Responding to Shark Tank, Design for Cost

Image of person holding a redesigned smaller pulley with the large pulley in the background.

Have you ever made the observation of how products get smaller? Have you ever looked at computers from the 70s and compared them to today’s computers, and asked, how did that happen? 

 

As engineers and designers, we do that all the time. We do it in part because we’re curious about things and we do it because that’s our job. In fact, we do it so much, we even have a name for it, which is, Design for Cost.

The best example of our work doing this is the SwiftPaws pulley. The SwiftPaws pulley, as seen on Shark Tank, was designed by the team at Catania. That system was put together to serve as a toy for dogs. The first pulley was designed for size and strength. However, if you watch the episodes from Shark Tank, you will see that the challenge with the system is the cost to produce. While it was designed to withstand the challenges of wear and tear by our pets, the too-market cost was too high. So, we went to work, looking for ways to improve the product without compromising on quality or the end-user experience.

The process known as Design for Cost required our designers and engineers to look at the original design and ask, how can we get the same functionality and durability at half the size? Where can we cut back and make it more efficient? And what areas need to remain the same? 

Within those questions, we decided to go with the easy target first. For us, that was downsizing the pulley. This was the most-simple reduction of the overall scale of the product and immediately bring down some costs. However, whenever you reduce a product in total scale you must always test it to maintain functionality. So, once the new pulley was designed we printed it out, using our in-house 3D printing system, to save us time and energy in making mistakes. 

Second, once we knew the pulley would work we looked to cut back in other areas of scale. We made note that the original pulley housing was overdone and added a great deal of cost and process to produce. When looking at it critically, we noted that it was made from six separate design parts that needed to be assembled in production. To simplify, we designed a unique one-piece clasp that wrapped around the pulley and secured it, and the pulley line, in place. Wha-la!

In the end, the new SwiftPaws pulley should reduce the cost of each pulley by as much as 80%, allowing SwiftPaws to pass on savings to their customers. This change and a few others will bring the price point down and let our client service a broader market.  We couldn’t be more proud.

To learn more about how Catania can help you with the Design for Cost for your products or ideas contact us directly on our website (link here).

SwiftPaws Shows Off Sleek Lure Controller Design on ESPN

In business for the past decade, SwiftPaws® (www.swiftpaws.com) holds the patent for lure coursing equipment and is currently the only professional manufacturer in the industry.

The competition took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Three-year-old Reas, a Whippet (a medium-sized breed of English origin descended from the Greyhound), raced the 100-yard dash in 5.669 seconds, with an average speed of 35.36 mph, according to disneysportsnews.com, in order to capture the coveted canine title.

Indeed, “capturing” is the key to winning the competition. In order to be the fastest, canines chase a lure.  Dogs are visually stimulated, and the lure, which they believe to be a rabbit or squirrel, is actually a white plastic bag attached to a string. The lure can travel at speeds of up to 60 mph via a system of pulleys, using a remote control.

“The pulley system and controller are what set us apart from what’s been around,” explained Meghan Wolfgram, CEO and Founder of SwiftPaws®.

The controller uses a trigger mechanism similar to that of a power tool, can be set to various speeds, and can also reverse.

Speed control of the lure is vital to ensuring fairness and equity during such canine speed competitions especially due to various breeds competing against one another. This allows the human controller of the lure to take into account a canine’s personal preferences and idiosyncrasies during competition. 

Ms. Wolfgram of Melbourne, Florida, is a canine aficionado, who wanted to design and mass-produce lure equipment not only for use during competition but to also provide dog lovers everywhere with options for exercising their beloved “best friends” wherever they live and play. From that desire came the creation of SwiftPaws’® products, including the SwiftPaws® Pro Alpha, for competitive use, and SwiftPaws® Home, for indoor and outdoor use.

One week before the competition, Ms. Wolfgram received a call from ESPN asking if she’d like to be interviewed at the event. The next thing she did was call Catania Enterprises. She had a makeshift controller to work the lure equipment which worked but she did not think it looked professional enough to represent her brand.

With only a week to go from concept to prototype, Catania Enterprises had to work quickly and also accurately. There would be no time for second chances. They had to get the controller housing designed correctly the first time around. Because SwiftPaws® and Catania Enterprises are located in Brevard County, Florida, both companies were able to work together in person to make Ms. Wolfgram’s dream a reality. Hand measurements were carefully taken to ensure accuracy, and a housing was created, taking into account previous internal designs that Catania Enterprises had not created themselves. Before one week, the prototype was delivered. Ms. Wolfgram was happy with the results, so much so, that Catania Enterprises has done two additional designs and then started mass-producing the controllers.

swiftpaws-controller-out-of-3d-printer

Catania Enterprises focuses on mass producing their designs, taking pride in creating “user-centric” products, such as handles or controllers, focusing on aesthetically pleasing designs, as well as ergonomically designed ones.

“They made a miracle happen,” said Ms. Wolfgram of the prototype controller.

To this day, she still receives telephone calls and emails about the ESPN interview and requests on how to purchase SwiftPaws® products.

“We have clubs all over the country that use our equipment,” added Ms. Wolfgram. “We aspire to be the Nike of dog sports.” 

Even though they love to travel, Ray Catania, CTO, and his Stefanie Catania, CEO, realize that Brevard County is still home.

“We take a lot of pride in the companies here. There is a lot of talent in the area,” said Ray Catania.

“There are a lot of engineering resources in our area,” remarked Ms. Wolfgram. “But there is a lack of mechanical engineering resources that know how to work with something that can be injection molded. Designing for mass manufacturing is a real skill.”