Call it innovation driven by customer demand—with a little help from Protolabs.
Tervis Tumbler, a Florida-based maker of drinkware, has developed a plastic, insulated wine glass that customers “absolutely love,” said Matt Tosi, a product innovation engineer for the company, which sells its products through major retail outlets such as Bed, Bath & Beyond and also sells personalized plastic cups and glasses directly to consumers.
What Tervis didn’t anticipate, though, was that “a whole lot of people like to have their wine outdoors, on patios, and poolside, especially in places like Florida,” Tosi said. “So we were getting a lot of customer requests for a wine glass with a cover or lid.” As a result, the race was on to bring a covered wine glass model to market, with Tervis turning to Protolabs’ injection molding service for help with both rapid prototyping and final-part manufacturing.
Development Challenge, Manufacturing Solution: Finding a Fit—Fast
A design challenge emerged in the early product development stages. It came from a fairly mundane household source: dishwashers. Tosi explained that “our products generally undergo repeated dishwashing cycles,” which can create part shrinkage and cause an ill fit for any sort of lid or covering. “The covers become too tight or too loose. We needed a cover that was designed to ensure a snug fit, regardless of how many times the parts have gone through the dishwasher.”
Tosi turned to Protolabs’ injection molding service for help with the covers. He said the automated quoting system, and, in particular, the design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis that the quoting system provided, helped guide the cover’s design and development. Tosi said he also received valuable assistance from Protolabs’ applications engineers, who provided advice on mold design elements such as gating and ejector pins. Two iterations of injection-molded parts were run. The eventual design, and the material used—a food-safe, BPA-free polypropylene resin—resulted in a finished prototype Tosi said he was “quite pleased with.”
Beyond the “fit” issue, Tosi said Protolabs’ quick-turn capabilities also came through to meet “our need for speed. [Protolabs’] lead times were very short, and using Protolabs was really the best way for us to get this new product into our customers’ hands quickly.”
“Using Protolabs was really the best way for us to get this new product into our customers’ hands quickly.”
Product Outcome: An Immediate Sellout
A first run of 5,000 covers for the wine glasses was ordered from Protolabs, Tosi said, so that Tervis could test the market. Small shipments of the covered wine glasses were then sent to each of Tervis’ retail outlets in the U.S. “We ran out almost immediately,” Tosi explained. “They sold a lot faster than anticipated.” Luckily, Tosi said, they could deploy Protolabs’ on-demand manufacturing services to produce more covers in a hurry. “Protolabs shipped in 10 days,” Tosi said. So far, Protolabs has molded 12,000 of the wine glass covers. “Without Protolabs’ quick-turn manufacturing services, we wouldn’t have been in a position to meet this unanticipated market demand.”
From prototyping through to low-volume, end-use production parts, Tosi said he has been satisfied with Protolabs’ services, and particularly lauded Protolabs’ speed. “Everything I asked for, whether I had questions of your customer service people, or I was waiting on quotes, or waiting for parts, there was nothing slow about it. It was immediate. It was all about getting stuff done. I hate waiting.”
But Wait, There’s More: A Suite of Services
Beyond the wine glass covers, Tervis has used Protolabs’ CNC machining and 3D printing services, too. “We’ve purchased several other molds for other parts as well as numerous machined and SLA (stereolithography) parts,” Tosi said. Like other Protolabs customers, Tervis has benefitted from the entire suite of services that the on-demand manufacturing company offers. And, no matter the manufacturing method, “We love the turnaround,” Tosi said. “We are able to react quickly to our customer requests…and get feedback.”