Obviously there are more than two questions, but what I want to focus on are two questions that I believe are generally omitted prior to launching the Product Design phase. I know from experience that they’re omitted because I’ve repeatedly seen situations such as this:
Company XYZ has a new product they want to bring to market. They need the Product to be designed, the injection mold designed and manufactured and parts to be molded. Like most companies they’re in a hurry, have a schedule to meet and have a limited budget. First step is to have the new Product Design completed. After concept drawings are reviewed and a product direction chosen the 3D CAD Product Designs are put in motion. Once completed the Product Design looks great, 3D Printed Prototype parts are made, tested, evaluated and the Product Design approved for manufacture.
Next step, ready for injection mold design and mold manufacture. I’ve seen many Product Designs make it to this step that simply can’t be manufactured or can’t be manufactured economically. Draft and radii on the part is missing, no provisions for parting lines or shut-offs were considered, the wall thickness is wrong, snap fits aren’t correct or the part wasn’t designed properly for the chosen material. These are just a few common design mistakes I frequently see. Even though the 3D CAD Product Design looked great, it can’t be made and gets kicked back to the Product Designer for modifications or redesign. This causes project delays which costs money. Often times I’ve seen companies scrap the original Product Design and have 3D Accuracy do it over again from scratch. This can hurt a companies scheduled launch date and cause budget overruns but sometimes it’s the best alternative in the long run.
So what went wrong? As visual creatures we’re attracted to a products aesthetics, I know I am, a cool design will always catch my attention. Often times a company doesn’t have the in house resources to evaluate a Product Design from a manufacturing point of view. They may have talented, creative product designers, or rely on an outside product design source, but many times neither have a manufacturing background and consequently the company ends up making decisions based on the products appearance and how it feels rather than whether it can be manufactured quickly and at a good price.
The two questions you must ask your Product Designer and why they’re important:
1) Ask your Product Designer whether he or she could design the Injection Mold to make the product they’re about to design. This is important because if they don’t know how to design the injection mold they probably don’t have an intimate understanding of how to design the product for downstream manufacturing and injection molding. If they’re not sure where the parting line is or how the geometry for a shut-off needs to be, they probably won’t get it correct on the 3D CAD model. This will cause the previously mentioned problems.
2) Ask your Product Designer whether he or she could build the Injection Mold. This is important because knowing how to design a mold without having practical mold making experience means they have either learned mold design from a book, classes or a mentor. While this will be OK for some products, there are times when it won’t. It’s the same as learning about gardening by reading books. You may have book knowledge but you’ll get much more practical knowledge and experience by digging in the dirt and getting your hands dirty. Having previous mold making experience is a valuable asset for a Product Designer.
So how might you handle the situation if your Product Designer answers “NO” to one or both of these questions? My advice would be to partner with a good Product/Mold Designer, Mold Maker or Injection Molder who can answer “YES” to these questions. They’ll be able to provide guidance that will keep your new product design on tract, making sure it can be manufactured and they’ll also be able to make cost saving recommendations along the way.
Curious to know what my answer would be to these two questions? My answer would be “YES” to both.
Have a terrific weekend!