Affordable Innovation in the High-Tech Industry with Upfront Design for Manufacturing (DFM)

Challenges in the High-Tech Industry

Driving costs out of the product lifecycle is on the top of every company’s agenda in the high-tech industry. High-tech industry original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who design and market products like computer equipment, networking and telecommunication equipment, medical devices, consumer electronics, etc. are continually working towards becoming more cost-efficient to remain profitable as global competition and new innovations are driving prices down steeply. Companies constantly strive to deliver innovative products at affordable prices as it is a strong source of differentiation in this competitive market environment.

Improving efficiencies in product design and supply chain

Thin margins and shorter product lifecycles mean there is little room for design inefficiencies and iterations. Any kind of rework, quality issues, or inefficiencies in design and manufacturing can further increase the cost of production and impact profitability. As contract manufacturing increases, it is imperative to limit rework and ensure maximum efficiency across the supply chain to control costs. This becomes even more relevant for large global high-tech OEMs whose design and R&D teams are based in countries across North America and Europe with contract manufacturing suppliers spread across Asia-Pacific. Designs that require multiple iterations between supplier and OEM will often lead to delays in production schedule and increase overall costs. In our experience working with high-tech companies we have learned that major causes of production delays and cost overruns are due to late design changes occurring because of manufacturability issues identified on the supplier side. Issues related to producibility, standardization, and assembly are frequently reported late either during design reviews or when designs are sent to suppliers for manufacturing, leading to rework and delays.

Driving cost and delays out of High-tech industry

There are numerous designs produced by OEMs worldwide on a continuous basis. If designers are aware of which design parameters will be amenable to downstream manufacturing and assembly processes then late engineering changes and rework can be minimized. However, with several facilities and multiple suppliers across the globe, it is impossible to have knowledge of all manufacturing standards and supplier best practices that should be followed during the design stage.

In this example part shown below, how do you ensure that these issues get detected early during the design stage? These are typical DFM errors seen in an electronic part or assembly:

  • Draft Angles on plastic enclosures are not sufficient. Insufficient draft results in problems during ejection of the part from the mold. Corrects drafts improve the cycle time and productivity as well.
    Draft Angles on plastic enclosures High-Tech Industry - Draft Angles on plastic enclosures
    3D Model Actual Part
  • Bosses are designed without sufficient radii at their base. The bosses are subjected to stress which can be reduced by adding radii at the bottom as well as the top.
    Radius at the base of a Boss Radius at the base of a Boss in High-tech industry
    3D Model Actual Part
    • Ribs are fundamental features on high tech parts and incorrect rib height or thickness can lead affect the structural integrity of the parts.
      Rib design Rib parameters Rib design guidelines
      CAD Model Actual Part

     

  • In case of assemblies, issues with clearance and interference are critical to address during the design stage before it is sent for manufacturing. For example:
    • Minimum clearance between components is not sufficient. The right minimum clearance is required to prevent overheating and to allow for expansion of certain components during operation.
    • Interference is detected between components in a complex assembly which is not desirable from a functional point of view.

These errors could have been avoided by implementing a formal DFM process or by involving the supplier during the early design stage. The Hi-tech industry is looking for solutions to capture their supplier knowledge and make it available to their designers early in the design process. Currently, DFM is dependent on tribal knowledge and feedback from suppliers, resulting in late engineering changes.

DFM Knowledge capture and dissemination through rule-based framework

In the global scenario, an efficient way to perform DFM during the early design stage is through a rule-based framework founded on a specific manufacturing facility or supplier capabilities. For example, using DFM software, manufacturing capabilities and supplier standards from all global locations can be made available to all designers in the form of rules, methods, and guidelines, focused on a specific manufacturing facility or supplier where the product is to be manufactured. The designer can optimize the design based on manufacturing process knowledge of that particular facility or supplier and ensure that part or product is manufactured right the first time with minimal engineering changes.

DFM Software:

  • Capture the manufacturing capabilities and supplier standards from all global locations in a central knowledge base
  • Automates the DFM review process in the form of rules, methods, and guidelines during the design stage
  • Optimizes part manufacturability based on the factory-specific manufacturing checks

Whether you are an OEM, contract manufacturer or a designer of high-tech products, you should have the right information available to make “early choices” during the design stage. These intelligent decisions made during product design can help foster more affordable innovation and win market share.

 

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