Otter Alpha, Summer Team 2017


This summer we recruited a design team of Autodesk Student Experts to develop an alpha prototype of our Otter Newborn Warmer.  The student expert team included Malory Johnson Industrial Designer, Celine Ta, Mechanical engineer and Kelly Brennan, Mechanical Engineer.   The summer design sprint started with a quick orientation at the DtM studio in Salem.  We were fortunate that each intern came with experience working on Otter in the past. We were able to dive right into the summer’s objectives. 

The team began by contacting heating element manufacturers, drawing up circuit diagrams and lots of CAD modeling in Fusion 360.  In August, the team moved to the Autodesk BUILD Space in South Boston for alpha prototype fabrication and testing.  The Autodesk BUILD Space team in Boston were superlative hosts.  

We used this prototyping sprint as an opportunity to pioneer a new process for prototype fabrication: the design and production of custom PCBs using Eagle CAD and our Othermill desktop CNC.  Ordinarily, PCB design is a slow process.  You design the board and send it out to a fab house to be machined--a process that takes about a week.  Using Eagle CAD and the Othermill, we were able to design, build and test PCBs in a few hours, meaning we could generate two or three iterations of a board in a single day.


This was also the first time we fabricated our own custom membrane switches.  Outsourcing this component would have cost 75% of our budget and forced us to make design decisions too early such that the part would arrive in time.  Given our new ability to make PCBs in-house, we were able to simply print out the interface design and glue it directly to the board with attached dome switches and LEDs. This easy workflow allowed us to iterate on the design until it was right and saved us nearly $1,000.

After a series of late nights, the team finished the Otter alpha prototype.  We’re excited to begin field-testing this new and improved device early next year, and after user validation we expect it to be a much shorter step to the development of a production prototype--in other words an Otter design that is optimized for cost-effective manufacture at our target volumes.