A long-term relationship with Sentinel Performance Solutions Ltd. for water treatment has seen product design specialists 4D Products develop several new products recently; some are new and improved versions of existing products, some carving out completely new product sectors.
A finalist in the annual awards for heating & ventilation industry leaders with its ‘Think Dirty’ campaign, Sentinel Performance Solutions Ltd. has been meeting customer demand for superior heating system performance with its protection products for 30 years. It approached 4D Products recently to help rethink its latest major innovation which features strongly in the campaign. More information can be found here.
At 4D Products we are all in favour of working with well informed clients, therefore when I came across this useful article from the Design Council, I wanted to share it…
HOW TO COMMISSION A DESIGNER
As part of our due diligence process prior to appointing a manufacturer, we recently visited a plastic injection moulding company based in the UK.
Whilst many of our projects are manufactured off shore (Usually China), sometimes this isn’t the preferred route. In this instance, the customer valued the ability to visit their supplier quickly and easily, and felt this was worth paying a premium for. Surprisingly when the costings came back, the part price to mould in the UK was actually lower than a Chinese competitor. Shipping and lead time were also, not surprisingly, reduced.
But what should you look for when finding a plastic injection moulder? Its easy to get fixated with finding the lowest cost. From experience, we would recommend comparing the following;
- Lead time
- Who will own the tool?
- Who will fix it if a fault occurs?
- How many ‘shots’ is it guaranteed for?
- What material is it made from? Aluminium? P20 steel? Fully hardened steel?
- How many units could theoretically be produced in a given period of time?
- Prices at different order quantities appropriate to your plans
- Lead time
- Shipping costs
- Assembly costs (if you wish to receive assembled units)
- How will it be supplied to you?
- Do the company use raw materials that meet your specifications?
- Can they show you examples of other products they make that match your quality expectations?
We would also recommend supplying a set of manufacturing drawings, which clearly state tolerances, surface finish, and acceptable places for material feed points and ejector pins.
4D Products have a wealth of knowledge in this area, so if you need any help, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!
A lot of time, effort, and expense goes into developing new products, but where do new ideas come from?
When we begin a new project we organise short, focused idea generation sessions, which go something like;
- Assemble a team of creative people – they dont all need to be experts in the field.
- Brief the team on the new project, what are we trying to achieve? What design challenges need to be overcome? Where can we challenge pre-conceptions of what this product needs to be? Where can we innovate?
- Look at individual aspects in isolation, how can we solve this? How would the user benefit?
- Fill a wall with very quick sketched ideas on Post-it notes.
- Dont get bogged down in detail or reasons not to do something, be open to ideas at this point.
- Spend time in group discussion, and time individually exploring ideas without distraction.
- Start to assess the ideas available. Look at groups of solutions and consider how they could work together as a whole.
If you involve a range of people at the idea generation stage, the product opportunity is more widely explored, and the design team has confidence that they have a comprehensive range of solutions to work with during the development process.
This is undertaken as a standard part of the concept generation activity at 4D Products, and we believe our clients really benefit from a broad perspective and good range of solutions to any given challenge
Clients and prospects ask us…’But do you think its a good idea?’
They want our opinion on whether something will sell. We try to be objective and look at the bigger picture, whether a market exists, whether the particular idea betters the current product offerings, what’s happening in the wider world.
Things change over time and it is also true that timing helps in launching a successful product. With that in mind we have noticed a few Product Design Trends worth being aware of…
Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s consumer is much more discerning about the objects they surround themselves with. The well known consumer brands at the forefront of this movement invest heavily in product design.
These ‘consumer design’ techniques are being applied to more and more technical and industrial products for use outside of the home environment. The underlying technology works, but in an environment where virtually every buyer has choice, the product must stand out from the crowd and present itself as visually appealing, usable, and engaging.
Our clients benefit not only by creation of an attractive new design, but are also supplied with photo quality visuals of the product before it has been manufactured. A great marketing tool for generating interest and connecting with potential users and purchasers.
Get in touch if you would like your products to stand out from the crowd.
Our client needed a new microfluidic consumable for a hand held diagnostic device. A presentation to a potential partner in the US had been arranged in just 3 weeks time! Read the rest of this entry »
Improving real products with virtual design tools
We constantly work to stay at the cutting edge of design and technology. Our location within the Daresbury Innovation Centre means we regularly interact with cutting edge businesses and technologists.
Virtual design tools such as 3D CAD are widely used by designers and engineers. At 4D Products we work with the Virtual Engineering Centre to utilise high end virtual technology, usually only used by large international manufacturing organisations.
When a product is designed, the ergonomic considerations can be key to its success or failure. Imagine a car where the gear stick is out of reach, or the instrument panel cannot be viewed properly. Large products can be very expensive and time consuming to prototype, especially if you need to go through several iterations. We can now virtually prototype a design straight from our 3D CAD data. Using anatomically correct animated mannequins and environments, we are able to measure the users interaction with the product. This offers real time feedback and highlights any issues with user interaction, ergonomics, reach, potential for injury, and safe working practices.
4D Products are really excited to utlilise this cutting edge technology and the support of the centre to feed directly into our design work. We can evaluate a design in an engaging 3D environment on a 6 metre wide display screen, which can also track the viewers movements, and provide haptic* feedback. A wide array of simulation tools can also be used to investigate such things as heat and fluid dynamics, and finite element analysis.
Great design results from an ongoing process of feedback and optimisation. These virtual engineering tools help us to deliver great results for our clients and stay at the cutting edge of design.
*Haptic devices allow the user to feel the forces and vibrations within a virtual assembly
4D Products were delighted to be invited to speak to the latest crop of Product Design students at Liverpool John Moores University recently. There is a big leap when moving from academic studies into commerical design and the skills required to succeed are varied and demanding. Good luck to all the budding designers and we hope the experiences we imparted from our years in business gave you a valuable insight into the world of product design.