Detail: Thermotion, LLC specializes in products that utilize thermodynamics, or physics in the context of heat and temperature. Thermotion is an exclusive designer and manufacturer of Electro-Thermal Actuators for the automotive, appliance and aviation industries. The Mentor, OH-based manufacturer developed their proprietary technology in the early 1970s under the auspices of the Gould Corporation.
Growth Challenge: By 2006, Thermotion’s growth was stalling as it was becoming more difficult to enter new markets with their products.
“Our investors were not interested in supporting a couple-million-dollars-a-year company,” Thermotion President Gary Swanson said. “They told us they wanted us to figure out how to get out of this box.”
In 2007, Swanson and his team found drastic limitations in their products and they needed an innovation that that would deliver greater energy efficiency, longer life expectancy and a faster recharge. Such would help them outpace their competitors and enter thriving markets for heating and cooling products and medical devices, among others.
How We Worked With Them: In June, 2008, the MAGNET Product Design & Development (PDD) engineering team became familiar with Thermotion’s technology and challenges. Both teams brought deep engineering knowledge to the project and they worked over the next nine months on the concepts and working prototypes for a new tech that would satisfy Thermotion’s growth needs. Through the project, Thermotion managed to shrink the entire assembly process in half while MAGNET’s ability to rapidly create prototypes saved Thermotion thousands of dollars on costly retooling.
Outcome: The ultimately new actuator design surpassed all Thermotion’s performance improvement targets:
Energy efficiency was improved from 18 to 20 watts to less than 1 watt
Life expectancy was increased from one to two years to 10 years
Recharge was improved from 1 minute to instantaneous
Gary Swanson (left) and his team (left to right): Dr. Steve Douglass, Director of Research & Development; Gene Cicigoi, Operations Manager; Phil Cebular, Sales Manager; and Mike Davis, Engineer.
Thermotion’s new thermomagnetic actuator is more compact, is 10 times more energy-efficient, lasts 10 times longer and recharges 10 times faster than its older products, at a comparable cost.
An early 3D concept for the thermomagnetic actuator created by MAGNET PDD engineers.
PDD Senior Design Engineer Mike Keller shows a MAGNET engineering intern how to remove prototypes parts printed on the 3D fusion deposition modeling (FDM) printer. Thermotion’s Swanson says this rapid prototyping capability enhanced the design process while saving thousands of dollars.