in Speedo’s goggles can be easily replicated through Polyjet technology. This technology prints multiple materials at once to create an extensive range of digital materials, so that products can be printed with specific ‘Shore A’ hardness values to match the values of the intended production materials.
This allows Aqualab and Speedo to more accurately replicate the intended product within the protype, enabling them to better analyse and develop the product accordingly.
Why SYS Systems and Stratasys?
SYS Systems has played a pivotal role in significantly reducing Aqualab’s prototyping and overall product development cycle.
The Connex350 produces accurate, realistic and cost-effective prototypes, allowing Aqualab to rapidly prototype their swimwear and continue to be the best in the market.