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May 12

Stratasys 3D Printing Brings HEFT to Life

Regardless of your current climate it is likely that your weekends or after work hours have been dedicated to raking leaves, digging gardens, or shoveling snow. No matter the chore, raking, shoveling, or digging can all be strenuous and can amount to various aches and pains. A Canadian entrepreneur set out to change the way individuals use day to day tools while avoiding the associated aches and pains.

The concept for the HEFT™ (Highly Effective Fulcrum Tool) came to fruition after co-inventor, Marco Longley, was severely injured in 1990 after being hit by an impaired driver while riding his bicycle. After the accident, Marco went through major back and shoulder surgeries, which made physical activities, such as shoveling snow and raking leaves, painful and difficult. Ultimately, the discomfort lead Marco to create the original design for the HEFT—a tool which made such strenuous activities more economically feasible.

The completed, production run HEFT device.

The process for the HEFT started in Marco’s garage in 2008 where he began to create the original prototype for the product. After different ideas and iterations, Marco’s wife and co-inventor of the HEFT, Anne, suggested that a change to the collar of the heft be made which lead to the patented locking collar design used in the original product design.

The original handmade prototypes crafted by Marco were very time consuming to create and originated from fiberglass, metal inter core and PVC piping. Nearly four years after the original idea came to life and Marco had a working prototype, he pitched his idea on the iconic Canadian television series ‘Dragons’ Den,’ airing during the Christmas special in 2012. The idea was well received and sparked the interest of all of the Dragons, but an agreement was ultimately made between Marco and Arlene Dickinson. After much deliberation, Arlene’s group decided to pass on “The Heft” due to the high cost of manufacturing.

Fortunately for Marco, approximately two weeks before the airing of the Dragons’ Den episode, Start Up Canada, a network of entrepreneurs who seek to develop environments where all entrepreneurs can develop platforms together, took a tour of AssentWorks. A non for profit Makerspace and idea hub located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, AssentWorks dedicates itself to providing hands on access to 3D printing and rapid prototyping equipment to innovators and community members alike. Start Up Canada connected Marco with AssentWorks co-founder, David Bernhardt. With an extensive background in Industrial Design and an excellent knowledge and connection to the world of 3D printing, David turned to additive manufacturing technologies to redesign the HEFT and create less expensive, functional prototypes.

The original HEFT prototype, produced on the uPrint Plus 3D printer, located at AssentWorks.

Within two weeks of accessing the concept for the HEFT, David had altered the design and had created four functional prototypes with the use of AssentWorks’ uPrintPlus 3D printer. David presented his ideas to Marco and his family at the Dragons’ Den airing party. The sleek, light, and functional design, created by Bernhardt were well received; so well received that they captured the attention of another Dragon: David Chilton. Chilton heard about the expedited prototypes and was very interested in see them first hand. After seeing the prototypes and testing them Chilton only had one thing to say “I’m in.”

Now the real challenges began: testing and manufacturing. Although the uPrint ABS parts were great for preliminary testing and communication, they needed something more robust for functional testing. Bernhardt contacted the experts at Cimetrix Solutions for advice on material selection as well as injection molding applications. The new prototypes were printing on a Fortus 400MC using PC-ABS allowing for a strong part with some flexibility. “We were able to do all of our ergonomic and functional testing with the PC-ABS prototype” explained Bernhardt. This would ultimately be the prototype in which “the Heft” team secured a deal with a national retailer to distribute across Canada.

Original3D Printed
TimeTwo weeksOne day
ProcessWire frame, hand carved foam, modified PVC pipe, resin coat foam, finish and paint, assemblePrint, assemble
SavingsN/A13 days, $266 Labour

HEFT prototype parts mid-build a Dimension Printer from Stratasys.

The implementation of 3D printing proved to have a significant impact in the product design as well as the production of the prototype. From the ideation stage to manufacturing over 40 prototypes were produced, some of the earlier ones were basic wire to foam and PVC seen on the Dragons’ Den pitch. Although effective, manufacturing of these prototypes was very time consuming and cumbersome.

As with most products, “The HEFT” was not an overnight success. It was a five year journey from idea to retail with many hiccups throughout the development. Once additive manufacturing was introduced, the communication between all parties was clear and it went from prototype to product in less than a year. The product hit the store shelves of Home Hardware across Canada last fall, with an update feature on Dragons’ Den airing Wednesday, October 15, 2014. Details about the HEFT and availability for purchase appeared in a Home Hardware commercial throughout this past winter.

- Cimetrix Staff

To see how Cimetrix can take make your idea a reality, and more, visit us at www.cimetrixsolutions.com