About the team
Industry: Consumer Electronics
Product: Smart HVAC system
Year Founded: 2015
Location: Redwood City, CA and Calgary, Canada
Reason to try: Looking for a local manufacturing partner who can deliver on speed
Favorite features: Design for manufacturability feedback for injection molding
Result: Injection molded T1 samples delivered in 4 weeks
Alea Labs: Disrupting the Heating and Cooling Industry
Alea Labs is a product company that addresses the inefficiencies of heating and cooling.
“Our mission is to disrupt how buildings are heated or cooled, which has not changed for many decades and is extremely inefficient,” said Hamid Farzaneh, CEO and Co-Founder of Alea Labs.
Farzaneh envisions demand-based heating and cooling, so the system only produces as much energy as one or more rooms need at one time and isn’t heating an entire house or building if that’s not needed.
“Our thermoelectric generation technology has the potential to decrease the amount of energy spent on heating and cooling by half, which would have a huge impact on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases and pollution that’s being caused by heating and cooling buildings in North America,” he said.
The Challenge: Manufacturing Several Complex Plastic Parts
Alea Labs’ end use product is an HVAC tracking product that includes a sensor tracking module, smart vents, and an external grille. The vents and grilles both come in seven different sizes. Fictiv is manufacturing the grilles and helped Alea Labs refine their grille designs for tooling and mold flow.
“Fictiv helped us with the form factor and with determining which material to use,” said Farzaneh. “The geometry could impact the amount of air that was coming through the unit, and we didn’t want to reduce it. In terms of manufacturing plastic products, that was really pushing the envelope, and we could meet that challenge, thanks to the expertise of Fictiv.”
Alea Labs’ industrial design partner Fuseproject created a complex design, with many lines and angles to direct air flow.
“You have these grilles that are sitting on the vent, and air has to come through it, and you want to disperse that air inside the room, in different directions,” said Farzaneh. “Because of that, it’s important to have each of the ribs come at different angles, so that we can distribute the air.”
“It was a team effort with Fictiv that enabled us to take this product that’s fairly complex and turn it into a product that could be manufactured and meet the functional requirements that we had in mind.”
Molding such a part is complex, particularly because Alea Labs was using a special molding compound with a high glass content.
“We had to do quite a bit of design for manufacturing analysis with Fictiv, in order to enable this product to be manufacturable, both in high volumes and different sizes, and also at competitive prices,” said Farzaneh. “It was a team effort with Fictiv that enabled us to take this product that’s fairly complex and turn it into a product that could be manufactured and meet the functional requirements that we had in mind.”
Injection Molding: From Months to Weeks
“For a startup, time to market is everything. You always have delays, and you are always under-resourced, so it’s very important to try to streamline the production as much as possible.”
Alea Labs needed to find a manufacturing partner that could deliver parts in weeks, not that standard months-long lead time typical of injection molding.
“For a startup, time to market is everything,” said Farzaneh. “You always have delays, and you are always under-resourced, so it’s very important to try to streamline the production as much as possible.”
Farzaneh notes that startups should expect multiple iterations when taking a product to market.
“You want each iteration to be as short as possible, so if you have a mold that needs to be modified, you want it to be modified in a matter of days, rather than weeks and months,” he said.
Alea Labs also wanted to work with a local company and found that Fictiv met their specific needs.
“Fictiv solved that problem for us, because they have their manufacturing partners in China, yet all their technical team is local,” said Farzaneh. “Fictiv took away the complexity of dealing with a Chinese manufacturer, because they have their own facility and their own teams in China. That process went very smoothly, both in terms of leveraging local expertise and also having a much faster time to market than we could have otherwise.”
Fictiv was able to deliver injection molded T1 samples in just four weeks.
A Promising Partnership
Beyond quality and speed, Farzaneh appreciated the level of service and attention to detail received throughout the project.
“One part of the very positive experience with Fictiv was the fact that we were dealing with an account manager who was extremely detail-oriented,” said Farzaneh. “She was absolutely excellent in looking at the details, and asking the right questions, and making sure the specs were well understood before she would even pass it on to the manufacturer.”
“One part of the very positive experience with Fictiv was the fact that we were dealing with an account manager who was extremely detail-oriented”
“Based on our experience with Fictiv, when we add additional sizes of vents and grilles and do a redesign for cost reduction and improved performance, we intend to solicit Fictiv’s help, not only for the grilles, but also for the vent, so that we have a single manufacturer that can provide product turnkey,” said Farzaneh. “The only way to be sure your project is on time, on budget, and to spec, is really to establish a relationship with your supplier, and not every supplier or company can do that. In our case, I believe we have established that partnership with Fictiv, and I believe it has worked very well for both companies. It’s very promising.”
To learn more about Fictiv’s injection molding capabilities, visit fictiv.com/injection-molding.