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How To Achieve Product Design

Feb 27, 2008
Product design should pass through six stages before the product can become a viable commercial item. These stages are now defined in the following way.

Successful product design must begin with research, exploration, from an idea. During this period, ideas and concepts are generated through the collection, analysis, and synthesis of data where product challenges are identified and resolved, far in advance of project implementation. Every client, customer, and environment need is fully analyzed.

User research is also an effective way to uncover important information related to product needs, type of product, how it will be used, and the consumer expectations for the final design not only from a fit and functional aspect, but aesthetically as well. Innovation is imperative to compete in today's market.

Once the product category and identity has been established, the product concept must have scope and definition. Lack of a well-defined direction will result in inefficiency, tangents, and ultimately loss of time and potential market share. Additionally, poor definition often results in concepts and ideas that, while attractive to look at, are not feasible to produce or use and must be rethought again and again, adding time and cost to the product development cycle, often resulting in a product or process that is far from the original design intent.

Technical factors (feasibility), and business factors (viability) will interact to define a product. Product definition will determine the direction of the concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value, and appearance of products and processes. From here, initial concepts are created and refined to pinpoint the final product design concept.

Once a final design concept has been chosen, product design and development begins. This consists of initial modeling, working within the Definition set. A 3D CAD model is typically created as quickly as possible to analyze mechanical and structural functionality of the design and to refine details such as forming shapes, hardware, ribs, bosses, etc.

Product Development also allows for the assembly of the components in a virtual model to verify fit, tolerances and interferences. Bench models and first generation prototype are often produced at this stage for design validation along with any electronic control parts.

Proving the product will not only provides the product design verification, but also further solidifies the concept and confirms that the product design intent has been achieved. Success will show that the product not only perform in terms of form, fit, and function, but will also be marketable, manufacturable, and serviceable.

Proving the product design will also allow for debugging any issues and optimizing the design.
Historically, expensive, long-lead time tooling was required to get actual plastic parts and often production tooling was kicked off with a 'leap of faith' that the parts would function and few mould changes would be needed. There are now many new methods of making quick one off samples for proving the product design.

Manufacturing involves the product's ability to be cost-effectively reproduced such that it still falls within the original design scope. Often, manufacture requires the generation of tooling and fixtures to be used in production of plastic components or for the entire product.

During the product design stage, sales are zero and profits are negative because the anticipated future profits are being invested in product design. The longer it takes to design the product and begin production and distribution, the lower the profits will be over the lifetime of the product.

Rapid manufacturing and sales can further reduce the product design and development time by maintaining momentum into production, even for a short period of time while high volume production is being ramped up.

By building production parts while high volume production is coming on line, time to market can be further reduced. This equates to earlier potential profit and market share.
About the Author
Design expert Catherine Harvey looks at how to achieve a finished item from product design to end result. To find out more please visit http://www.applied.uk.com/
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