Designs have to be refined to meet ever tighter tolerances. The number of parts must be reduced (even if this means increasing part complexity). And the bottomline is always a priority—businesses are demanding lower costs and increased performance.
Add into these more stringent international regulations, narrower timescales and ambitious launch schedules, and it’s no wonder engineers feel they have to compromise their vision just to deliver. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
The following section outlines five ways that can deliver better, stronger and more cost-effective components, all without compromising your vision.
1. Put the right foundations in place
Timing is everything. If you leave it to final manufacturing before looking at changes that will improve component performance and reduce costs, it’s often too late. At this stage, too many other components are already locked in place making changes unworkable within the wider picture. Fortunately, there is a simple solution:
Get the experts in early: Talk to your manufacturing partner, while you are still in the design phase. And when you do, give them the most complete specifications you can—ideally a fully dimensioned print with tolerances together with a 3D file (preferably a STEP or native Pro/E file).By talking to the manufacturer early, you’ll get their design for manufacturing (DFM) insight into what it’ll take to deliver your vision at scale. They will recommend design changes to ensure your final component meets your vision as well as being higher performing, and requiring less or no secondary work.
It’s all in the details: To ensure your vision becomes a reality, be prepared to answer detailed questions on key aspects such as any leak testing (pressure) requirements; the need for any water/saltspray testing; heat protection versus cracking—safeguarding against rapid changes in heat (thermal shock testing); any physical damage/impact demands; critical dimensions, tolerances required, and the cost impact associated; any machining requirements; material selection and corrosion protection; cosmetic requirements and plating; biocompatibility; RF/ shielding requirements; surface tension for adhesion; cleanliness for applications such as LED lighting—specialised washing processes to meet strict rest contamination requirements; project timing/SOP & Quality/PPAP requirements.
While this may seem highly specific, getting these details out in the open early can ensure you avoid any unpleasant surprises later.
2. The differences that make a difference in DFM
DFM encompasses a wide range of factors. These will differ depending on whether you use die casting or metal injection moulding. However, the kinds of areas you need to focus on include:
Standardising to a consistent wall thickness in a component to minimise potential flaws (where a varying thickness can’t be avoided, a gradual transition will deliver better performance than abrupt changes)
Getting the right size fillet radii—this is critical (though too often overlooked) in terms of avoiding high-stress concentrations in components
Considering draft requirements and possible ejector pin locations
Determining the gate, overflow & ejector pin location to carefully balance manufacturability, part function, dimensional control and aesthetics
Adding ribs and webs to increase part strength and minimise the effects of dimensional variation (this also improves the moulding process, providing better dimensional control)
That’s just the start. Discuss other in-depth, specific considerations with your manufacturing partner to ensure the final component lives up to your expectations.
3. Understand what’s possible (and what’s not)
It always helps to know what’s going on in the wider market. No one is saying it’s your job to fully understand all the ins and outs of industrial component production, but knowing the latest developments can have a major impact on your components.
New possibilities start with new insights: The industry is continually evolving, opening up new possibilities both for your designs and your final manufactured components. To keep up with the pace of change, take advantage of available educational sessions (like Dynacast’s own design seminars). These will give you a thorough understanding of what will happen to your design as it moves through the DFM process.
Better understanding leads to better designs: Greater knowledge will also help you ask more specific questions and give you inspired insights from professionals with decades of experience. You’ll also be able to benefit from their expertise on projects similar to yours. Importantly, you’ll be able to learn what’s working in other industries—e.g. how snap-in interconnectivity features from electronics could deliver value for the automotive industry. As a result, you’ll be able to take your designs further and accelerate the entire design to manufacture process.
4. Don’t just think manufacturing, think assembly
It’s easy to become focused on your component and how it interacts with others around it. But it’s also important to broaden your focus, considering the process of bringing everything together. A streamlined assembly process delivers significant business benefits, including accelerated production, fewer defects, and lower costs.
Look at the big picture, earlier: Considering the assembly process up front pays significant dividends. Your manufacturing partner should be able to spot issues and propose fixes before you’re committed to an inefficient solution (or in the case of automated assembly, an issue that could stop your production line altogether). And if they understand your assembly process from the beginning, they’ll be able to make simple design improvements—such as instructional markings—to help the assembly team line up components faster and easier.
Planning for perfection: Ultimately, by considering the entire process with your manufacturing partner, you will be able to realise performance and cost reduction opportunities at every stage. You can even consider packaging and shipping. For example, if you’re shipping overseas, does your part need extra protection from salt exposure? Your partner should also be able to offer options such as partial/full assembly, kitting, and even complete packaging.
5. Allow enough time both internally & externally
Deadlines always seem to get tighter, especially when there’s a limited submission window. To ensure success, you need to work backwards from the final deadline, allowing enough time at each stage (and giving yourself some contingency room, should a component need more work after initial testing).
Generally, while all parts vary, allowing 4 to 8 weeks (Four slide) & 10 to 12 weeks (Conventional) for design/tool build and around four weeks for approval is a realistic timescale—but bear in mind the pace of feedback and approval in your own business. When timing becomes strained, the root of the problem often lies in the early stages of the process. By working concurrently with the DFM team, you can ensure this crucial process flows smoothly, saving you valuable time (not to mention stress).
Strategising for success: Early planning and collaboration can avoid the delays caused by design engineers creating designs only to hand them over to manufacturing to make their own versions.
Instead, getting manufacturing involved at the design stage enables them to iron out issues early and run some elements in parallel. This is also where properly dimensioned and tolerance designs make a difference. These will help avoid delays caused by needing to deliver additional information bit-by-bit as the project progresses. Ultimately, building DFM in early is where we see the biggest gains across all our customers worldwide.
Achieving creativity without compromise
There has never been a more exciting time to be a design engineer. Today, you’re faced with wide-ranging possibilities, which can deliver superior component performance—performance, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. You can now focus more on your design vision and less on the limitations of the manufacturing process, all while delivering more competitive products at reduced costs.
But to do this, it’s essential you get your manufacturing partner involved early. Working together, you can benefit from their ideas and practical expertise, delivering fundamental improvements in the components you create. Simply, it’ll make your vision a possibility and make unnecessary compromises a thing of the past.