This is the point in the project where the client’s technical staff and our product designers need to work closely together to ensure that production functionality is considered as closely as product appearance.
This is also often the longest stage of the project, as there are usually a large number of detailed issues to consider and design conflicts to resolve. For example, you have to ensure that the individual parts can be made economically (moulded, fabricated, etc) but also efficiently assembled into the final product. You also need to consider production details like draft angles and material flow, which can affect the surface finish of moulded parts, and resolve manufacturing constraints like parting lines, injection mould gating and the finishing of fabricated parts.
On complex products with many parts, tolerance build-ups need to be considered very carefully, as do issues related to drop testing and durability. These are just some of the issues that will affect most, if not all products.
Whilst it is possible to go back and correct any unresolved issues after initial testing, this all adds time and cost, so it is best to attempt an appropriate solution first time around.
As the design for manufacture solution develops, it is also advisable to talk to any likely production partners as soon as possible. Apart from getting them ‘on-board’ and feeling valued (which is extremely important) this will also allow you to tap into their detailed experience of relevant production processes and make potentially significant improvements. Every process has its ‘tricks of the trade’ that can often make a huge difference to time, quality and cost.
Speaking of which, this is also the time when the first reliable estimates of production tooling and part cost will be possible, as the design will be sufficiently developed to allow producers to see what is required.