IDE staff have years of experience working in research and development. Innovative solutions to design problems have been developed and, in some cases, resulted in patents being awarded.
There is another class of design projects that require research to develop a solution. These projects arise when a new technology or approach is needed to solve a problem that cannot be done by conventional means. In these cases, a need has been defined but the solution is not obvious.
An example research project is a fabric transport system that was developed as part of a mass-customization apparel manufacturing operation. A high-speed laser cutter was used to cut fabric into individual pattern pieces for a custom garment. The goal was to develop a means to distribute the individual fabric pieces to workstations along an assembly line where the garment is assembled. A vacuum system was developed consisting of a pickup station at the laser cutter and a clear plastic tubing distribution network with delivery drop-off points located at the individual workstations. Several unique devices were developed to control the routing of the fabric pieces as they traveled through the network to the correct destination, resulting in three patent awards.
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