Just about everyone in my neighborhood has a pickup truck. It seems like one of the favorite pastimes for a lot of my neighbors on a bright sunny summer day is to be out on their driveway, working on their trucks, washing, waxing, polishing, repairing or simply sprucing them up. It’s a delight to see the pride and energy expended on it. It’s almost like a fun picnic, a family day. The music’s on, kids playing with sprinklers running in the yard, the grills firing up in the afternoon.
Exuding power, assuring functionality, sturdiness and versatility, used for both work and pleasure, the pickup truck appears to be the ubiquitous vehicle of choice for a majority of Americans all over the country. Whether it is for hunting, fishing, hauling cargo or simply driving to work, there seems to exist a cultural identification with trucks. Curious, I asked a couple of my neighbors about it. Just as I thought, they told me that they viewed the truck as an essential part of their lifestyle for both work and pleasure. The truck to them is a hardy, reliable, comfortable, workhorse they can use either for routine, daily work or for heavy-duty maintenance needs. No matter how rough the weather became, for picking up heavy items knowing that it would fit without a problem, or as a vehicle for recreational purposes, they could always rely on their trucks.
A fundamental requirement then, common to both work and pleasure, is storage capability of the trucks. The more elegant the solution, the greater its appeal.
Our Featured Client this month is DECKED, with the abridgement that follows being based upon a success story written by Peter Roberts of Altair ProductDesign.
So while storage is essential, the huge capacity of a pickup comes at the expense of storage. The loading area of the truck is often a simple box with no ability to store smaller items safely or secure them from theft. As a result there is a wide range of third party products on the market that look to address this problem, often in the form of metallic locking systems that require professional fitting or considerable modification to fit correctly. After spotting an opportunity in the marketplace, entrepreneur Lance Meller started work on a well-built alternative. Lance founded DECKED with his business partner Jake Peters to create an innovative, robust and useful solution for both commercial users and private owners alike.
Developing an Innovative Storage System to Fit a Wide Range of Pickup Trucks
The initial design that had been developed by DECKED required assistance with refinement of the design and engineering of the product. Following an extensive search, they selected Altair ProductDesign as a development partner for the conceptual design work along with advanced engineering and prototyping services.
The constraints facing the team were varied. The goal was to create a cost effective storage system that could be manufactured for a compelling retail target price. It had to be possible to deliver the product in dense shipping cartons via standard shipping methods. The system also had to be able to withstand a load of 2,000 Lbs. while being shallow enough to avoid taking up the entire height of the loading bed. In addition, it needed to be compatible with fitting a wide range of pickup models including those from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan models ranging back to 2000 and accommodating both the 5.5 and 6.5 variants.
Exploring Design Concepts & Performance Testing Using Simulations
Altair ProductDesign’s first task involved feasibility studies of the design objectives. The team explored system packaging options, assembly process and simulation techniques to explore the product’s current and potential performance under load.
Once they were satisfied that with work, the product was feasible for the required design objectives, DECKED sought to establish a unique product identity for the system. Altair ProductDesign’s industrial design group Thinklabs was invited to participate in developing design themes encapsulating product branding, form, function and aesthetics for the storage solution. A large range of designs were explored, identifying many features that could be added to the various components of the system to enhance its usefulness product. While many of the features could be integrated into the design quite easily, some required a physical assessment of operating effort and opening smoothness to provide the confidence that the best choice would be selected. Altair ProductDesign constructed a full size mockup to demonstrate the several options schemed for drawer guidance, support and latching mechanisms. The mockup included representations of the deck panels, operating drawers with wheels and slides, drawer runners and drawer latches. Using this mock-up, the team was able to select the best quality drawer opening and closing experience.
Following the success of this early work, DECKED gave the go-ahead for a more detailed design study. This involved using Altair’s virtual simulation suite, HyperWorks, to investigate the structural performance of the product to evaluate performance such as testing the system’s load capacities under real conditions.
Minimizing Manufacturing Complexity
The combination of Altair ProductDesign’s design and HyperWorks simulation expertise proved to be advantageous throughout the development process and was especially valuable when designing for manufaturability. Complexities from the design were removed and it became possible for DECKED to manufacture both the 5.5 and 6.5 foot variants with the same tooling, using inserts to produce the different lengths. Innovations such as this allowed the team to keep manufacturing costs as low as possible.
DECKED took a marketing prototype of the system created by Altair ProductDesign to various OEM pickup truck dealerships and truck accessory dealers, to gain useful insight from both staff and customers. The team were extremely pleased with the response that they received and it gave them the confidence needed to take the prototype design into production. Altair ProductDesign then handed off final designs and tooling specifications to DECKED’s manufacturing partner.
Engineered by Altair ProductDesign
The partnership between DECKED and Altair ProductDesign proved to be an extremely positive one. DECKED met its performance, shipping requirements and manufacturing cost targets while remaining a simple to fit and use product. The storage solution is now on sale throughout the US and is proving to be popular with both the trade and consumer markets. DECKED was so pleased with the work on the product that they embossed “Engineered by Altair ProductDesign” onto the product; a ringing endorsement for the team’s dedication to the project. DECKED continues to use Altair ProductDesign on product improvements, future design iterations and product extensions.
As Jake Peters, General Manager, at DECKED said “The team at Altair ProductDesign are the real deal. Their experience, wisdom, skills, technical resources and willingness to go the extra mile are commendable. We would not have been able to launch DECKED in the correct manner without them”
DECKED received a prestigious SEMA Award for “Best New Van/Pickup/SUV Product” for 2015 during the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
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