We live in an engineered world. The engineering and design that is part of our everyday lives is so well integrated that we hardly notice it. It is certainly easy to take for granted. Take a moment to look around you – the chair you sit in, the car you drive, the pen you hold in your hand – everything is the result of a long process in design engineering.
The first thing considered when designing a new product is functionality. All products are designed to meet a demand. To start the design process, engineers draft a blueprint for the product that will perform a specific function. This initial design effort, however, is a long way from the finished product.
The new design needs to be more than just functional – it has to be manufacturable. That is to say, the processes and materials used have to be feasible and economical. It is worthless to make something that costs $100 to manufacture but can only be sold for $50. Often design changes must be made to take packaging, shipping and expected repeated use into account.
In addition to design alterations for manufacturability, the design should also reflect good manufacturing practices. This means putting it through a production and testing scrutiny that helps ensure a quality product. Here, the processes are clearly defined, controlled and validated to ensure consistency and compliance with specifications.
It is also important to make the product serviceable. Instructions for assembly, disassembly, maintenance, repair, etc. should all be clearly defined and user friendly. A common technique that is used to test designs is a “What if” analysis. Under this technique, products are placed in scenarios they could plausiby encounter during use. How does the product react? For example, if the product loses power, gets wet or breaks a belt or cable, what is the recovery plan? How accessible and adaptable is the product? Can the design be easily changed to improve the adaptability?
Finally, the design has to go through a review process. During this process, cross functional design teams often compete for the best looking, safest, most efficient and durable version of the finalized product. Reviewers ensure the product will meet cost expectations while remaining compliant to internal demand specifications and external regulatory codes. Often the original specifications can be challenged and the design can be altered to add additional functionality or reduce costs. Sometimes designers can get married to a certain idea that becomes obsolete or inefficient as the design evolves. A healthy review guards against this phenomenon and re-inserts objectivity.
Whether formal or informal, a design review is an attempt to deliver a safe product that the end user will find beneficial not only in a functional way, but also in an intangible way. A well designed and reviewed product will have unique or novel aspects that are either patentable or avoid infringing upon another well-established design. If the product not only serves its’ function, but is also quiet, eloquent, easy to operate and clean, then the user will enjoy the product and become a satisfied customer.
Why is there so much effort in the design? Obviously a successful product will add to the revenues and intrinsic value of a company. Just as important, a well-designed and reviewed product will also yield protection from product liability and patent infringement claims. Perhaps most important is that the product will likely be integrated into our lives and become part of a trusted world that we take for granted.
CED Technologies, Inc. has experts with design engineering experience. If you have a case or claim involving a design element, please calls us at 800-780-4221 or visit us on-line at www.cedtechnologies.com to see if we can be of service.