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Product design involves the activities of translating an idea into a functional product that will satisfy the needs of the customers. Design basically refers to activities for styling and creating look and feel of a product, determining on its functioning, engineering the different elements and components and deciding materials and manufacturing processes to make it and give the desired performance.
Product design is applicable to all products, say from a paper pin to a spacecraft. The concept is relevant in all fields such as furniture, electronics, lighting, communication, automobiles, aviation, space, medical, consumer products and all products of everyday use.
Product design and development is an integrated process that includes the complete process of identifying the needs of customers, market opportunity and creating a product that will meet its intended use impressively in the identified market. It further encompasses testing, enhancing and refining the product for final production and introduction in the market.
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The companies design various products for different sectors of customers. They aim to make the best products as this has a huge impact on the success of a company. The product design is very significant as the company will invest to produce those products that have an edge over the competitors. Different product designs will involve different processes. The processes may substantially influence the quality and affordability of the products. For this reason, the process selection is also a key factor in product design.
Great products are not just designed by accidents, they evolve through a lot of research, design studies, developing of technologies, value engineering and many productive efforts followed by ultimate refining of the designs. Product design and development of products is normally done by a team involving talent from different disciplines. The product design needs a constant support from marketing, engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, materials management, graphic art, packaging and project management.
Product design considers the feasibility to manufacture the product. It is also a sort of problem solving exercise. The designing of a new product comprises of the following stages:
1. Identifying Needs of Customers:
A simple product will have various unique features. The tastes, preferences and the needs of users significantly vary. A certain product design may appeal to the likes of a specific customer group. The push for developing a new product usually arises from a certain market opportunity or with the emergence of any new technology. New products are either market-pull products or they are technology-push products.
Market-pull products are intended for boosting up sales by introducing a new product designed to meet the needs of a particular segment of customers. Product Engineering studies the technical feasibility of a new idea. It may usually lead to a technology-push product. A new technology also brings the opportunity or a way to design a new product. Market researches provide feedback about the prospects of launching the new products. Sometimes, a few new features and added benefits could be incorporated in various ways to create a number of different new products.
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2. Concept Development:
The customers’ needs will also include some of the hidden needs that they may not be aware of. Based on the information of the desired features, specifications, size, weight, etc. of the product is listed. Customers’ needs are correlated to the product specifications and rated in the order of their importance. Concept Development is the most critical part of Product design. The competitor’s products are reviewed, a product concept is decided and product specifications are developed.
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The next step is to study the economic viability. The product design team can move ahead. Target specifications provide a wish-list of specifications that are refined based on the technical, manufacturing and economic constraints and realities. Throughout the above activities all economic implications such as development expenses, various costs, and selling price are estimated and compared to the expected benefits.
3. System Design:
System-level design is the designing the basic structure of the product. In the conceptualizing stage, the product development team concentrates on the basic product idea, and the design concept is mainly based on overviews rather than the detailed design and product engineering.
Once the basic concept is finalized the product design is done to make and develop the product. The add-ons and modifications are done according to any feedback from marketing and manufacturing. The product design defines its primary functional systems, subsystems and their integration into the final product.
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4. Detailed Design:
After deciding the basic configuration, each system or subassemblies and assembly is engineered to the component level of the product. These specify the shape, materials, sizes, tolerances, and finishes for each component, subassemblies and assembly. These days, the designers are widely using to three-dimensional solid modeling with the help of softwares like Pro-Engineer in most of the engineering designs. It is easier and faster to develop prototype components after building the database and detailed designs.
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5. Testing and Refinement:
The prototype products are developed and tested to check their functioning and refinements are done. A number of prototypes are made like production products as much as possible.
6. Production Stabilizing:
Small trial batches of parts are produced and assembled to train the people, establish the processes and making any process or design modifications to eliminate the problems in production and bought out components. The in-process and quality control standards are also set. During production ramp-up, the small batches allow time to tackle the different problems. Once the design, processes and standards are set, you can easily go for mass production.
The Role of Product Design:
The Product Design professionals create and develop concepts and product specifications to optimize the function, appearance and value of the products for the benefit of the manufacturers and customers. The product should be easy to use, safe and intuitive.
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Each feature needs to be designed such that it may itself communicate its function to a user. The product should appeal the customer and must be easy to maintain, economical to manufacture and affordable for the customer.
The product design is simply linked to the economic environment in the manufacturing sectors. Innovation acts as a hub for creating of new products using the latest technology that usually requires a new design version. One new product stimulates the complete industry to compete and catch up with further innovations.
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Written by: Andrew Kelly