The role of a product design consultant is to provide expert knowledge and to guide the client through a series of structured paths to ensure that the final designed product is innovative, robust, safe and within budget. Whether you are looking to create a new product from scratch, or refresh an existing item, the design process should follow a similar path full of research, design innovation, prototyping, engineering and analysis.
This article will outline the key steps in the design process for a consumer product made from injection moulded plastic.
The first step is research. The current market must be assessed for competitor products and also the reasons why the market leader holds this mantle. Is there a gap in the market for your product? Has it been produced before and if so, what key elements are missing that could improve the concept?
Next is concept development. This involves brainstorming and a large number of thumbnail sketches. From this wide collection of sketches, a select few are developed further and scrutinised to ensure they now meet cost, safety, functionality and manufacturing criteria.
3D rendering software is then used to produce photorealistic imagery. This is very useful for critically assessing the product before any substantial amount of investment is committed to the project. Production tooling for a high volume product is very expensive, therefore carrying out further market research at this stage to get valuable consumer insight can be very cost effective.
Finite element analysis is carried out on the components to ensure that they will perform as required using the correct engineering materials. Once market feedback and analysis results are digested, the design can be modified and a physical prototype can then be produced for further market research and analysis.
After approval of the fully functioning prototype, the product is signed off and the production tooling begins. CAD software is used to accurately design the tooling taking into consideration various plastic shrinkage tolerances. The tools go through a number of test runs and are debugged accordingly to ensure that they still match the approved prototype both aesthetically and functionally. On completion of the tooling, the steel moulds are passed on to the factory to begin mass production of the final product.
Vendor selection is very important, as every vendor has a different specialisation. It is also strongly advised to use a vendor through a trusted recommendation to ensure that the vendor you choose is able to fulfill your requirements to an exceptional standard.