I'm preaching to the choir when I say product design is becoming more complex, with increased product functionality and miniaturization pushing the envelope. Moreover, many of us are looking to new materials for breakthrough opportunities to design smaller, lighter, or cheaper devices. However, most have come to find these also require mastering new manufacturing processes.
One particular area this is affecting is the design and manufacturing of plastic enclosures. This area of design requires not only mechanical engineering skills but also a significant dose of practical manufacturing experience in material, tooling, and manufacturing processes. Unfortunately, the availability of experienced mechanical engineers with practical experience in design for manufacturing and manufacturing engineering is on the decline. Consequently, packaging engineers tend to go through several iterations and often make costly design and manufacturing process mistakes until they get the design right.
While CAD and simulation tools are making great strides in advanced functionality to accomplish complex designs faster, the general nature of commercial tools dictates that they may not support product-specific or company-specific design and manufacturing guidelines, workflows, and business rules out of the box.
This is a challenge a communications equipment manufacturer faced. The manufacturer wanted to improve the efficiency of the design process of their products' plastic enclosures in order to enhance quality and accelerate design time. So about three years ago, the engineering group added a CAD integrated design for manufacturability (DFM) software application that performs up-front manufacturability validation and provides suggestions to minimize downstream manufacturing mistakes that impact cost, quality, and product launch time.
The design rules, which combine more general, mechanical engineering and manufacturability rules as well as company-specific guidelines, were developed through a collaboration between the manufacturer and the software provider. Since the implementation, the DFM software has helped reduce errors and scrap, improved manufacturing yield, and accelerated time to market of new designs, according to the manufacturer.
For more information on this use case and our recommendations for manufacturers, subscribers should read our new Perspective: Design for Manufacturing Software Delivers Improved Yield, Time to Market.