What do I need to know before starting the flex arm design process with Moffatt Products?

Moffatt Team Conference Room
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We at Moffatt Products have a few core values that we strive to emulate. We want to be positive, respectful people that show our clients how valuable they are to us — not just as clients, but also as people. We want to work with folks across a variety of industries, finding partners who value the same things that we do: hard work, well-made products, and innovation. 

That last one is a biggie. Innovation doesn’t happen by accident — well, not usually. It happens because someone sees a problem, recognizes a solution, then works through the design process to get the job done. So how do we work with our partners and what do they need to know before starting the design process on a flex arm? Here’s our primer on where to start. 

What industries use flex arm devices? Is it appropriate for my industry?

We at Moffatt Products like to say that anything with a payload of fewer than three pounds can potentially use a flex arm. There are nearly limitless applications for a flex arm — but most often it works best for devices that require minute adjustments or exact placement for its payload. We’ve worked with tons of different engineers from almost every industry you can think of. We’ve designed flex arm products for diverse enterprises as med tech, food service, furniture/home furnishings, law enforcement, automotive, education, and tons more. The short answer is: if you have an idea and you think a flex arm could help — contact us. We’d love to brainstorm with you and come up with a solution.

flexible safety shield magnetic base
Safety shield with magnetic base

Can Moffatt Products fabricate other parts of my product in addition to the flex arm?

Yes, we’ve been approached to do a variety of other components! That’s a big part of why we love coming in to work — the challenges and opportunities that come with providing value-added components. With our team of talented and dependable vendors, we really believe that we grow with every problem we solve and with every new component we produce. 

So what sorts of parts has Moffatt Products created? We’ve made stampings for a number of applications — from mounting brackets and weighted bases to brackets at the top of a device that supports bar-code scanners. These mounting brackets have been able to be applied throughout a number of industries and applications from dog grooming tools to vacuum attachments to safety shields and compressed air nozzles. Once you’ve got the solution, you can really see how many problems it might solve!

It doesn’t stop there. We’ve made CNC machined interface connectors, ball swivel clamps, joy-stick supports, plastic molded housings. Dual molded elastomeric parts? Yup. Custom-designed die-cast swivels and housings? You bet. It’s not just machined parts, and plastic, we’ve also created a wide variety of finishes for these components including powder coats, e-coats, plating, anodizing — you get the picture. Designing products is one of our favorite things to do, any time we get to 3D print a component to evaluate its concept and aesthetics, we jump at it. It’s just really cool to see something go from theoretical and abstract to a real-world solution. It’s why we do what we do!

What does Moffatt Products look for in a flex arm device?

There are a number of factors that go into a great flex arm device. For this, we’re going to give you a sneak peek at Moffatt Products’ Ebook, The Engineer’s Checklist for Creating a Flex Arm Device. In it, you’ll find tons of tips on what to look for, not just in the flex arm itself, but in the flex arm provider you’ll be working alongside. 

Moffatt Products' C-clamp base with our device holder
There are several applications for a wired flex arm

Material Choices and the Manufacturing Process

Obviously, you need great material and a great manufacturing process. The problem comes in identifying what you should look for in this process. There are two factors that come into play here, the material you use and the way your device is coiled. Without getting too wordy, here’s a bit on the lesser-known qualities you should look for. 

Material

Most flex arm companies keep their material sources under lock and key. It’s proprietary info that is vital to their business. That said, they should always be able to communicate exactly why a particular material is right for your project. They’ll be able to recommend dry, high-grade materials and be able to explain from experience which materials are best for your application. If your flex arm company is being TOO vague about this process, it could be a warning sign that they don’t have your best interests in mind. Remember, this is a partnership. 

Coiling

One thing you need to know: coiling is extremely important when you talk about the strength of a flex arm. Coiling is also an exacting and precise process. It’s performed by people with decades of experience and craftsmanship. Those people have a keen understanding of the interplay of wire geometry. A round spring wire works as the muscle of the flex arm, while a triangular-shaped wire provides the adjustable friction element to hold it in place with each bend and adjustment. These are simple, elegant solutions that require tons of testing and studying. 

Any flex arm business worth their weight will be able to give you this data with specifics you need for your device. They’ll also be able to point you in the direction.   We’ve spent literally decades studying, testing, and documenting the many combinations of diameters and wire strengths needed to offer our customers a full spectrum of options. It’s because we care, but it’s also because that’s the only way to make sure you’ve got the right materials and coiling. That’s how you get a great end product. It’s a tough journey, but the end-user will appreciate that dedication and care. 

Check out the Moffatt Products’ Ebook for more information on what you’ll need to know before designing a flex arm device

If this information resonates with you, we heavily recommend you check out our free ebook, The Engineer’s Checklist for Your Flex Arm Device. Click here to read more

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Working on a flex arm design? We are here for a no-pressure phone call. We’d love to hear more about what you are working on and give you ideas and prototypes to improve your decision-making process. Give us a call, we promise it will be worth your while.