Design for Manufacture and Assembly
Many clients have come to us because other manufacturers have simply taken their designs and built to the “client’s specifications.” Later, when the molded parts do not properly function, they were told to just build another tool with little to no input on what exactly to change.
“Why didn’t it work?”
The problem has frequently turned out to be that the Design for Manufacture (DFM) stage was completely skipped. Clients either assume the manufacturers cover this or are unaware that the step is even necessary.
“What is Design for Manufacture?”
Once engineers have designed a part for functionality, they must consider how to best make that part. The objective is to minimize the production complexity and cost while improving quality. This is generally accomplished by reducing the number of components and simplifying the assembly.
The design for manufacture should be performed by one or more individuals who can make a cross-functional analysis of the user, manufacturing, assembly, and finances. The ability to look at a design and anticipate future production challenges is a skill in and of itself based in large part on manufacturing experience.
“Isn’t that just part of the mold build?”
If the time and money are not properly allocated for Design for Manufacture, then the reality is that it cannot be done as it should. Assuming this is included within the scope of work gets many clients into trouble. Rapid toolmakers, who serve a valuable niche, will often proceed as though this step has already been completed even when it has not. This is one of the secrets to how some rapid toolmakers complete their tool builds relatively quickly. Some of the speed is due to streamlined processes but some of the time savings come from reductions in scope.
By the time frustrated clients come to us, they have already lost significant time and money on their project. We typically see this as more a case of unrealistic expectations than overpromising. High quality manufacturers will commonly spend the first weeks of a new mold build just analyzing and modifying the component for manufacturability.
These losses are often unnecessary. Budgeting the time and resources for the Design for Manufacture phase reaps rewards. I have never seen this process taken without yielding some improvements. I have also never seen this process skipped without discovering some missed opportunity later when the change is much more expensive.