Case Studies - Tool Design

For any project requiring mechanical design, mechanism design, fixture design, tool design, or chuck design, Concurrent Design provides complete mechanical engineering design services, from concept, analysis, and machine design / tool design to documentation and complete fabrication and testing.

  1. Precision Alignment Tool for High Tolerance Assembly
  2. Robotic Exercise Tool for Factory Verification of Robot Programming
  3. Alignment Tool and Vacuum Integrity Tool for Solar Module Assembly
  4. Current Density and Voltage Measurement Tool for Solar Cell Characterization
  5. Laboratory Scale Tool for Polishing Process Development
  6. Fork Truck Mounted Tool for Heavy Lifting and Orienting
  7. Three-Axis Tool for Glass Cutting
  8. R&D Process Development with Ultrasonic Tool for Fabric Welding
  9. Hand Tool for Custom Ratchet Design
  10. Surgical Tool for Computer-Aided Surgical Instruments
  11. Surgical Instrument for Lumbar Region Joint Replacement Tool
  12. Thermal Process Mold Tool for Musical Drum Manufacturing
  13. Force Measurement Tool for Pull-Out Force
  14. Reliability (Life) Testing Tools with PLC Control and Cycle Counter
  15. Rack Mounted Laser Diode Testing Tool with Laser Safety Enclosure
  16. Rack Mounted Thermal Testing Tool for Electronics Testing
  17. Fiberoptic Glass Polishing Tool

Case Study - Precision Alignment Tool for High Tolerance Assembly

The client, Axcellis (formerly Eaton Semiconductor Equipment Division), was scaling up a critical dimension of their ion implant tool to create a next-generation product. The accelerator column assembly was one of several related projects. This assembly has several dozen layers of tooling, lenses, electrodes and insulators. Each of these must be assembled and aligned within a few thousandths of an inch, while maintaining ultra-high vacuum integrity. In order to accomplish this, Concurrent Design completely reassessed the assembly process. We determined that by assembling the instrument upside-down, we could satisfy the specification tolerances. The mechanical design process required that we establish “ground” using a fixture plate with multiple locating features to constrain select degrees of freedom. We addressed the tolerances associated with each degree of freedom and began building tooling to assemble each layer. The base fixture plate, parallel guide rods, centering cone tools and five-axis alignment tool were all high precision mechanical tool designs. We engineered, designed and built each element in this suite of tools. From the first assembly, the tolerances were satisfied and the ultra-high vacuum integrity was ensured.

Assembly Fixture with Alignment Tools
Tool design of base fixture plate with parallel guide rods and centering tools.
Precision Alignment Tool for Manufacturing Assembly Process
Precision mechanical tool design of five-axis alignment tool with self-biasing and locking features.
Custom Tooling for Assembly Alignment Process
Precision alignment tool set engaged during assembly and alignment process.

Case Study - Robotic Exercise Tool for Factory Verification of Robot Programming

The client, Applied Materials, required a means for testing and verifying the programming of wafer handling robots in factory interface (FI) modules. In the semiconductor industry, these are also known as equipment front end modules (EFEM) and front end modules (FEM) for semiconductor process tools. Typically these robots, one or two per FI, will move semiconductor wafers between FOUP’s (forward opening universal pods), which are situated on load ports, to load locks on wafer process cluster tools. In the factory, the challenge is that there are no load ports available for end-of-line testing purposes. Concurrent Design developed and built this robot exercise tool to simulate up to four load ports. The tool is quickly moved into place and located accurately to the FI. It provides mounting options for one, two, three, or four FOUP's, thus allowing for great flexibility in the factory and in the robot test protocols. The tool design provides for management of all six degrees of freedom.

Custom Tool Design for Manufacturing Test Verification
Tool design simulates load ports, providing FOUP mounting (FOUP not shown) and allows the exercise of wafer handling robots for final test.
6 DOF Tool Design for Manufacturing Test
Custom tool design provides control of six degrees of freedom to position the tooling accurately relative to the product.

Case Study - Alignment Tool and Vacuum Integrity Tool for Solar Module Assembly

The client, Emcore, is in the III-V photovolatic cell development business. Typically these cells are very expensive and historically used in satelite solar power systems. To capitalize on this technology in terrestrial applications, a high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) system was required. Concurrent Design was tasked with the array system development, structural engineering and prototype manufacturing. For the proof of concept development, an alpha prototype tooling was required to locate and align individual cells. Upon locational alignment, final assembly, and sealing, vacuum was applied to each cell to ensure that the seals were operating properly.

Alignment Fixturing for Vacuum Testing Tool
Alignment tooling with locational positioning for fourteen solar cells and vacuum sealing apparatus.
R D Tool Design for Vacuum Integrity Testing
With solar cells accurately located, vacuum sealing and vacuum integrity testing of full solar cell complement is in process.

Case Study - Current Density and Voltage Measurement Tool for Solar Cell Characterization

The client, HelioVolt Corporation, was in need of a laboratory-scale tool to measure current and voltage in a simulated solar environment. Concurrent Design provided all mechanical, mechanism and electro-mechanical packaging design of this bench tool. This included the wafer platen and probing system design. Thermal management was required to satisfy standard ambient temperature and pressure (SATP, STP, STC) conditions. This also included the light-tight enclosure for testing and the materials handling and positioning solutions.

Current Density and Voltage Test with Solar Simulator
Current density and voltage measurement tool for solar cell characterization, shown on the left. The solar source is in blue. Enclosure is shown open for solar cell transfer.
Laboratory Scale Tool Design for Solar Wafer Testing
Wafer platen detail showing test wafer (solar cell) fixtured for probing. Laboratory-scale tool provides manual placement of probes via linear slides. Thermal management of platen provided for STC.

Case Study - Laboratory Scale Tool for Polishing Process Development

The client, Illumitex, was developing a new manufacturing process for solid state lighting product development. A high tolerance polishing process needed to be developed. This laboratory-scale tool required substantive optics mounting and positioning. The tool design required high-resolution workpiece positioning with five controlled axes. Finally, specialized clamps were needed for the workpiece. Concurrent Design developed this laboratory-scale tool and upon completion of the successful process development, engineered and built the pilot-scale tool.

5 Axis Tool Design for Micro Polishing
Laboratory-scale tool with five controlled axes, optical system and specialized work piece retention used to develop a new polishing manufacturing process.
Custom Tooling to Clamp Workpiece
Workpiece retention and management with custom built clamping system and piezo-electric tip-tilt stage.

Case Study - Fork Truck Mounted Tool for Heavy Lifting and Orienting

The client, Orma Transatlantic, provides electrical switch gear for use with utility-scale wind turbines. The rack mounted switch gear is installed in the base of the wind turbine tower. The installation inside the tower is challenged by the size and weight of the rack. Manual handling was not attractive, given that these units are very large and very heavy. To further challenge the installation, the switchgear must be delivered up stairs and through the small oval door of the wind turbine tower. There is clearance of only several millimeters through the doorway. Concurrent Design developed a solution wherein the tool is fork truck mounted and the heavy load is managed by the fork truck. The tooling is secured to the vertical switch gear rack. After lifting the assembly with the fork truck, the tool allows the rack to be rotated to a horizontal attitude for delivery through the small door of the tower. Once inside, the gear is rotated vertical again for final placement. The actuating leadscrew drive system may be manual or powered by a drill.

Tool Design for handling large and heavy loads
Custom tool design is used for specialized handling of large, heavy loads.
Tool Design moves load from Vertical to Horizontal for Materials Handling Click to view video
Tool Design moves load from Vertical to Horizontal for Materials Handling
The tool engaged with a fork truck for primary load management. Actuation of the tool moves the load between vertical and horizontal positions.
Custom tool design addresses limited access areas
The worksite at the base of the utility-scale wind turbine tower with very limited access and very tight tolerances in the width of the door.

Case Study - Three-Axis Tool for Glass Cutting

The client is in the touch screen manufacturing business. One of the first manufacturing steps is to cut stock glass to a custom size. As there are many custom sizes, the tool design was based upon a commercial motor-controlled three-axis (X-Y-Z) table. Custom tooling for the Z-head was designed to hold the glass cutter. Glass platen tooling was designed to secure the work piece. This platen includes multiple zones with reversible vacuum and compressed air circuits. Upon introduction of the glass to the platen, air is provided to produce an air bearing. This allows the glass to move freely and avoids any quality yield losses due to scratching. Upon proper placement, the air is reversed to create a vacuum. The vacuum secures the glass during cutting. Upon completion of the cutting process, the glass is once again floated to remove it from the workstation.

Glass Cutting Tool with XYZ controlled axes
Three-axis custom glass cutter tool with multiple controlled zones for workpiece holding. Each zone toggles between air bearing and vacuum clamp.

Case Study – R&D Process Development with Ultrasonic Tool Design for Fabric Welding

The client, The Dallas Group, develops filtration products. A new line of products and new manufacturing processes were being developed. The materials to package the filter media would be polymer based filter cloth. Detailed study through a design of experiments (DOE) yielded a few leading candidates. The filters were to be manufactured in a high speed, web-based manufacturing line. Testing of the manufacturing process was required. Concurrent Design researched various manufacturing options (sewing, thermal bonding, various adhesives, etc.) with ultrasonic welding being the leading candidate. Sample welders were obtained with various horns (tooling). Testing yielded satisfactory results, suitable for scaling up into high volume production.

Ultrasonic Welding Tools for R D Process Development
Ultrasonic welding equipment set-up for manufacturing process development.

Ultrasonic Welding Horn and Anvil
Ultrasonic tooling (horn and anvil). One of several optional candidates.
Process Development with Ultrasonic Welding
Sample run of polymer fabric welding using ultrasonics.

Case Study - Hand Tool for Custom Ratchet Design

The client, Walnut Industries, is in the transportation industry and has developed a unique cargo restraint system. The system is used to secure drums, pallets and loose cargo inside of tractor trailers or shipping containers. It uses a proprietary, high tensile strength web material. Hand tools are required to properly tension the web against the cargo. A suite of custom ratcheting hand tools was developed and prototyped. Significant attention to forces, loads and tool weight required structural analysis and mechanical design optimization of each tool. The tools are manufactured in volume and provided as part of the cargo restraint system. As the interior of a shipping trailer may be dark, an optional lighting feature was created to integrate with the tool design.

Custom Tool Design for Ratcheting Hand Tools
A suite of custom engineered, ratcheting hand tools was prototyped prior to volume production.
Custom Tool Design for Ratcheting Hand Tools Click to view video
3D Printed Housing with LED Lighting for Hand tool
An optional lighting feature was designed for integration into the custom hand tools.

Case Study - Surgical Tool for Computer-Aided Surgical Instruments

The client is in the orthopedic implant industry. The locational accuracy with which these medical devices are implanted is important to the success of the operation. One method to provide for this locational accuracy, with feedback in real-time, is to present 3-D spatial information to a locational sensing system. This computer aided surgery (CAS) system assesses the location of the surgical instrument in 3-D space relative to the patient and feeds this information back to the surgeon. Concurrent Design developed a series of locating features to provide this information. These custom features were added to various existing surgical instruments.

Custom Tooling Design for Surgical Instruments
Surgical instruments with custom features to allow for computer aided surgery.

Case Study - Surgical Instrument for Lumbar Region Joint Replacement Tool

The client is a neurosurgeon who had ideas to improve a surgical process related to joint replacement in the lumbar region of the spine. Working closely with the surgeon and his team, Concurrent Design refined the surgeon’s ideas into an enhanced surgical instrument. The additional levels of control and adjustment were prescribed by the surgeon and engineered, designed and prototyped by Concurrent Design. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing in metal alloys was used to prototype and refine the design.

3D Printed Prototype features for Neurosurgery Instrument
Custom tool design for surgical instrument enhancement, adding features and control parameters.
Prototype Tool Design for Surgical Instruments
Surgical instrument used for lumbar region joint replacement was prototyped using 3D printing techniques in a metal alloy.

Case Study - Thermal Process Mold Tool for Musical Drum Manufacturing

The client, Fibes Drum Company, manufactures custom-made musical drums, considered to be the finest in the world. Fibes was losing their long-time supplier of the shells (the wooden cylinder which is the starting point for the drum). They decided to develop their own custom tooling and contracted with Concurrent Design to satisfy this critical first step in manufacturing. Concurrent Design worked closely with Fibes craftsmen to understand the manufacturing process. A conceptual design was selected. Concurrent’s concept addressed the large forces necessary to create very high tolerance drums. A thermal solution was created to cure the drum shell within the tooling. There are many sizes of drums and custom tooling was required for each. A manufacturing solution was developed to address the client’s cost sensitivity for this suite of tooling.

Compression Mold Tool with Thermal Management System
Custom high-strength and high-tolerance mold tooling with thermal management system.
Compression Mold Tool showing Pneumatic Pressure Bladder
Tooling included a custom pneumatic bladder to provide the expansive force inside the mold, yielding the world’s highest tolerance (most perfect sound) drum.

Case Study - Force Measurement Tool for Pull-Out Force

Concurrent Design has ongoing need for force measurement tools of many types and styles. Occasionally, custom tool design is required. In one instance, a custom pneumatic actuator was required for some specialized equipment. Characterization of the actuator was required, including quantifying the static and dynamic frictional forces within the actuator. A special force measurement tool was developed using a high resolution commercial Shimpo force gauge. This tool has also been used to measure pull-out forces for plastic connectors used in the medical industry.

Force Measurement Tool Design to Gauge Pull out Forces
Custom tool design for metrology associated with pull-out forces, static friction and dynamic friction.

Case Study – Reliability (Life) Testing Tools with PLC Control and Cycle Counter

Concurrent Design has ongoing need for reliability (life) testing tools of many types and styles. Occasionally custom tool design is required. It is common for a client to require life testing for mechanical designs as part of their product development process. To qualify certain designs, Concurrent Design has built life testing equipment. This simple PLC-based system will cycle the mechanical design for a set number of cycles and keep track of the count. These tools may be used for any simple, small, cycling device. Other solutions are available for designs that exceed the capabilities of these tools.

LIfe Cycle Testing of Mechanical Devices
Life cycle test equipment used for qualifying product designs. Shown testing a semiconductor wafer lift pin assembly (left) and a light shutter (right).
PLC Controlled Test Equipment for Life Cycle Testing
PLC control allows for programming specific to the product / mechanism.
Custom Tool Design for Life Cycle Test Equipment
These PLC-based systems allow for reliability testing of many various mechanical designs.

Case Study – Rack Mounted Laser Diode Testing Tool with Laser Safety Enclosure

The client, Symtx (now Textron), is in the business of developing sophisticated custom test equipment. This test rack was designed to test laser diodes for a major laser manufacturer. Concurrent Design was tasked with the design and fabrication of the laser test module. The module provides for mounting and concurrent testing of several dozen laser diodes. The high electrical power distribution to each diode was highly customized and the resulting laser energy was directed to a custom energy sink. The laser safety enclosure was designed to assure safe operation during testing, yet provide easy access to replace product in a production test environment.

Rack Mounted Tool Design for Laser Diode Testing
Rack mounted testing system for laser diodes. Concurrent Design was responsible for the center module diode mounting platform and laser safety enclosure.
PLaser Safety Enclosure with Diode Mounting and Energy Sink
Laser safety enclosure is shown open for load and unload access. Diode mounting platform and energy sink are visible. Initial testing provides wiring for four diodes only.

Case Study – Rack Mounted Thermal Testing Tool for Electronics Testing

The client, Symtx (now Textron), is in the business of developing sophisticated custom test equipment. This test rack was designed to qualify very high frequency electronics. The test system was challenged by the potential for any combination of low-powered through high-powered devices, which might operate over a very wide temperature range. In some instances cooling was required, while in others the devices needed to be heated. Two discrete heating mechanisms were in place, and two cooling mechanisms as well - chilled water and air cooling. All thermal management was controlled under tight tolerances, requiring significant thermal analysis. Eight identical drawers provided concurrent testing of thirty-two devices, each with discrete access to the chilled water manifold in the bottom chassis.

Rack Mounted Thermal Test Equipment for Electronics Testing
Rack mounted thermal test equipment for high frequency electronic modules.
RF Chassis with dense Electronics Packaging
Main drawer of test chassis with very dense packaging of electronics required substantial thermal analysis.
Tool Design with Heated and Cooled Platen for Testing Electronics
Front end of drawer with mounting platens for four electronic devices under test (DUT). Dual discrete heating and cooling mechanisms were available to each position.

Case Study - Fiberoptic Glass Polishing Tool

The client, W.L. Gore, was developing a new product line in fiber-optic cabling. A means of providing high reliability optical transmission at the connector joint was required. Concurrent Design was tasked with developing a process and the equipment to provide the grinding and polishing of the cleaved glass fiber in a connector / ferrule. A process was conceived wherein successively finer grinding and then polishing media was used to create the optical clarity required. A proof of concept (POC) tool was created to qualify the process. The POC tool provided for the delivery of the workpiece (fiberoptic connector) to the grinding and then polishing media under very controlled parameters. An air bearing was developed and characterized to float the connector above the media, allowing for successively finer polishing engagements. The proof of concept was successful and the process was qualified. Concurrent Design then took this process and developed the equipment for the full-scale automated pilot manufacturing line.

Rack Mounted Tool Design for Laser Diode Testing
Proof-of-concept tool for process development engineering for the polishing of a fiber optic cable.
Pneumatic Tool Design for Fiberoptic Polishing
A pneumatic system provided an air bearing, controlling elevation and contact pressures during polishing.

Concurrent Design's office is located in Austin, Texas. We support clients in Austin and Central Texas along with regional, national and international clients. On a daily basis, we work with clients from Boston to San Jose and from Dallas to Houston.

We provide CAD modeling services utilizing SolidWorks™ and Pro/ENGINEER™. (SolidWorks is a registered trademark of SolidWorks Corp., a Dassault Systèmes Company) (Pro/E, Pro/ENGINEER, Wildfire, Creo are registered trademarks of PTC, Parametric Technology Corp.).