Think you’ve crafted the next big industry innovation the world has been waiting on and wondering your next step in getting it out there to make you millions? In this Machines4U Know-How article, we give you a brief guide to understanding the process and players involved in product manufacturing.
Design and Research
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ll be funding the development process yourself or looking to sell your patent to stakeholders to fund production. If you’re commissioning the development you’ll need a Product Requirements Document (PRD), which is a documented detailing every feature and aspect of the product. A good PRD should include an assessment from literally everybody, from marketing and sales to the eventual end users, this document should be detailed enough so that Industrial Designer knows every application and aspect of the product they are about to develop. That said, this document is not a one time job and expects to constantly be updating it with development changes.
Development and Engineering
Finished with the initial design, research and PRD? Once the Product Requirements Document is completed and submitted, an Industrial Designer will gather input from experts related to your product (such as Mechanical Engineers) and provide a few product designs/concepts for review. With these concepts, any areas of improvement such as ergonomic changes, technical limitations and usability considerations will be outlined, these aspects are a critical part of the process and should be taken into account before moving towards implementing a concept.
From here, there are a number of different avenues you can proceed down for determining which design concept you think works best. Customers are a great source of feedback, not only because they’re the end user of your product but, most of the time they will have some hands on experience with a similar product. If you have the time and budget, you can also consider arranging a meeting with industry experts such as Subject Matter Experts or Key Opinion Leaders for more authorised feedback on your product. These steps will go a long way in improving the development process and ensure you have a viable product going to market, with the reviews to back it up.
Furthermore, more likely than not, you won’t be satisfied with one particular concept and instead, a manifestation of the best aspects from multiple rough concepts may be formed. In this case, having foam models of the piece made-up can help in determining which parts/aspects work best from each concept. The process of refining and presenting the product, until all stakeholders are satisfied with the end result, is long and tedious. It will probably be the longest, most frustrating but most important part of manufacturing your product, but a little patience and perseverance will go a long way.
The process of refining and presenting the product, until all stakeholders are satisfied with the end result, is long and tedious. It will probably be the longest, most frustrating but most important part of manufacturing your product, but a little patience and perseverance will go a long way.
In this stage you should keep in mind:
- Assembly and manufacturing costs
- Technical feasibility, usability and reliability
- Product appearance and geometry
- Stakeholder feedback and expectations
Design Implementation and Prototypes
At this stage of the manufacturing process, you should have an assured PRD that requires no further input or changes. Why? PRD’s provide clarity on the purpose of the product for all stakeholders. A PDR will work out to be a strong point of reference for all parties if any small alterations need to be made during the prototyping process.
During the Implementation and Prototyping phase, CAD Engineers will work on developing the CAD Geometry of the product. 2D or 3D CAD underlays are required so the engineer has a point of reference when building the product within the software and any other necessary manufacturing requirements about the product should be included, such as weight, dimensions, materials, chemical resistance or RF shielding.
Moreover, your product will go through multiple prototypes before an end product is achieved. Every aspect and detail of the product will be reviewed and the exciting part comes in testing the application of the product. Until all boxes are checked and all requirements met, your product can be stuck in a seemingly endless loop of implementation and prototyping, here the quality and efficiency of your PRD will come into play.
Production, Assembly and Shipment
Finally achieved a working, market ready prototype? At this stage, drawings will be produced outlining the Critical to Function and Critical to Assembly documentation for quality control purposes. Colour, Material and Finish documentation is also given to manufacturers to ensure design and aesthetic integrity is maintained, clarity between engineers and manufacturers must be of the utmost importance here, making no room for mistakes.
After the first official product is created, a First off Inspection is done to check that the product and drawings are in an acceptable tolerance range and design requirements have been met. Also, tests that will determine how many ‘failures’ per million parts will be carried out, to exemplify the integrity of the product. Based on the results of these examinations, a revision of CAD engineered design or tooling may be carried out.
Once that’s sorted its happy days! Time to ship your product and a whole lot of business and marketing come into play. No one ever said it would be an easy process but the path of product manufacturing is not for the timid or the tame!