In recent years, Fishman has been growing while also expanding into new categories such as the Triple Play wireless guitar controller introduced at the 2012 Winter NAMM show.
The company has had to devise new ways to shorten the R&D and time-to-market process without compromising quality, with a major part of this initiative Fishman’s acquisition of an Objet 3D desktop printer so that it can rapidly create fully functional and true-to-life three-dimensional prototypes and parts.
The printer uses patented PolyJet Matrix 3D printing technology, which works by jetting special photopolymer materials in ultra-thin layers (16µ) layer by layer onto a build tray in a process managed by the company’s studio software until the part is completed.
Each layer is then cured (dried) by UV light immediately after jetting, which produces models that can be handled and used immediately.
Having its own in-house desktop 3D printer allows Fishman to go through multiple design iterations in a single day so the R&D department can quickly and efficiently finish new designs without missing windows of opportunity within the guitar market sales cycle.
“The Objet printer has had an incredible impact on our ability to be more predictable on time to market,” explains Ian Popken, Fishman director of product development. “It’s very exciting for mechanical engineers and others involved with the product to realize their ideas a few hours later.
“The fit and finish we’re able to achieve with these resins from the Objet is just remarkable,” he continues. “They so closely resemble the final product that we once took them to a trade show and no one could distinguish that they were final prototypes!
“So not only do we have the amazing cosmetics and the way that it looks on the outside, but also complete inside works and functionality of the product. When it comes time to do our pilot run, it goes very smoothly because we’ve already demonstrated that we can build the product exactly the way we want to instead of waiting for every part to come off tool. We are already ahead of the game because of the printer.”
In addition to shortening the R&D and production cycle, the Objet printer has proved to be a valuable tool for optimizing Fishman’s relationship with its customers.
VP of OEM sales Rob Ketch points out, “The parts we get from the Objet printer are of such good quality, we’re able to send them to customers after our shop has applied paint and graphics and they look very close to actual production parts. In the past, there would be such a long time between a drawing, stereolithography and a molded part; we would often miss a cycle for one of our customers.
“With Objet,” Ketch concludes, “they have a real example of the product, which can be very powerful in closing the sale. The Objet printer’s impact on the timeline and the impression that it makes in terms of parts and products has been really valuable to us at Fishman.”