Innovative wrist rest made a reality with injection moulding

Written by: Proto Labs Ltd | Published: 01/19

The ICE design team developed a wrist rest to support trike riders and needed fast delivery of a product that was strong, lightweight and cost effective. The process required precision on product diameter so that it fitted exactly onto a pre-existing clamp that affixes to the handlebar.

Inspired Cycle Engineering - ICE, is the UK’s leading manufacturer of recumbent tricycles. The company was set up by directors, Neil Selwood and Chris Parker in Falmouth in 1999, but can trace its history back to the original Trice, first produced in 1986.

Exporting over 80% of their trikes abroad, ICE do a lot of work with injured servicemen through the charities Help for Heroes and America’s Wounded Warrior.

The company identified the need to produce a wrist rest that would comfortably support the weight of the arms and hands, thus helping people who are partially paralysed, have limited strength or grip, or those on long journeys, to maintain contact with the controls of the trike. ICE product designers Euan Crowder and Ben Dickinson were tasked with creating the ICE wrist rest.

After swiftly rejecting a metal-based product, the designers recognised that to fulfil the brief of being both strong and lightweight, a plastic injection moulded piece would be required. They explored the options via a series of primitive iterative Polymorph models, before agreeing on a moulded plastic base with a wedge-shaped cushion that can be flipped to adjust for comfort, depending on what model of trike it’s fitted to. After reproducing the prototype in 3D CAD, the ICE team approached Protolabs.

Initially, the team needed to ascertain if an injection moulded wrist rest was financially viable. “I approached Protolabs because I knew that I could quickly complete a feasibility study via their quote system which is an absolutely fantastic tool,” explains Euan. “I also knew that Protolabs specialise in fast turnaround short production runs, which was perfect for us as we only required 500 pieces and were keen to get them to market as soon as possible.”

The ProtoQuote software proved that an injection moulded wrist rest was feasible. “From this point the project gained momentum rapidly,” says Euan. “Injection moulding is a fairly new medium for us, so it was really reassuring to talk to people who know exactly what they’re doing. Unlike other manufacturers we’ve dealt with, we had a clear line of communication so we could talk directly to the experts –no going through a middleman and details being lost in translation. The wrist rest appears to be a very simple product, but we needed absolute precision for it to work.”

ICE has a long-standing reputation for innovation and high performance racing trikes, so it was essential that the wrist rest met stringent criteria. It had to be strong, durable yet ultra lightweight – whilst also looking the part – so choice of material and finish was key.

Perhaps the most crucial parameter for the piece was that it needed to exactly fit around a specific diameter of handlebar tube as well as have a pre-existing clamp that fits the wrist rest to hold it in place. An easy self fit solution was very important, and there was no margin for error on this – a fraction too tight and clients would be unable to fit the product to their trike; too loose and it would rattle intolerably whilst the trike is ridden.

Technical assistance was offered by Protolabs’ Applications Engineer Tasos Pantelis. Collaborating with ICE’s DFM team, Tasos discussed various improvements that could be made, advised on shrink back ratios and suggested a material with a manufacturing tolerance that fitted the project criteria.

“Tasos’ understanding of materials and injection moulding was invaluable to us,” says Euan. “Thanks to his input, we were confident in the final design and Protolabs didn’t disappoint in the speed with which they manufactured and delivered the finished product.”

Comfortable, easy to fit and weighing only 70g each, the ICE wrist rests enjoyed huge take-up by customers, so much so that just two weeks after the product’s launch, ICE put in an order for a second batch of the wrist rests to meet the high demand.

Protolabs has enjoyed collaborating on this project, and is delighted that the team at ICE are already looking at other projects in which they can take advantage of the injection moulding process. We very much look forward to working with them again in the near future.