In this post, we share helpful tips that companies can use to simplify design manufacturing or design for manufacturing. DFM, or design for manufacturing services, is the process where a product is designed while considering the availability of parts and components and the capabilities of the manufacturing plant right from the start. This post discusses the eight tips companies use to simplify the DFM process.
The main objective of DFM is to minimize the risk of delays and errors while a product transitions to mass manufacturing from prototyping. It is also part of DFM’s goal to optimize cost and design, which is also critical to meeting time to market. Here are tips you can incorporate into your design for manufacturing strategy:
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8 Tips companies use to simplify design manufacturing or design for manufacturing
1. Welcome new processes
Curiosity should always be baked into your culture when you are a designer. You should be willing to explore new processes, methods, and technologies to help reduce risks or save money and time. You must select the most appropriate technology for your goals and product instead of just choosing the one you are most familiar with. For example, 3D printing might only be a production-level process. However, it is still new enough as far as manufacturing is concerned that most people don’t even consider using a 3D printing design professional for this particular purpose.
You must also weigh the new process’s risks and intended benefits. Generally speaking, something less familiar to you will carry more risk. Look at the bigger picture and consider the product’s entire life cycle. The specific quantity you need will also influence your final decision. Using one familiar process will make more sense if you make hundreds of products. You can then consider switching to a novel or new approach as your output increases.
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2. Eliminate risk
Unlike other product development projects that incorporate continual reduction of risks, DFM services provides a unique opportunity to lower these risks early in the process. It is vital since it will be more expensive and more challenging to make changes when the launch date draws nearer. It is recommended to break up the risk into several smaller pieces. Always weigh the risk of every process, component, and design. While doing this, avoid relying too much on tight tolerances. A more robust design will be impossible if you assume that parts won’t be within tolerance.
Try asking yourself some “what if” questions. What if the component is a half-inch longer or shorter? If your questions get answers that will lead to a catastrophic failure, it only means you should consider revising your design. It will let you develop a more robust design that can endure the unknowns of the manufacturing process and the general wear and tear the moment it is manufactured and launched in the market.
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3. Look for a right-sized factory
Identifying the right factory you will work with plays a significant role in the DFM. DFM won’t be possible if you don’t know who will manufacture your product. The final assembly is the stage where things come together. These include potential issues, so you have to look for a manufacturer that will consider you a valuable client enough for the boss to be right every time you visit. Ideally, your annual purchase should not exceed 5% of the factory’s total sales. It’s best to have an accurate forecast. Working with the wrong factory can quickly lead to disappointment, especially once it becomes less responsive. All projects have setbacks that can be managed promptly if the manufacturer values your business.
4. Find great partners
Although DFM transfers some responsibilities for efficient manufacturing to the 3D product design team, the team in charge of manufacturing still has a critical role to play. It is essential to forge long-term and strong relationships with all your manufacturing partners, and streamlining the design process will be possible when you do this. Confidence in vendors can also make you more open to innovative and new processes. This high level of trust will also let you take advantage of their expertise.
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You will be more confident in the recommendations of your trusted vendors and their capacity to execute. This kind of relationship works both ways. For instance, be honest when it comes to design. Don’t say you will make 1 million units when you only expect to produce 1,000. Always remain open to feedback and suggestions from all your manufacturing partners.
5. It doesn’t work if it isn’t tested
The model makes sense on your laptop, but you need to hire a rapid prototyping company to develop a prototype and test it to know whether it will work. Complete a series of prototypes and increase the fidelity while moving from one prototype level to another. It might require additional time upfront, but this can make you more confident about the design and ensure that everything will work as expected later in the process. Make sure you also give yourself some time for prototyping loops. Plan how you will prototype and test every part and consider its effect on your final design.
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6. Sketch early and often
Enlisting the assistance of a sketching designer is the initial step in designing a product. However, you might want to expand your concept of sketching and the mediums you can use to do it. Aside from pen and paper, you might consider rough CAD mockups, tablets, whiteboards, and even lego bricks, foam, and clay. Visual communication of your design to present concepts, challenges, and ideas to team members and stakeholders is critical.
It is something you should start doing as early as you can. After all, it is easy for two persons to have two completely different images in mind. Using sketches to convey your ideas will help you receive quality feedback without confusion and misunderstanding and ensure that everyone moves in one direction. The early rough models and sketches help you determine the specific number of parts you need and can inform what your skeleton model or CAD master model will look like, allowing you to save more time later in the process.
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7. Deal with the most complex challenges first
It is natural to start with items easy to check off your list or things you already know. However, there are several reasons why you should pay attention first to the most complicated DFM challenges. Your team will probably have the most creativity and energy early in your product design process. You will also likely have an all-time high communication. It is the best time to address and deal with the most difficult challenges. During the early stage of the process, you will possibly have fewer self-imposed or artificial constraints that often accumulate over time.
After a 3D product modeling artist spends months or weeks working on your model before showing it to stakeholders, it may feel less interesting to go back to make some significant changes. It is why all these complex challenges should be out of your way early on and incorporate solutions to your prototypes from the beginning. Dealing with more severe DFM challenges early on helps raise red flags much sooner, giving you more time to come up with solutions. For example, you might discover that your lead time for tooling should be 12 weeks instead of 8.
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It is better to know it while you are still planning your timeline for product development so you can prepare for the additional weeks. Early resolution of more immense challenges can make your team feel more confident. It is always nice to know that the puzzle’s most difficult pieces are in place and that everything will sail smoothly from there.
8. Always follow the first principles of thinking
Finally, you must challenge assumptions and avoid creating the self-imposed limitations and artificial constraints stated above. By breaking down original product specifications and challenges into core assumptions using the first principles of thinking, you can use analogical and logical reasoning to generate new solutions and ideas.
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DFM tips summary
Using the above tips, you will realize how the parts are better designed for manufacturing and how many resources you will save during the process. All design situations are unique, so not all of the tips above will apply to everyone and every project. DFM can be simplified with DFM services. To ensure better results, you can work with design for manufacturability and assembly experts (DFM experts) who can make the whole process easier and simpler.
How Cad Crowd can assist
If this product development and manufacturing post has inspired you to act upon your product idea, Cad Crowd can help. We have a vast database of experienced professionals in a variety of fields who can make any of your product dreams a reality. Check out how it works or request a quote if you are ready to get started.