Product design is the process of creating a new product from scratch. Typically, product design follows one of two processes: forward engineering or reverse engineering. In forward engineering the designer designs a new product completely from scratch. In reverse engineering the designer upgrades or simply copies an existing product into a new product. We’ll focus on forward engineering in this article.
A product designer should follow a standard procedure to allow him to design a product which will fulfill all the customer’s requirements. The following is a simple process that a designer can use to create a new design:
Step 1: Generating an Idea
A new product design must start with an idea. The designer must understand the problem that the new product will solve, with as many specifics defined as possible. Brainstorming is a common method to generate ideas for solutions to a specific problem.
Step 2: Understanding the Opportunity
After developing a clear vision about a product idea, it is time to understand the market requirements for the product. This can include the demand of the product and the benefits that it offers the customer. This will help to establish the design constraints and functional requirements for the product.
Step 3: Concept Design
After developing a complete understanding of the idea and customer requirements, the concept design phase begins. In this phase the designer makes a number of different conceptual drawings or sketches, each a different option for the product. The designer summarizes how each concept works and what are its advantages and disadvantages compared other designs. This should be fairly high level, as the details will be filled in at a later stage.
Step 4: Establishing Selection Criteria
After generating some concept designs it’s time to select one of them. For this, we use the following selection criteria
- Design with minimum parts
- Design for manufacturing
- Design for assembly
- Easy to handle
- Easy to operate
Step 5: Weighted Decision Matrix
It is often useful to create a weighted decision matrix to help select a design. The designer, along with the customer or other stakeholders, will give some weight to each selection criteria mentioned above according to the importance of that point in the product performance and operation. After this, the designer will analyse and fill in each element for each of the design concepts. The design concept which has the most points will be selected. This is an objective way to select from a choice of design options.
Step 6: Engineering Analysis
After selecting a design concept, the next step is to perform engineering analysis on each and every component of the product. Engineering analysis is done to check how each component will perform under different conditions. This ensures that the product and its components are strong enough to withstand all the stresses applied on them while working at full load. Engineering analysis is also done on the complete concept design to check is performance. The elements of engineering analysis can include FEA (finite element analysis) thermal analysis, and other methods.
Step 6: Results
The results of the engineering analysis will determine whether the design can successfully fulfill the design requirements. If it passes the analysis, it will be ready for production. If it doesn’t pass, then there are two options. The first option is to improve the design and try again until it passes. The second option is to go back to the second best design concept and perform the engineering analysis on that design.
By faithfully following this basic process, you should arrive at a high-quality design for any given product idea or problem. By using a process rather than designing ad hoc, you ensure that generate good concepts, and that you objectively select the best design concept. This will result in the best design for your customers.