Why Design for Manufacturing is important in prototyping

Leon Huang: Rapid Direct Author

Why Design for Manufacturing is important in prototyping

Employing the principles of Design for Manufacturing (DfM) speeds up product development and produces better parts.

When product designers have great ideas, they want to realize them in any way possible. But ideas are only great insofar as a manufacturer is able to turn them into reality using machines and materials.

For some designers, the manufacturing process remains a minor issue — something they don’t think concerns them.

But that’s a dangerous approach to product design that ultimately produces an inferior end product.

This article discusses why Design for Manufacturing (DfM) is so important during the prototyping stage, and looks at how your business can harness the benefits of DfM to make better prototypes and, ultimately, better end-use parts and products.

What is DfM?

Design for Manufacturing — sometimes referred to as Design for Manufacturability or just DfM — is a product design philosophy that stresses the importance of designing prototypes and parts in a way that suits the manufacturing process.

It involves considering several aspects of a design, including shape and proposed material, in terms of how well the design can be realized using the proposed methods.

Those methods might be CNC machining, 3D printing, injection molding or something else.

In a sense, you can think of DfM as a form of compromise. Product designers may have very grand ambitions, but DfM serves as a reality check: if a feature would be too difficult, slow or expensive to make using the chosen manufacturing equipment and materials, it needs to be changed.

In some cases, DfM involves collaboration across departments and even across multiple companies.

That’s because designers and engineers may need to correspond with toolmakers, manufacturers and even material suppliers to assess the possibilities and limitations of the project.

For example, some designs may be achievable with one kind of 5-axis machining center but not another; on other occasions, the availability of certain metal alloys may determine whether a certain feature is feasible.

The importance of DfM

Designing parts for manufacturability is critical, even for prototypes. Although DfM can seem like a conservative approach to product design, it tends to result in tangible benefits to both producer and consumer.

On the other hand, failure to consider DfM can lead to part failure or inefficient manufacturing.

Perhaps the most basic benefit of DfM is the guarantee of manufacturing feasibility and the prevention of part failure.

By designing parts that manufacturing equipment can realistically build, companies know in advance they won’t experience problems like collapsing 3D prints, parts stuck in molds or dangerous chip buildup. DfM is important because quality is assured.

DfM can also contribute to increased speed of manufacturing. If a part is well designed for its manufacturing equipment, then cutting tools and other instruments can do their jobs more efficiently.

A simple example of DfM increasing speed is the incorporation of draft angles into injection molded parts: draft angles allow each molding to be rapidly ejected from the mold; parts without draft, meanwhile, must be forcibly removed, and the friction between surfaces may damage the part.

This increase in speed can greatly reduce the overall cost of a project. DfM parts and prototypes require less time and labor — cutting down on power usage, etc. — and can also help to reduce scrap.

The list goes on…

Designing easy-to-manufacture parts even increases automation possibilities, since there is a reduced need for oversight. And in some cases, simple design alterations can simplify production by eliminating the need for a multiple machines and setups.

Adding DfM to your workflow

Any designer with an elementary knowledge of engineering and manufacturing techniques can adopt Design for Manufacturing principles during product design.

Every project is unique, so an analysis of potential manufacturing processes, materials and other factors should be used to inform design elements.

But while DfM necessarily works on a case-by-case basis, there are some near-universal rules that can lead to better prototypes and parts.

1. Simplify

Reducing the total number of components makes for more efficient manufacturing and reduced time on the assembly line, which leads to faster turnarounds and reduced costs.

2. Use standard or versatile components

Ask yourself whether a tailored component will help or hinder the success of the project. Standard components are produced in bulk and are cheaper than custom components.

3. Use machine-friendly materials

Materials affect manufacturability. A certain high-carbon steel may possess all the properties you desire for your part, but if you need to use a CNC machine, you’ll ultimately be making life difficult for everyone unless you choose a more machine-friendly material. Similar constraints apply to 3D printers and other machines.

4. Minimize use of fasteners

Incorporating snap closures and tabs into components can eliminate a chunk of manufacturing time that would otherwise be required for separate fasteners.

5. Allow loose tolerances

Remember that tight tolerances require more machine time and therefore more money. Use loose tolerances wherever possible, as long as the functionality of the part won’t be compromised.

How RapidDirect helps with DfM

Did you know that RapidDirect can help with Design for Manufacturing when it comes to making your prototypes?

Our online platform incorporates an AI engine that automatically checks CAD files for CNC machining manufacturability issues, making sure designs are ready for manufacturing before they’re sent to the factory.

The engine analyzes a product design in terms of:

  • Overall machinability
  • Radius and hole depth
  • Internal corner depth
  • Hole and groove diameter
  • Wall thickness

If the design passes the test on a particular criterion, the platform gives you a green checkmark. If it fails, the platform shows a red cross and gives design instructions so you can easily fix the issue.

While our Design for Manufacturing feedback tool is built for CNC machining projects, our experienced staff can also carry out a detailed DfM analysis before production — regardless of the manufacturing process.

This ensures that no problematic designs are sent for production.

Upload your design now for a free DfM analysis and a quote within 24 hours.

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