ThermoTek ARTEK Pro

ThermoTek, a leader in precision thermal management for the laser, industrial and semiconductor industries, is also trusted by medical professionals to provide therapeutic care to their patients. The company’s thermal management systems are used world-wide to provide therapeutic relief in medical offices, surgical post-op recovery rooms and aesthetic centers. ThermoTek’s patented heat exchangers precisely regulate temperature without any moving parts to reliably and efficiently chill or heat fluid which is then pumped within a closed loop system. The temperature-regulated fluid is cycled through specially designed thermal/compression wraps or braces that are applied to affected areas of a patient’s body, providing relief from pain, swelling and DVT.

A portable in-home medical device used for the relief of pain and swelling.

Catalyst heavily engaged in developing a new model, optimized for in-home use, for ThermoTek’s medical device product line.

Catalyst was tasked with the comprehensive development and manufacture of a complete enclosure, internal component configuration support and user interface. Project requirements included the secure housing for ThermoTek’s patented thermoelectric cooling engines, electronics, fluidics, and user interface within an enclosure designed to fit the established brand aesthetic.  While other devices in ThermoTek’s product line are available for in-home use, the ARTEK Pro was envisioned as a smaller unit with simplified user controls, appropriate for intuitive patient set up and operation. Additionally, ThermoTek was committed to ship this new unit within a 5-month period.

Catalyst’s vertical integration enabled the project sprint to stay on schedule.

A collage of conceptual sketches which explore different directions for the look of the ARTEC Pro.

The Catalyst Industrial Design team delivered 40+ brainstorming concepts within 24 hours of kickoff. Several different approaches to the overall look and size were explored, along with a variety of solutions for the vent design, carry handle, user control panel and fluid reservoir location. ThermoTek remained heavily engaged by providing timely client feedback on design iterations which guided the focus of simultaneous mechanical engineering efforts.

While still in the early design stages, heavy consideration was given to the concept of multiple modular components combining to create the main top housing. There were two different considerations at play. A modular design would allow for greater simplicity in each mold but would require the tooling of three or more components. The additional components would also require time on multiple injection presses. Finally, the modular components would require an extra step to be assembled into a single housing. Conversely, a single part would require a larger and more complex mold with multiple side actions to accommodate the design while still allowing consistent resin flow, adequate cooling, and reliable part ejection.

Details are refined by reality-driven design and real-world engineering.

An extensive design for manufacturability (DFM) study revealed the most cost-effective solution for the top housing. The time and cost savings realized by eliminating manual assembly of multiple components tipped the scale in favor of a single main housing. The Catalyst Engineering team then conducted a mold-flow analysis to confirm the component could be reliably molded as a single piece. As a result, Catalyst designers and engineers collaborated to optimize the orientation of the vent ribs, wall thickness and approximate location of the parting line.

A close up of the vertical orientation of the ThermoTek side vents.
The top of the ARTEC Pro with simplified user interface.

Consideration was given to the final assembly process to eliminate visible attachment points, screws, or fasteners on the top housing. The answer was found in using the bottom plate as a load bearing chassis. To avoid disrupting the design objective of the top housing, care was taken to ensure that any exposed screws for access to internal components were located in the bottom plate. During this process it was made clear that the internal attachment points of the carry handle would create visible sink in the top housing due to a concentrated area of material shrink. A solution was found which relocated the attachment point behind the user control panel without altering the center of gravity while being carried.

The design features a top housing that is smooth, sturdy, functional and manufacturable without any exposed assembly points.

Additional design and engineering work further defined the bottom housing plate. Mounting points for the internal components were aligned to specifications provided by ThermoTek. With regular client feedback, design and engineering worked in tandem to produce an initial CAD mechanical layout and 3D render within ten (10) days.

Catalyst then further explored several aspects of the design utilizing 3D printed parts from our on-site Prototype lab. Internal routing and design challenges were quickly resolved during the modeling and prototyping phase. Several internal components were developed to provide greater stability overall. After ThermoTek approved the final designs for the physical unit, the Catalyst design team turned their focus to developing the icons and layout of the user interface, quick start guide and warning labels.

An arrangement of 3D printed components.

The approved designs were then sent to the Catalyst Tooling department to begin the injection mold design process. Ten (10) injection molds were required to make the parts for each unit. Thorough detail was taken into consideration during the mold design.  Gating, ejection and parting line location considerations were all important aspects not only for aesthetics, but also for proper flow and optimal injection molding.

The Catalyst Engineering and Tooling departments worked together to maximize efficiencies.

Again, vertical integration and real-time communication was proven to be invaluable by quickly adjusting sprue geometry and gate location. Each mold was built in-house from QC10 aluminum. Nine (9) of the molds were designed as insert molds with perimeter cooling routed through the existing Catalyst uni-base system.

A large plastic injection mold featuring four side actions to accommodate part geometry.
The custom plastic injection mold and base for the top housing of a new medical device.

The larger mold for the upper housing was also created in-house but required special attention due to the four side actions and routing of internal cooling lines. Catalyst tooling technicians managed each of the molds through the entire tooling process due to the combination of manual milling, CNC machining, EDM, finishing and polishing work required. As each mold became available, the Catalyst Molding department took immediate delivery to run initial samples for color match between different resins as well as fitment review between components.

Catalyst provided ThermoTek with completed sample housing units for inspection and evaluation. Upon ThermoTek’s internal review of the supplied sample units, sign-off approvals were provided for initial production runs. Production promptly ramped up to fulfill and ship initial orders prior to the project deadline. Catalyst continues to supply ThermoTek with recurring orders of components for multiple units in their product line, supporting their on-going production needs.

Catalyst is proud to support ThermoTek with comprehensive product development services.

Catalyst Product Development Group