Rugged Bluetooth Beacon - stationary

additive manufacturing filament IoT

We have been asked to make a rugged Bluetooth beacon, which can have a long service life at the mine or construction site. Needs to be rugged and need to be relocatable and serviceable.

This becomes an exercise in selecting correct materials and parts to make the product reality.

Concept

To achieve all that, we knew we needed to have a metal body and mounting bracket. Problem with using metal enclosures for devices whose main functionality is to broadcast radio signal is that it does not work very well.That is the reason why antennas are mounted outside of metal enclosures.

This means we need a metal body and plastic top to avoid signal shielding and allow correct radio signal distribution.

Search for materials

This has become a very interesting journey. We searched and looked at what others present as rugged, industrial beacons. Most of the time the beacon housing is made from ABS plastic and sealed to protect from elements.

This is where additive manufacturing speeds up development and provides valid feedback as you are able to make prototypes quickly from different materials.

ASA Extrafill

We went and made a prototype made from ASA plastic. Basically the same properties as ABS plastic, this is plastic used to make most of injection molded products. We are using FDM filament from Fillamentum. Awesome quality and selection of different materials and colors makes it a great choice for prototyping.

What we have found out was the problem. Using this material for this type of the product destined to be mounted in a harsh environment with potential debris flying from machinery and vehicle wheels would crack the enclosure and compromise electronics etc. in an unpredictable time frame.

Let’s introduce flexible materials. When we look at vehicle tires for example, how much abuse they can withstand. Fillamentum has a great offering and we choose to test Flexfill TPU 98A.

Properties are just right. High resistance to impacts and cuts, relative ease of use. With good design the parts are sufficiently rigid.

Bluetooth beacon cap in Pistachio Green

Picture of plastic cap in Pistachio Green.

Low volume production

After a lot of assembly and water ingress testing. Mechanical resilience testing has reached the point where we are able to run low volume productions with a combination of classic CNC and additive manufacturing processes.This is our final product ready for production.




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