Here are five engineering tips for product manufacturers wrestling with a common dilemma: how to optimize a product or component design for metal fabrication.
Even the most highly trained in-house manufacturing design engineers often find it difficult to impossible to keep up with ever-changing metal fabrication technology. And even those who do stay on top trends and developments often run into questions and uncertainties about the best process for turning a concept into cold, hard metal reality, or about whether a certain design feature can be executed at all.
The best possible answer is to have a metal fabricator who knows and does design engineering, and who can speak the language of design to your engineers — or can speak engineering design in your language. Here are five important engineering tips for facilitating this design-fabrication collaboration.
1. Get production involved early on the design process to control costs.
There are almost countless ways that cost creep can plague a design-to-delivery process. Unrealistic or non-optimum designs either have to be redesigned, eating up untold man-hours, or end up requiring unnecessarily expensive production processes that could have been avoided with minor design alterations in the early stages. A fabricator who knows engineering design and knows the state-of-the-art fabricating methods can propose cost-slashing solutions to get to where the design concept is trying to go.
2. Eliminate unnecessary details that hinder production optimization.
Metal fabrication can be a harsh teacher of the old adage, “the devil’s in the details.” Every product, part, or component is unique, and every detail dictates the relative simplicity or complexity of fabrication, affecting materials, processes, cost, waste, efficiency, and speed. A canny fabricator with engineering design know-how often can suggest minor design tweaks or refinements to your designers that can bring benefits such as faster throughput, or even make the nearly impossible seem business-as-usual.
3. Test again and again.
A clever or beautiful design can fold up like origami under real-world conditions. Design engineers are smart people, but anyone can be lulled into reliance on theory that just doesn’t translate as expected into the pounding forces of manufacturing and use. A metal fabricator who knows design can provide your designers with crucial development services such as 3D models, finite element analysis, and even prototypes to test practicality and manufacturability.
4. Find a production partner who speaks your language.
The world of engineering design can seem like the Tower of Babel. You want a fabricator who speaks all relevant engineering design languages and can translate designs, in any form, into working drawings that can go straight to the fabricating shop floor to start production. Whether your concepts are rendered in IGES, STP, DWG, Pro-Engineer — or even in ballpoint pen on a napkin — find a fabricator who speaks your language.
5. Mind the materials.
Engineering design is inseparable from material, and there are times when a shift from one type of metal to another can make a significance difference in manufacturing practicality, efficiency, cost, and ROI. One of the most important engineering tips to attend to is: find a competent fabricator will be able to advise you on options for materials and processes that a design engineer simply might not know about.
These Engineering Tips Add Up to Selecting the Right Partner
Mills Products has been offering engineering tips and doing engineering design and consultation for nearly 70 years, ever since the day we began in 1948 as an engineering company.
Our people have a real-world perspective and a common-sense approach to design and manufacturing. Many times during a design phase, other intra-company disciplines such as manufacturing engineering, purchasing, and quality control are brought in to give input on designs.
With our deep capabilities in metal fabrication processes and materials, we like nothing better than to help solve problems related to turning design visions into reality. Visit our design engineering page to find out more about our methods, and call us anytime at (423) 745-9090. We’ll be happy to discuss your design challenges or concerns—and we speak your design language.