Product design for manufacturing turns initial concepts into practical designs, using a staged design process. The process develops concepts into detailed designs accounting for all functionalities.
The design can be a single part solution or include hundreds of parts, based on its complexity. It is validated using various prototypes and tests.
Preliminary and Detailed
The preliminary design develops bridges the gap between conceptual and detailed design. It is the initial design based on the finalised concept where all features are frozen.
The process takes place in a native 3D environment to create all supporting features. It then reviewed using mockups and draft renders to be approved for detailed design.
The detailed design defines all intricate details, e.g. sub-components, dimensions, and tolerances. It facilitates more accurate estimations of product specifications and cost, and more importantly, allows for successive prototyping and test.
Technological elements, such as electronic components, are designed and integrated into the product's system.
The integration process allows the development of production-ready prototypes at an early stage of the development process.
An example is printed circuit boards (PCBs) designed directly using final surface-mounted components (SMD), instead of going through breadboard iterations.
Prototyping and Test
Tests are initially carried out by simulating real-world scenarios digitally. These identify how parts could change or break under expected loads. They estimate design limitations and help identify possible improvements.
Under-stressed areas identified during tests are a good example. Those areas often signal excess material that could be removed without impacting functionality, thus saving weight and cost.
Physical prototyping follows, using 3D printing to create functional models to test mechanical parts. Each printing process is followed by tests to gauge parts characteristics, such as relative size, functionality and strength.
Prints are initially produced on filament-based 3D printers (FDM), while smaller and more accurate parts are produced using powder-based SLS printers (selective laser sintering) or CNC machines (computer numerical control) to achieve lower tolerances.