Have you ever thought about creating your own product but have been put off by the process as there are so many components and the costs that are involved? This article explains simply the process of product concept to manufacture and how to avoid those escalating costs.
Product Concept and Development
When you first start your product design it is vital to research the current markets and demands. This will give you a clear idea on what your product will be and what your product will do. You need to find out what is already on the market and if there are any products similar to your product concept. If you are competing with other products, how will yours be better? Good quality and thorough research will mean that your final product has a clear target market appeal resulting in higher product sales.
Clear product concept designs and development will enable the product creation to be cheaper and quicker as the likelihood of having to revisit your product designs will be lower.
When developing your product design it is important to have clear answers for these questions: What is the function of my product? Will my product be able to withstand use and be reliable?Which material(s) will your product be made from? This will depend on the use and the forces your product is expected to withstand.
When developing your final product designs you must be aware of how your product will be manufactured by asking yourself: which manufacturing processes are ideal for my product? How many parts does my product contain? Will the entire process be cost effective?
Computer Aided Development and Manufacture (CAD & CAM)
Once you have chosen a product design that ticks all the boxes and you are happy with it you can go on to create a computerized 3D model of your product. This CAD model helps to highlight key areas where issues in the final product will occur, such as the high stress and strain areas that will be experienced by your product when being used by the consumer.
It is important to really look at your product at this stage and be certain that all your product’s criteria are met before progressing onto a final product that is faulty. It is cheaper to revisit product designs at this stage before anything physical has been created.
Most manufacturing companies will now develop your 3D computer model into a physical 3D prototype.
Prototype testing is very useful for product feedback and whether it works or not. The prototype can be tested in all sorts of ways to make sure that your final product will be the best it can be before spending the costs on manufacturing your product.
Once you are happy with your product prototype you can then manufacture your product! The manufacturing process will depend on the finish you require to your product, the materials you would like it to be made from (plastics are far cheaper than metals but depending on your products use plastics may not be suitable) and part numbers. The more parts your product contains the more mold components that need to be made and then the method of joining the parts needs to be tested. Therefore, it is recommended that you should design your product with as few individual parts as possible to keep costs down. Molds are also expensive to create, so the fewer parts reduces the number of molds needed and therefore the lower the manufacturing costs.
To keep costs down you also need to contemplate your product batch volume. The larger the batch the lower the manufacturing costs so you can sell your product at a better price or make a greater mark-up.
Another aspect of the manufacturing process that can create extra costs is your product assembly. If you have designed a product that is made entirely from one part then you will avoid this issue and costs completely. This cost can also be avoided if you can create a product with a self-locking system where it can be put together manually by the consumer (i.e. flat packs). However, if your product is made from multiple parts than the method of joining needs to be considered. For example, if you use a type of glue that will degenerate quickly you will not sell many products due to poor product reliability because your product will fail after several uses.
After manufacturing and assembly your final product is created!However, this is not the end of your process. This is the part where you get family, friends and consumer groups from your target market together to test your product and any competing products. Although you have come this far, it is important to listen to the feedback – any glaringly obvious issues need to be addressed before your product goes on the market.
Once your final product has been approved by testing and feedback sessions then you need to focus on your marketing campaign.
Remember that ultimately, the more products you can sell the larger your product batch for manufacturing, therefore, lower manufacturing costs and once your product mold has been made you will not need to pay for it again until you need to change it.
Written by Amtek Plastics, UK plastic injection molding company who help clients through the entire process of product design concept to manufacturing and assembly. Image courtesy Jordanhill School D&T Dept