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Design Prototyping & Formal Production—Engineers Must Know

Except being familiar with the mechanical components, an effective engineer should also have some experience with machine tools and machining technique.

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Posted on:  July 5, 2018, | By Tony, WayKen Project Manager

Rapid prototyping and manufacturing techniques are used to compare multiple designs in a short time, thus reducing the time of the entire product development. Also, before formal standard tooling for mass manufacturing, there will be pre-series tooling for low volume production. Methods such as silicone tool and ALU tool are as bridge tool before production.

Professional rapid prototyping companies tend to be the fastest to understand the needs of designers before production, and they usually provide customized machining services to meet the needs of small quantities or even a single part. Following are two aspects that a rapid manufacturing company can help on your design.

  1. Manufacturing: we can use rapid prototyping and prototyping for research results. By providing a product model at the initial design stage, we can accelerate process planning and process equipment design. In addition, by accurately describing complex geometric dimensions, the model can be used to better understand the design scheme of factory workshop. At the same time, the technology can also be used in mold and main mold casting process equipment research and development.
  2. Marketing: in assisting product sales, prototypes can be used to present ideas and design ideas as well as the company's manufacturing capabilities. The implementation of entity model shows the feasibility of this design. And the prototype can be used to obtain customer feedback on the design and can be modified so that the final product can meet customer requirements.

In addition to being familiar with the mechanical components, to be an effective engineer one should also have some hands-on experience with the machine tools and machining technique that one day will be used to fabricate the products that you design.

For example, during formal production, mold or die are the common terms used to describe the tooling used to produce plastic parts in molding. Traditionally, molds have been expensive to manufacture. They were usually only used in mass production where thousands of parts were being produced. Molds are typically constructed from hardened steel, pre-hardened steel, aluminium, and/or beryllium-copper alloy. The choice of material to build a mold primarily focuses on economics. Steel molds generally cost more to construct, but their longer lifespan will offset the higher initial cost over a higher number of parts made before wearing out.

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In the trial stage of product prototyping and production, pre-hardened steel molds are less wear resistant and are used for lower volume requirements or larger components. The steel hardness is typically 38-45 on the Rockwell-C scale. Hardened steel molds are heat treated after machining. These are by far the superior in terms of wear resistance and lifespan. Typical hardness ranges between 50 and 60 Rockwell-C (HRC). Aluminium molds can cost substantially less, and when designed and machined with modern computerized equipment, they can be economical for molding tens or even hundreds of thousands of parts.

Another case is for sheet metal product development. Stamping is widely used in various metalworking industries, and it plays a crucial role in them for manufacturing automobiles, instruments, military parts and household electrical appliances, etc.

The manufacture of the stamping die is costly, and therefore it only fits mass production. During product design prototyping stage, for the manufacture of products in small batch and rich variety, the simple stamping die and the new equipment such as a stamping machining center are usually adopted to meet the market demands.

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Many companies have recognized that quality by itself is not sufficient in a competitive world. Products must be designed and built to last a long time in their intended function. This additional requirement goes beyond basic quality and adds a new dimension to marketing for the company. The most successful companies, in terms of product acceptance, have recognized the importance of total life cycle cost and customer satisfaction. A good understanding of reliability is necessary to achieve both with minimum cost in terms of time and resources.

Three Elements for a Reliable Product

There are three elements that provide the basis of a reliable product—design (prototyping), manufacturing, and component parts. Design is a series of operations involved in taking a product from a conceptual stage to a form that meets both company goals and customer expectations. In addition, this step should include some demonstration that the goals have indeed been met. This is often referred to as the design validation step. Typically, a limited number of key features of the product are demonstrated to meet the goals over the expected life of the product.

Reliability techniques are needed to determine the most appropriate and effective test as well as reduce the test time, while preserving test conditions. This is known as accelerated testing. Teamwork becomes important here. The object is to finish the design process successfully in as short a time as possible. Bringing other groups into the design validation process will help minimize the number of tests needed later and will reduce duplication.

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The next step, manufacturing, involves turning the design into reality without affecting it adversely. Consistency, via such techniques as statistical process control, is the key to creating products that can be tested and demonstrated as being reliable. More than one reliable design has been affected by a process that damaged or weakened one or more of the components or subassemblies. This often occurs without anyone's knowledge, until a later test or a user of the product identifies the situation.

The third important element involved in producing a reliable design includes the parts and subassemblies that go into the final product. High-quality and consistent parts are needed to preserve the design and be compatible with the established manufacturing processes. This means selecting the key parts suppliers ahead of time, qualifying each of the part types. Supplier-initiated changes in purchased items should be discouraged. In order to prevent such a situation, a clear note—"no change of process without prior notification"—is needed on the procurement documents.

Individual attention to the three primary elements of reliability should be coordinated through a plan that makes sense for the type of product and the nature of the industry. This means understanding the marketing goals, such as expected life, and knowing the customers' expectations and end-use environment. All these jointly help a successful prototype and production.



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