As a result of an ongoing collaboration with SUSTAIN Lincolnshire and the University of Lincoln, Lincolnshire firm, gPiO Support Services, has begun commercial production on a new piece of technology that will help both teachers and students throughout the UK.
Based in Lincoln, gPiO Support Services recently developed a control interface box for the Raspberry Pi, Arduino and other computer systems, which is designed for use in classrooms to support teachers in delivering new computing curriculum.
Trevor Olsson, Director of gPiO Support Services, said: “We initially received help from Lincolnshire County Council’s Technology Hubs throughout the region to manufacture components for our prototype interface boxes, named gPiO after our company. However, we eventually realised that we couldn’t use this valuable resource for producing parts in large quantities.
We knew that injection moulding would likely be the best way forward, but the costs for producing the necessary parts and tools to make what we needed were prohibitive for a SME – luckily, it was at that point that we heard about SUSTAIN Lincolnshire.
We found out about the programme through a local Lincolnshire company that had worked with the University of Lincoln and SUSTAIN in the past, and decided to get in touch to see how the team might be able to help.
As a result, SUSTAIN Lincolnshire began work on supporting the manufacture of gPiO parts by ‘production-ising’ pieces of the product, utilising sustainable methods and materials at the disposal of the University of Lincoln.
Using SUSTAIN Lincolnshire’s Arburg Plastic Injection Machine installed at the University, moulding trials were carried out with various recycled plastics until recycled red milk bottle tops were found to be a suitable material for use. From there, other SUSTAIN Lincolnshire equipment, including a small rapid prototype machine, a ‘three axis’ milling machine, and a specially-designed tool to accept aluminium inserts, were used in an effort to help move the interface box swiftly from prototype to production.
In the end, SUSTAIN Lincolnshire machinery was able to help gPiO Support Services:
- Digitally scan and create 3D models of the required parts
- Create tooling to mould parts
- Produce samples of products in pre-run materials
- Produce first production samples
Before working with SUSTAIN Lincolnshire, I had sent enquiries for some of the parts we needed to a tool maker. A cost of nearly £5,000 was quoted, along with a lead-time of three months.
Luckily, by working with SUSTAIN Lincolnshire, the total time and cost, from scan to the creation of production samples, was one week and only cost us £500, part of which was funded by a small grant that the team helped me secure.
As a result, the pieces we required are now completely manufactured from recycled bottle tops and only cost approximately 35p per part to create.
It’s been a joy working with the SUSTAIN Lincolnshire team. The combination of expert product knowledge, combined with their enthusiasm to get things done, has transformed the gPiO box from a small-scale local project to a product that will be used to support teachers, and help children, in schools throughout the country. With that said, I’d absolutely recommend SUSTAIN Lincolnshire to other SMEs that want to grow and become more resource efficient.
Ray Newell, Director of Oakwell Management Services Ltd, an Engineering consultant working with SUSTAIN Lincolnshire on behalf of the University of Lincoln Engineering School, said:
We’re looking forward to continuing our collaboration with gPiO as they grow. It’s been a great pleasure helping this Lincolnshire firm, and we couldn’t be happier with the growth they’ve experienced as a result of our support and assistance.
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Phase 2 of SUSTAIN Lincolnshire is a two-year programme of activity aimed at promoting resource efficiency, supporting the emerging green sector and highlighting the business opportunities climate change presents for local businesses.