Why invite your molder earlier into your product development process?
Want to increase the odds of success for your new product development project?
One of the most effective ways to do that is to engage your plastic injection molder earlier in your product development process.
This strategy offers several powerful benefits:
- It enables you to identify any major design flaws that could make the part problematic to manufacture.
- It helps you mitigate other shortcomings that could result in defects in the finished parts.
- It helps you explore the optimum material for the part, based upon the requirements of the application and the environment in which it will be used.
- It helps you identify and drive down factors that could significantly increase the costs of parts and tooling.
About 70% of the manufacturing cost of a product is based on design decisions like materials, tolerances and manufacturing methods. Focusing early on design optimization can significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing.
“More often than not, the design of a part creates manufacturing challenges. Having a seat at the design table helps us to identify and fix them early in the process,” explains VP of Sales Joseph Mechery. Using design for manufacturing (DFM) principles, the molder’s design engineering team can easily identify potential failure modes in the design.
Examples of correct manufacturing principles include:
- Adhering to appropriate plastics design principles to minimize defects.
- Reducing or eliminating undercuts or features that require costly side actions to release the part from the mold.
- Appropriate tolerancing that can be adhered to during the molding process and still enable the correct mechanical functionality of the part. Applying excessive tolerances can cause increased tooling costs and the design team must consider whether they are achievable in certain materials.
- Understanding of final part dimensions once adequate draft for mold release or texturing is applied.
- Designing tapers and chamfers to guide components during assembly insertion steps and reducing stress risers.
- Simplifying secondary operations wherever possible.
Ideally, a DFM should include all the stakeholders in the project, including engineers, designers, purchasing, the plastic injection molder and the mold builder. The goal of this cross-functional team is to challenge all aspects of the design, ensure that it is optimized for manufacturing and that it does not contain any unnecessary costs.
An early DFM enables design changes to be made quickly and inexpensively. It can reduce redesign work, improve product quality and can speed up its time to market.
“This process enables us to identify and present a set of cost-saving alternatives and options to the OEM’s engineering team for their consideration,” Mechery continues. For example, a DFM may reveal how to reduce the number of components in an assembly, by incorporating an in-mold assembly process that could be designed into the part.
This approach saves a lot of time and money in the long run because these critical changes are much harder to make later in the product development process.
“Once the engineering team is ‘pencils down’ on an approved design, making changes to it usually requires additional approvals, analysis and potentially testing. That usually becomes very time consuming and can delay your new product launch,” he says.
If doing a DFM early in the product development process is so beneficial, why don’t more OEMs do it?
“Some companies have intellectual property concerns. They don’t want to allow the design to leave their four walls too early in the process, out of fear that the public or competitors may learn about the new products they’re developing. A strong working relationship based on trust and a fully-executed NDA typically takes care of that for us,” Mechery adds.
“In other cases, OEMs want a level playing field for all their suppliers and would prefer to keep part designs close to the vest to better manage their quoting activities – or prevent any misconception that participating in a DFM might tie them down to that one supplier. On our end, a DFM is done at no additional cost. For us, it’s a form of collaboration which we understand does not guarantee the business.”
However, it’s clear that the benefits of inviting your plastic injection molder earlier into your design process significantly outweigh the risks. “It results in improved quality and more reliable, affordable parts that will perform better over their entire lifecycle,” Mechery concludes.