The goal of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is to reduce manufacturing costs without reducing quality or performance.
When implemented early in the design process, DFM can help you prevent overlooking design considerations that lead to costly components and production methods. DFM is an essential best practice to look for when choosing a manufacturer to partner with. When done properly, it will optimize your overall design, project development, and manufacturing process.
Understanding and employing the key components and guiding principles of DFM will result in the perfect balance between product quality, performance, and competitive manufacturing costs.
Components of DFM
While the components of DFM differ slightly across manufacturing methods, the following five components of DFM work well for plastic injection molding. They are straightforward, industry-tested, and should be implemented for every product from the initial design phase.
Design – Why is a company culture and commitment to DFM so important? It’s important because the majority of the final cost of a product is directly impacted and determined during the design phase. Always ensure product design adheres to good manufacturing principles.
Review the Manufacturing Process – Designing with production in mind requires quality communication between design, manufacturing, and other internal and external teams. This communication helps ensure the manufacturing process is optimized, with any limitations and specific criterion already factored in before product launch.
Environmental Considerations – These considerations must be taken into account to ensure the efficiency of design as it advances to production. Designing for environmental considerations includes selecting materials and processes that reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process as well as ensure your product properly withstands its operating environment. In recent years, DFM environmental considerations have broadened to include thinking about how products may be disassembled for recycling, reuse, or disposal as a means for companies to support long-term sustainability.
Material Selection – Selecting materials based on specific performance criterion is essential to DFM. Designs using standard components help to simplify manufacturing and reduce the need for additional assembly operations training on new handling processes. In addition, using standard components lends itself to streamlined inventories that can help keep the overall cost of production low. Proper resin selection is also critical to producing a successful part. You need to know the operating environment of your product and base your resin selection off of those requirements. This is critical to ensure your materials meet your needs without unnecessarily increasing cost due to over-spec’ing.
Compliance and Testing – Compliance standards and testing must be taken into account as part of DFM. A continuous culture of improvement is critical to ensuring quality and performance is never sacrificed for cost savings. Build compliance and testing into the overall design, development and manufacturing process on day one.
Principles of DFM
The following principles of DFM complement the components of DFM. There is excellent DFM guidance available specific to plastics and injection molding.
Standardize Parts – As mentioned above, using quality standardized parts can shorten the time from design to production because these parts are typically available and their consistency is well-known. With standardized parts, there are little to no surprises.
Minimize Part Count – Minimizing the number of parts in a product is an effective way to reduce production costs without sacrificing quality or performance. In addition, reducing parts in a product has the added benefit of simplifying post-production serviceability for the consumer.
Minimize Reorientation of Parts During Assembly and/or Machining – Designing parts that minimize manual interaction during production and assembling is a good DFM practice. Again, this reduces the need for additional training for specialized orientation and reduces time on the line before a product is ready to go to market.
Define Acceptable Surface Finishes – Acceptable surface finishes should be designed for function and not for aesthetics or “flair.” Unless the product is highly cosmetic, the consumer will appreciate the cost-savings of modest quality finishes passed along to them at final product price.
Create Modular Assemblies – Using non-customized modules/modular assemblies in design will allow or product modification as needed without losing the overall functionality on the back end.
Streamline the Number of Manufacturing Operations/Processes – A complex production process can complicate things when trying to find a single error. That is why straightforward and cost-effective innovations are key to DFM.
The goal of great companies is to produce the best possible product for the consumer with the highest performance and quality. DFM creates a win-win solution for companies, making the goal of reduced manufacturing costs without reduced quality or performance a reality for every product.
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