Niko-Engine Project - Part 1

This is the first video from our "Fast Forward Series".

The project began in 2017. We took it over when only part of the design was completed and some parts were already finished.

First we had to get familiar with the engine design to see what was actually made and what was missing. We had a few skype meetings with the original designer who explained how he envisioned the engine to work. Because we had no prior experience in combustion engines, we had to learn as we went on with the project.

A lot of work was put into the design of the special gears called "beveloid gears". This type of gears had to be used, because the camshaft from the BMW head came out at an angle. We reviewed all the books in our library and a lot of articles on the web to figure out how to design and manufacture this kind of gears. After we figured out how to design them, we had to find and convince a manufacturer to help us with the prototype. The first prototype was a success, so we could design the final piece with all the other features included.

The next step in the project was to get the BMW heads welded together. For this to happen, we needed to machine off some of the material from the heads. After that we designed the middle part that combined both heads and a few parts to close the gaps. A welding fixture was designed to ensure the correct position of the heads during welding. After the welding was finished, the weldments were machined to ensure a straight surface.

The combustion chamber seals were designed and after that, they were manufactured from copper alloy and rubber. They fitted perfectly on the first try. We also had to design and manufacture the middle seal for the piston.

Because the engine will be mounted on a rig, we redesigned a part and included holes for mounting on the rig.

Beside all this there was a lot of small work needed on the design and parts manufacturing.

The patent for the engine is available here.

In the second part of the project series, we will show some details from the assembling process.



Importance of stable and clear new product specifications

Why should your company strive to define as much of product specifications as possible before entering the development phase?
  • increases profitability
  • better success possibilities
  • faster to market
  • the right product for the right market
  • higher market share
  • brand quality awareness
  • eliminating unnecessary iterations
  • fewer interruptions in the development stage

What causes changes of product definition during development?
  • lack of information (marketing, technical,...)
  • not proven conclusions and specifications
  • lack of communication
  • vagueness and ambiguity of specifications
  • lack of organization and systematization

How can we control this changes?
Changes have and always will happen durring the development phase. To minimize them, we should dedicate more time to it in the early stages and:
  • distinguish between fact based and proven specifications, and not yet proven assumptions
  • we need to test this assumptions before we take them for granted and before we base the whole development process on them. The easiest way to do this, is to build a prototype just to prove this particular specification.
  • because not all assumptions can be proven at the beginning, we should make a plan how to validate them in the development stage
  • although people are experts on their fields, don't trust them blindly.
  • once the specification document is completed it must be checked and accepted by all departments that will contribute to the development of the product.
  • the need for new specifications and changes will still appear. But before you make this change, double check that this is real and correct.
All of this may seem as waste of time at the beginning but it will sure pay off at the end.


The benefits of hiring a contract engineer

The times are changing and everything is becoming more and more uncertain. Businesses are rising again but the fear of going down fast still remains. Organizations are struggling with the overload of their engineers and are somehow hoping to make it right with their next product that will keep them overwater in the next years.
The solution for this problem could be a contract engineer that will help your company only when you need it.

Let's take a look at the benefits an organization can get from a contract engineer:
  1. Contract engineers are ideal for companies that do not have the constant need for an additional engineer or are just starting out and are still unsure in the future of their business.
  2. The company can decide each time which contractor to hire acording to his skills and expertise.
  3. A contract engineer can concentrate on projects requirements and deadlines and provide better focus than house engineers, that are working on other ongoing projects.
  4. A new individual usually brings in a fresh way of thinking and could suggest solutions that may have been overlooked by the house engineers.
  5. A contract engineer brings in a new network of individuals and companies that could add value to the project.
  6. If engineer did not fulfill their expectations there is no need to hire him again.
Things to be aware of when working with a contract engineer:
  1. Entering an outsourcing partnership while under pressure is not ideal and can present hard times for both parties.
  2. Many companies do not value internal and external costs equally. Therefore, outside resources appear more expensive, although they may not be at the end.
  3. While outsourcing may be expensive, the payoff from product comming quicker to market can make it well worthwile.
  4. It is critical to define the project in as much written detail as possible. Not everything can be set up front. The better the definition the lower the costs.
  5. Make sure the contract engineer has the necessary resources to get the job done, such as software and project managemenet tools. It is risky to hire engineers without proper software licenses.
If your company is struggling with overload of engineers make sure you check our website www.jrp.si to see what we have to offer...


Different types of hardware prototypes and what are they for...

When searching the web for prototypes you must have stumbled upon different terms of them like mock-up, proof-of-concept and so on. So how are they made and what purpose do they serve?
I put them in order in which they are most likely to be used in the development cycle of a new hardware product:

Virtual Prototype

  • A 3d model of the product made in CAD software
  • Used to make fancy renderings to test the market
  • Also used to make 2d drawings for manufacturing of prototypes
  • It changes and evolves until it’s ready for mass-production

Visual Prototype or Looks-Like Prototype

  • A physical model or an industrial design drawing
  • No functionalities are included
  • To explore the basic size, look and feel
  • To test ergonomics

Proof of Concept Prototype or Works-Like Prototype

  • A prototype made from basic material that is by the hand or from previous similar products
  • Made only to test new functionalities that need to be proven
  • Must not be the whole product, only the part that needs to be tested
  • Usually we don’t pay attention to the manufacturability
  • Doesn’t look like the final product
  • For different functionalities of the same product multiple prototypes with different solutions can be made to choose the best combination
  • Used to test functionality and also for showing it to the investors


  • A prototype to test the functionality and feel within the expected shape and look of the final product
  • Usually very-low cost to turn attention away from details and graphic design

Presentation Prototype or Looks-Like Works-Like Prototype

  • It combines the functionality and the appearance of the product
  • Made from the same material or very similar materials as the final product but with different manufacturing processes
  • Used to test the product customer interaction

Pre-Production Prototype

  • The first version of the mass-produced product
  • Used to check for errors that might have not been yet discovered

But at the end, it’s not important how you call it as long as it gives you the option to test what you need to and to test it as fast as possible.

A prototype a day, corrects mistakes by the way :).