Product development entails a series of well-orchestrated steps to take a product from concept to manufacturing. For organizations looking to complete a project development endeavor, understanding the steps from design to fabrication and beyond will help facilitate the process and provide the desired outcomes.
Starting with a concept
Every new product design, even those that are going through product evolution, starts with a concept. When faced with a challenge to develop a conceptual design, product development professionals will utilize a mix of design tools and design morphology tools to get concepts fleshed out. Use of these tools often yields several viable design options, which are then narrowed down to a select few conceptual options. Once a conceptual design in established, detailed designs follow. Detailed design is the phase where the design is refined and plans, specifications and estimates are created and can include 2D and 3D models, cost build up estimates, procurement plans etc. This phase is where the full cost of the project is identified in most cases. Detailed design is a necessity in the product development process.
Design documentation is key for any product development project and often spans the entire development process in some form or another. The importance of good documentation in product development projects is often underestimated. Product development requires a series of intricate steps along the way, and having solid design documentation can go a long way in ensuring a project goes well.
Fabrication is the application of rapid prototyping and rapid tooling technologies to the direct manufacture of parts in an on-demand, low volume or a mass customization production environment. It can help determine the “manufacturability” of a product by first testing through 2D and 3D models. While more manufacturers are accepting 3D models as an input rather than the traditional, fully-dimensioned, 2D fabrication drawings, 2D models are still a viable option to leverage for fabrication. For organizations that are committed to ongoing product development, on-site machining and fabrication shortens design cycles and may be worth the investment. Others may outsource product development steps such as fabrication to a reputable engineering services firm that can assist in this step of the project.
Fabrication is the final step prior to production, and is therefore key in the product development process for any new product design. It allows for extensive testing of a product before manufacturing begins and is crucial in identifying any areas of improvement. The steps from design to fabrication should be done by those well-versed in the whole product development process to help facilitate the project beginning to end.