Senop Oy is a Finnish company in the field of security and defence, which offers high-performance night vision devices designed for demanding operating environments, intelligent sensor technology-based solutions and systems integration services for public authorities. Hyperspectral cameras and precision optics products and services customised for customers’ specific needs are examples of the latest technology, which are an important part of Senop’s product range for industry and research.
Collaboration with 3D Formtech has accelerated Senop’s product development process, rendering significant cost savings. It also makes it possible to take the end customer’s needs into account early in the process, that is, already in the development stage.
3D Formtech and Senop have been collaborating for years. “In practice, we have collaborated as long as 3D Formtech has existed,” recalls Erkki Tarvainen, Senopä’s product development project manager. Over the years, 3D printing has become an important part of Senop’s production process, from design to the final product.
3D PRINTING SPEEDS THE PROCESS AND MAKES THE END PRODUCT TANGIBLE
At Senop, product prototypes are often 3D printed at a very early stage. This allows potential errors to be detected more quickly, which significantly saves time and speeds up product development. Developing ergonomics is also easier because it is possible to test products before they are actually produced. Tarvainen says, “It’s important, for example, that hand-held devices can be tangibly tested to make sure they are truly good in hand. Also, the prints for devices that are integrated into vehicles can be tested where a device will be used, in the vehicles, meaning there will be no surprises regarding existing structures, for instance. 3D printing therefore saves a lot of time and money.”
The benefits of 3D printing also extend to Senop’s end customers. “In the past, we had to design a product to its advanced stages before we could pass it on to the end customer for testing. However, the designer’s ideas and the customer’s experiences with the product could be very different. We are now able to take the needs and wishes of our customers into account better at the very beginning of the designing process,” says Tarvainen.
With 3D printing, the product can be modelled into something tangible for the customer, using a prototype. “We can make products that are more suitable for the customer. The customer can immediately see what the product looks like and what possibly needs to be changed. The functionality and ergonomics of the product can also be tested already at the product development stage.” This way, no time or money is wasted during product development.
COLLABORATION WITH 3D FORMTECH
Tarvainen praises 3D Formtech’s fast and flexible collaboration. Collaboration is further facilitated by the fact that both 3D Formtech and Senop’s Lievestuore branch are located in Central Finland. “Collaboration has, indeed, worked well. The service has been flexible. If we’ve been in a hurry, we’ve been able to pick up the prints directly from 3D Formtech’s door.”
Collaboration has changed Tarvainen’s understanding of 3D printing and introduced him to all the things you can do with it. “In the past, you may not have dared to use 3D printing in the final product. On the other hand, the materials weren’t the kind you would think would be possible to use in the final product.” 3D printing has evolved over the years of collaboration and with it we have boldly experimented with and taken advantage of new opportunities together. “New materials and technologies have come into the market, meaning we use 3D printing extensively today – not only for prototypes, but also for end products.”
Although 3D printing is already being used extensively at Senop, especially in product development, Tarvainen sees new possible solutions for end products in future, as well. “For us, the weight of a product is a major factor. When it comes to optimising the strength and weight of a component, some structures can be made more easily with 3D printing than with machining.”
We will continue our close collaboration in future, as well. “I think we have an order to send them today, actually,” Tarvainen laughs.