During the prototype design process, there are instances when part features can be manipulated to make manufacturing much more efficient while not sacrificing the intent of the designed part. Proficient designers & manufacturing partners will likely ask to see the assembly or environment the part will be used in order to better understand the application and what features are truly necessary. Application should also be closely analyzed when determining material selection. Oftentimes the material choice is a factor of what chemical or environmental factor the part will come in contact with such as gasoline or UV rays.
The big challenge for most product developers today is to create a product that isn’t just of high quality and long-lasting, but that enters the market quickly. After all, for a company to be perceived as a true innovator in their respective industry, there’s the important factor of being the “first” to do it – being proactive and not reactive. However, many times quality is sacrificed for fast time to market, which is problematic, as getting it “right” is just as important as getting it out fast.
How can product developers do both? It all starts with design intent during the prototype development stage that keeps manufacturing of the finished part top of mind. Paying close attention to how products are designed early on not only helps contribute to a quality-made product when it’s green-lit for manufacturing, but it can reduce time to market as well. Here’s a look at four reasons why design intent is so crucial in the prototype development stage.
1. Design for Long-Term Requirements
You want any product to be high-quality and long-lasting. And that’s why designers need to collaborate with engineers before the product goes out for that initial prototype run. Engineers have a different and highly valuable skillset in the product development cycle and they can often validate designs and suggest alterations to ensure that the product is quality and long-lasting. Engineers can also help the designers understand whether or not the product in question is suitable to be manufactured in high volumes.
2. Design Modifications
Another important reason why design intent is so important is because chances are, modifications are going to have to be made along the way. While it’s possible to prototype in a trial-and-error type of pattern, where you send a part out for prototyping, analyze it, make changes, then repeat, their process can be tedious, expensive and it isn’t exactly conducive to fast time to market. That’s where qualified engineers or product development consultants also enter the picture, as they can help reduce materials, production time, and ideally, costs, when it comes to prototyping and development.
Engineers can run the product design through simulation software to see how well it will hold up in various conditions, which can often identify design flaws. Other important questions to review during this “design modification” step with design intent include:
- Will the part be exposed to extreme temperatures? If yes, the material will need to be altered.
- What type of chemicals – if any – will the part be exposed to?
- Will the part be a visible application or an internal component?
- What does the part need to be? Flexible? Tough? Lubricated?
- Aside from temperatures, what other elements may the part be exposed to?
- Are there any sealing surfaces on the part?
The importance of design analysis and modifications cannot be overstated. Think of it this way – should a faulty product design be green-lit for manufacturing and costly tooling be created, only to call the product back once the flaws are realized, you’re not only losing money, but you’re delaying the release of your product.
3. Create Marketing Tool
One benefit to paying close attention to design is the type of marketing it can do for you. You can position yourself greater as an industry leader if you can show potential end users how thoroughly your products are considered before they go into production. This is ideal for marketing at industry trade shows and in any marketing materials.
4. Reduce Time to Market
Last but not least, there’s the aspect of fast time to market that truly highlights the importance of careful design analysis. As mentioned previously, not carefully analyzing the design of the product prior to the prototype stage can lead to an endless, time consuming cycle of prototyping and making modifications. Worst case scenario, it can force you to call back a production run and have to create tooling all over again. However, if careful design analysis is done prior, the number of prototype runs will likely be reduced and the product will go into production quicker.
As you can see, product design is of crucial importance to the product development cycle. And that’s why collaboration is so important after an initial design has been created. Changes and modifications made before the prototyping phase can simplify the rest of the product development cycle, helping to craft a quality, long-lasting product that hits the market fast.
What challenges have you faced when considering design intent for a prototype development project?