Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Engineering Design Services, Medical robotics
Brett Swope's engineering and product design firm prototypes for industries like bioscience and consumer products from the center of San Francisco’s SoMa district.
Originally founded in 2006 as a way to incubate innovative product ideas, CEO Brett Swope found he could provide a service for companies in the area looking for engineering help. "I was working full time and on nights and weekends and I wanted to do some consulting for friends and colleagues," says Swope.
Swope created a boutique style of business building a diverse and talented engineering staff, creating an innovative way to look at various projects from the growing industries in the area. Swope Design Solutions has quickly become an option for entrepreneurs looking for better methods to go from prototype to production.
"Medical devices, consumer products, and robotics are growing steadily here,” says Swope. “We utilize in-house 3D printing and CNC machining for our clients, in order to accelerate timelines and reduce overall development costs. I see the 3D printing as a huge enabler to move more quickly and to reduce costs for many of our customers."
"Much of our work involves the earlier side of the research and development process. Many of our projects result in prototypes that help our customers answer questions about the product or service they are trying to create," says Swope. "The medical industry has remained strong in innovation here and the demand for these types of services is high. Consumer products in the electronics industry have also experienced large growth in the last few years. Nowadays, everything has an electronics inside. A lot of the products that come across our desk are consumer electronics. Robotics also account for a large amount of growth due to the current trend to lower costs and increase efficiency by automation of as many repetitive or dangerous tasks as
Made up of six mechanical engineers and technicians, Swope Design Solutions utilizes a variety of machines and technology to increase its own capabilities, operations, and efficiencies. "We utilize quite a few things to increase our efficiency and that enable us to move more quickly," says Swope. "In our research and development lab, we have a 5-axis CNC machine, a laser welder, a silicone molding transfer press, one FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printer, and one SLA (stereolithography) 3D printer. Both are workhorses and are used by us every day. We also have a 6-axis robotic arm (UR 10), that we can use to load the CNC, or to perform other repetitive assembly operations."
Swope has shaped his company to respond to demand from across industries. "I’ve been designing medical products and consumer products for awhile, and have been fortunate to have worked on a wide variety of products" says Swope. "We do a good job in hiring folks with complementary skill-sets who come from different specializations. If one employee knows a lot about one particular industry they can share their knowledge, which helps balance our team out.
"The design process we utlize is diverse enough to handle a wide array of problems. Problem-solving and the creative process is indifferent to the project at hand," adds Swope. "It can be applied to various products, allowing us to work across a wide range of disciplines and product areas." Swope’s projects have involved everything from endoscopic medical devices to an award-winning NIST Braille and Tactile Displays that bring electronic images to the blind and visually impaired.
Needs: "We always need more projects that are inspiring to work on, and important problems for our engineering team to solve. In order to grow, financing and capital would also be helpful. Finally, we are also always looking for incredibly talented people for our team," says Swope.
Challenges: "Two of the biggest challenges include the expense of owning and operating a business in San Francisco," says Swope. "It makes it hard to be competitive with companies in other states. We have a lot of square footage that is needed to operate this business, and it’s expensive. Also, it’s hard finding and retaining top talent. Competition from other companies such as Google, Apple, and other hardware giants, have benefits they can offer employees. Our employees tend to be self-selecting."
Opportunities: "The opportunities are for us to continue to grow in our client base and our ability to operate specialized machinery," says Swope. "I think we have opportunities in products that we are going to be developing. We want to grow our consulting arm, products, and most importantly, have fun doing it."