The Value of Collaboration during the Stage Gate Process

When manufacturing a new product, it is in your best interest to consult your manufacturing partner about your design early in the process. In these early-stage conversations, your manufacturing partner can identify potential issues and help you optimize your design for manufacturing to save you time and money in the long run.  

The stage gate product development process is a model that allows product developers to track a products development and launch  across different manufacturing stages. As the illustration demonstrates, the cost of changing your design steadily increases as you progress through the stage gate process and those changes become harder to implement. 

To put it simply: modifying a design in the initial gates or final design stages is relatively easy and cost-effective; modifying a design in the fabrication, production, or final product stages is increasingly difficult and costly. 

The Benefits of Design for Manufacturing Guidance 

Design for manufacturing (DFM) is a practice that fosters design collaboration between engineers and manufacturers. Because Micro-Tronics is a build-to-print shop, customers often don’t enlist our services until the fabrication stage. But we encourage customers to seek our DFM guidance much earlier—specifically, in the design stages. 

This collaboration is especially useful for Micro-Tronics customers because we specialize in two relatively niche manufacturing areas—elastomer products and EDM manufacturing—that aren’t as broadly understood among engineers as traditional machining methods.

Whether you’re working on an initial design or modifying a final design, contact us! We welcome the opportunity to save you time and money with our team’s DFM expertise.

5 Key DFM Considerations for Early in the Stage Gate Process 

stage gate

Here are five key factors to consider early in the stage gate process to set your project up for manufacturing success. 

1. Manufacturing process

First, consider the big picture: the process. What’s the best method for manufacturing your part? When you proactively think through your entire workflow before beginning any design work, you can optimize your design for fast and cost-effective manufacturing. 

Cost is often the driving force in choosing a manufacturing process. But the cost per part can vary widely depending on certain factors. For example, if you only need a few parts, investing in custom tooling isn’t ideal; but if you need a high volume of parts, an initial investment in custom tooling could yield a lower overall cost per part. 

Our team can help you think through these essential considerations.

2. Design

Once you’ve identified the optimal manufacturing process, it’s time to focus on your part’s design. What are the critical tolerances? Can you build a radius into the internal corners, or are square corners necessary? Will the part require finishing, and if so, which finishing process? 

Your manufacturing partner can help you identify possible opportunities to simplify your design. For instance, you may find that machinable features will work just as well for your application as the more complex features you designed for EDM manufacturing. 

3. Materials

Selecting the right material is vital to your part’s success. Does your desired material have the characteristics required by your part’s application (e.g., chemical resistance or flame protection)? 

If you’re unsure which material is best for your needs, our material selection chart is a great place to start your research.

4. Environment

Will the part be used indoors or outdoors? Will it need to withstand extreme temperatures or exposure to salt water? Environmental factors can influence the material and finishing processes you select, so it’s important to consider these factors early in the stage gate process. 

5. Testing

Finally, selecting the proper testing methods for your part prior to production is crucial. You must be confident that the test will reveal any points of weakness in your design. The last thing you want is to discover an undetected flaw during fabrication or production.

Case Study: Troubleshooting Fabrication Issues for a Customer 

Recently, a customer brought in a failed part that had been supplied by another manufacturer. However, before fulfilling the customer’s request to produce the part at a high volume, we needed to understand what had gone wrong the first time.

We recommended starting with a prototype mold, so we could work through fabrication issues in a cost-effective manner before advancing to production with a costlier mold. The prototype mold cost $10,000, while the production mold would cost 4x that amount and take much longer to build. 

Ultimately, we saved our customer time (3 months) and money with this approach. We prototyped the part in a few weeks.   Application testing was done, and revealed the true cause of field issues being an improper bonding process by the original supplier.  In addition, we proved the materials ability to support injection molding and hit the target price.

The key to successful manufacturing is open communication throughout the stage gate process.  Use our materials and manufacturing engineering experience to reduce your product launch risk.  

Request a quote to partner with Micro-Tronics today! 

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