Example application areas
Unfortunately, the deployment of emergency personnel is something that's common in everyday life. However, only a few people can really appreciate the time pressures emergency workers are under as they carry out their work completely precisely and safely - or understand the tension they're subjected to as they make their way to their next place of deployment.
During a deployment of this kind, communication with the control centre and with other personnel must function smoothly so that everyone involved is informed about current developments at all times.
And it was this need for smooth operations that was brought to the attention of Comtec GmbH in summer 2017. An administrative district gave Jan Schlüter, authorized representative and project manager of Comtec, the task of fitting out a car as an emergency doctor's vehicle with radio and communications technology. "We couldn't integrate the technology required for this using the existing on-board system, since it would not have been possible to ensure the required functionality or the necessary reliability," explains Jan Schlüter.
Dortmund-based Comtec GmbH has positioned itself as a service provider for diverse business areas in the communications technology field since it was founded in 1982. Its customers are primarily public authorities and the emergency services.
One major performance area of the company comprises radio systems for authorities and organizations responsible for safety. The offering for safety authorities ranges from message receivers and walkie-talkies to vehicle navigation for authorities and organizations responsible for safety and the setup of vehicle work stations and complete solutions for fire stations. Radio communication systems for buildings - in-house relays in conjunction with radiating RF cables - comprise a further large field of activity. These ensure that emergency service personnel maintain radio contact with each other during emergencies. In addition, Comtec is active in the fields of siren systems, new vehicles, vehicle modifications, and much more.
Despite decades of experience, including the complete installation of systems in ambulances and rescue vehicles, Comtec did not have prior experience with fitting out emergency doctor's vehicles of this kind.
The top-end medium-sized vehicle that needed to be fitted out posed a new challenge due to the restricted space available. In addition, the design data for the securing of the required technology - including a touchscreen monitor, control panel for the flashing blue light system, and a radio activation and deactivation mechanism - was not at hand.
Comtec started looking for a partner who would be able to produce an appliance for easily, quickly, and safely fastening the monitor and control panel inside the emergency doctor's vehicle even without the relevant design data. The objective was to ensure a firm, strong grip in combination with great usability - even during the most hectic of moments.
After doing some research, the company contacted Murtfeldt Kunststoffe. The Dortmund-based company quickly came into the running as a solution provider, since as well as acting as a manufacturer and processor of plastics, it works hand-in-hand with the customer to find and implement solutions that are far from the standard in the world of industry. For more than 60 years, Murtfeldt has been among the world's leading producers of products produced individually from slide-enabling, wear-resistant plastics. Murtfeldt products are used wherever goods are packaged, filled and transported. Above all, comprehensive and competent consultation is at the forefront of every single business relationship. For this reason, Murtfeldt supports a highly qualified consulting team with internally developed application technology.
There's another major advantage in favour of Murtfeldt: Several years ago, the plastics processor added 3D printing to its construction methods, and can offer everything from a single source: Reverse engineering via 3D scanning, design, the selection of materials, the manufacturing itself and so on.
These benefits quickly became clear when working with the company. Comtec's customer provided the monitor and function key panel. In the light of the missing design data, Murtfeldt used an Eva 3D manual scanner by Artec. This was used to scan the monitor, control panel, and dashboard of the car in succession. During the reverse engineering process, all of the key data required for the production of the part was determined through the scanning of the environment.
The scan process created a 3D structure (comparable with a 3D photo) that could be used to reconstruct the geometries of the individual objects in the CAD system. This could be done with a measurement precision that means that manual measurements and repeat measurements are no longer required. In the next step, this data was used to design the individual elements: The monitor bracket, control panel frame, and flange for fastening the equipment to the car's dashboard.
Thanks to the high-resolution data and precise dimensions, it was possible to precisely determine/define the fit accuracy of the elements to be mounted (such as the monitor) in the corresponding bracket, thus guaranteeing the secure gripping of the control elements and their robust incorporation into the car's dashboard even when the emergency doctor's vehicle is used in tough conditions.
Next came the actual production of the brackets using a 3D printing procedure. This procedure enabled the fast and easy production of the component's challenging geometries while observing all of the required tolerances. First, the bracket for the monitor was designed and constructed, and next the bracket for the control panel was made. From time to time, the current state of development was printed out in intermediate steps. "In this way, we develop, verify, and improve components step by step," explains Murtfeldt's Business Development Manager, Marco Bianconi, describing the sophisticated procedure. The bracket for the control panel was produced in this way, too. Finally, the mount was adjusted in line with the shape of the dashboard.
At the end of the development cycle, all of the determined data and key values were brought together and the component was produced in a single piece. Mechanical functions such as hinges and snap-fits could be directly integrated into the component, too, making additional assembly and components within the mount unnecessary. This would not have been so easily possible in any other production method with an order quantity of just one part.
Comtec was responsible for the functional integration of the component into the car, and thanks to the tailored production process, this was easy and did not require any further support.
The feedback from the end customer was extremely positive. The end customer is really pleased with the excellent usability, stability, and seamless integration of the part into its environment. "Without a doubt, initial contact was encouraged due to the proximity of Murtfeldt. However, Murtfeldt's approach as a solution provider, their fast reaction to our initial inquiry, effective communication, and acceptance of the really tight deadline were decisive when it came to choosing Murtfeldt," says Jan Schlüter of Comtec GmbH.
Despite this, Murtfeldt still thinks there's room for improvement: "If we'd had a little more time, it would have been possible to further optimize the product. Thanks to our extensive finishing department, we would have been able to work on the surface of the component and refine it," explains Marco Bianconi on the subject of further improvements.
Comtec is now considering equipping the usual vehicles using the same development steps in order to optimize the design through 3D printing.