Manufactured products undergo many changes in prototyping. Thorough prototyping facilitates hands-on testing and makes small batch test marketing possible, accelerating development of a design that meets all requirements.
Business pressures often conspire to make the prototyping phase as fast as possible. Engineers race against the clock to ensure other teams have a finished product to position in the market. Under these constraints, settling on a working design becomes priority number one.
Even after launch, “going back to the drawing board” with a better design may be seen as a failure.
However, not updating your parts design can also be a failure – of imagination.
The Psychology Behind Keeping Old Product Designs
Many enterprises stick with original designs well beyond obsolescence thanks to non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs. These are one-time costs for CNC machine setup, CNC programming, and related issues. As long as designs don’t change, NRE costs can be avoided.
But, one-time NRE costs can be far less than the opportunity costs of old designs that don’t use today’s technology to the fullest.
CNC machining has been around since the 1950s, but it continues to advance.
- Future CNC tools may not need CAM software, just a part’s start and end geometry.
- Laser CNC machining has the potential to transform how familiar materials perform.
- Multi-axis lathes and routers allow for greater flexibility tackling design challenges.
- Modern materials science is consistently delivering new CNC-compatible materials.
Updating Parts Design Can Produce Higher Quality and Lower Costs
There are four major areas where better designs can leverage new technology to reduce costs.
Adjusting Material Composition
CNC machining delivers the widest selection of materials for modern manufacturing operations. Less expensive materials with similar physical properties may be available, allowing you to significantly reduce your cost per unit with only minor adjustments to your designs.
Using Less Material Overall
CNC machining is built on the principles of subtractive manufacturing, starting with a block of material and making cuts as needed to achieve a final product. As such, every design poses the interesting challenge of maintaining tensile strength while starting with less material.
Complex features and irregular geometry can both have an outmoded effect on the overall cost of each part. Modern CNC machining equipment can often eliminate the need for these, letting you meet the same standards with a simpler component.
Responding to Market Needs
Finally, it’s important to remember the human factor. As products mature, new customer needs might emerge. No design is foolproof, and there may be performance or safety concerns that were not immediately obvious before. Acting on these in engineering can curb future liabilities.
When looking at existing designs, engineering leaders should consider not only the cost of change, but the ongoing – daily – cost of remaining the same.
Former technical limitations can create blind spots that keep even experienced engineers from seeing potential for new designs incorporating today’s capabilities. Working with an outsourced manufacturing partner delivers an infusion of new ideas built on current best practices.