“Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles, and perfecting the engineering, as well as final assembly.”James Dyson
During the product development process, design iterations allow us to work out the kinks in a product before it’s complete. And no matter how clear our development path, no new product gets completed without hiccups or bumps along the way.
Product Testing: Working out the Kinks
Some product testing is as straightforward as trying out a product or device to see if it actually works. Other times, product testing can be a nuanced and complex process. Sometimes we need to identify tiny issues that end users may never — and usually should never — notice.
The prototypes we develop at SGW Designworks during a project are the way these kinks are identified and worked out. This may mean trying to get a plastic part to come out of the mold just right or identifying a mechanical problem that prevents a device from working properly.
Prototypes represent an ongoing process and a significant part of what our team does. But this is just one way testing is used to help clients find solutions to a variety of problems. We also use product testing to help get the ideal solution for a product.
Validating One Piece
In some cases, a single mechanism can be set up on a test bracket. A frequent practice at SGW Designworks is to build functioning components that are critical to the final product’s success and then test them extensively to see how they work. This is part of the prototyping process, but it’s also a way to recreate known problems on already developed products.
During the Voltaire Smart Grinder project, the team’s first test involved only the grinding mechanism. The team built a custom stand which was then outfitted with a grinding mechanism and a motor. After hooking the system to a power source, the team was able to test the motors, the belts, and the grinding mechanism — without having to worry about any other part of the product.
By isolating a single part of the product, special focus is given to important components. Even if there are no problems, there may be opportunities to identify ways to optimize or improve performance. Sometimes a mechanism can be simplified. Alternatively, it may be discovered that additional work needs to be done to make this singular component work.
This individual component validation can play a key role in product success, whether it is a new product or an improvement made to an established product.
Preparing the Final Product
Another type of testing that is important but often overlooked is testing materials, finishes, and texture patterns for final products.
For instance, if a cosmetic component is designed to be made out of copper, it could be beneficial to get that component in a couple of different finishes to see how each finish looks and works. A matte copper part will look different from a brushed copper part. But this difference could also make a huge impact on the final appearance of the product, the customer’s satisfaction, and, ultimately, end users’ feelings toward the product.
In some cases, a product or part may go through several iterations with the materials already chosen. However, when it comes to making the final product, the materials it was originally designed with may not achieve the desired results.
Another area where this type of product testing is crucial is in the fabrication of parts. Injection-molded parts do not always come out of the mold looking exactly the way they were designed. Sometimes, a cosmetic blemish in the part can be so severe it becomes a structural issue. If the part is too thin or too thick, or if the material is not filling the mold right, the mold or part will need to be reworked in order to get the desired results.
In past projects, SGW Designworks has worked with fabricators to work out kinks on components before they are actually produced in significant quantities. It would be a big mistake to allow a part that has not been optimized to reach a final — or even near-final — iteration with errors. This is because errors can be more costly to fix later in the design process. Worse, if the part does need to be reworked during optimization, it can adversely affect how it fits in the final product.
To learn more about the different types of validation SGW Designworks engages in, get in touch with our team to learn more.