You have worked hard on the design of your new product. Maybe you have already built a few prototypes with 3D-printed parts, with an Arduino module, or with other approaches that are not suitable for mass production.
But do you know how far off your design is from being ready for mass production?
It is important to get feedback from experienced manufacturing engineers relatively early. Many companies spend a lot of time developing great prototypes, only to later find out that they need to use other materials or manufacturing processes, which delays their project.
Our engineering team gets an understanding of your design intent, objectives, and constraints you are working under. They review your design files for ease of manufacturing the custom parts and ease of assembly. They provide a list of suggestions for changes for you to take into account in your next iteration.
You need to know what is realistically feasible. Even industrial designers at a company like Apple know their products need to be manufacturable, and they can’t push the envelope on too many fronts at once. They work collaboratively with manufacturing experts to know what is more or less difficult and more or less expensive.
If you don’t take that feedback into consideration early on, you may have to go through expensive and lengthy redesigns. Or, worse, you might find out about issues too late once production is underway resulting in you needing to ship products you’re not proud of.
For example, if you choose for us to do a DFM review for you:
- Some parameters are checked with suppliers to ensure they are valid, like wood CNC tolerances for example
- A DFM’s key goals are to reduce risks and problems during production, resulting in better quality, cheaper production, and easier assembly for your products
- We meet you to review our results, offering explanations and possible actions
Companies that have an idea and a conceptual design (and maybe also already an industrial design) for a new product to be made in China, India, or Vietnam.
We can do this on hardware products that may include electrical/electronic functions.
- We ask you questions since we need to understand the product features and other requirements. (We have a template to capture that information and start documenting it.) A Zoom/Teams meeting is usually the first step so that we understand your high-level intent.
- We sign a NNN agreement and we study your design files. If you still need to get some industrial design done, we can suggest trusted designers or firms that can help you.
- We review your files for manufacturing the custom-designed parts, and for assembly when it comes to the whole system. We let you know what is difficult, not advised or downright not feasible at all — not only regarding fabrication but also the surface treatment and finishes — and we suggest alternatives that will be consistent with the design intent.
- To ensure the project can be a commercial success, we also tend to hold reviews for quality and/or for cost, depending on your priorities and the maturity of your design. If a failure in the field (or in the hands of users) will be costly, a risk analysis for durability & reliability is also called for.
- We will provide you with our engineers’ adjustments to your design files that will improve the manufacturability of your product.
What does Sofeast’s 90-point DFM checklist cover?
Our own checklist formulated by our in-house product design engineers includes 70 points for mechanical design and 20 points for electrical/electronic design, as a starting point.
Here’s an excerpt of our DFM review checklist so you can see some of its detail and the checkpoints our engineers cover:
What kinds of design file adjustments will Sofeast engineers suggest?
Following the DFM review, our engineers will suggest some design improvements that will make your product more manufacturable. Here’s an example improvement we’ve made before about improving ultrasonic welding on a product:
How much does a DFM review cost?
A DFM review starts from US$2,000 for simple products and includes us doing adjustments on design files.
The cost for more complex products will be higher and we will provide an estimate once we understand your product details and needs.
We break down the project by hours worked. Technical work is charged at US$45 per hour. Simpler project management work, for example collecting information from suppliers, is billed at US$38 per hour.
FAQs about Sofeast DFM reviews
"Sofeast will raise issues and risks related to the current product design, but can you help us move forward?"
Absolutely. We not only help you move forward, but we also work on finding the shortest path to launching mass production orders at an acceptable level of risk.
If you are still early in your project, we will help you identify important assumptions that may have costly implications (in money and time). We suggest the next logical steps, for example, a rough proof-of-concept prototype to validate a certain function, or testing of a certain critical component to confirm it is suitable for its purpose.
We also provide specific and actionable suggestions for adjustments to your product design. (For an understanding of the feedback we provide, see the examples we collected for die cast parts and for plastic injection molded parts, and don’t hesitate to ask us for examples more relevant to your situation.)
In many cases, we have found that hardware design teams tend to over-complicate things, especially in their version 1.0. One of our roles is to challenge them and suggest ways to simplify the whole concept, focusing on what really matters to users/customers.
Finally, there are always design constraints. Not everything is possible. We have to focus on the right variables and avoid spending resources going in the wrong direction. For example, many of our clients want to die cast a piece of aluminum and anodize it because the finish looks very nice. However, we have to warn them that cast parts are slightly porous and it makes quality issues very likely once they are anodized. There are other options, and it is usually wise to consider them.
Most clients come to us too late. Many projects have had to be deeply re-thought because the team kept working on the product too long without getting any input from manufacturing engineers.
On the other hand, if you don’t even have a conceptual design of the product, and if there is no bill of materials, our review may be limited to superficial topics and you may not get a lot of value out of it. (Note: we can help you make some progress at that stage, but the first step is usually not a DFM review.)
The right stage to start these reviews is, in general, when an industrial designer is working on the initial computer renderings.
Yes, however, be aware that we will not have an informed opinion during our first meeting.
A number of assumptions and decisions may have to be made first. For instance, we will help you decide on the tradeoff between low tooling cost and low product unit cost, depending on the needs of your project. For example, a more highly automated plastic injection mold, or a multi-cavity mold, will represent a higher investment but production will be cheaper and faster.
Once these types of important decisions have been taken, and some work on factory identification has been done, we can provide an estimate of the non-recurring engineering & tooling costs as well as the unit cost. The closer to mass production, the more accurate the estimate will be.
In most cases, a strategy for selecting the critical components from suitable suppliers needs to be developed. Ideally, all the parts are available in the country of assembly – that’s often possible in China, but may not be so easy in India or Vietnam. A plan for long-lead-time components, if any, is important, too.
In some cases, we have to contact specialized suppliers and ask them what is possible, what the cost implications are, and so on. We do so with our client’s knowledge, and without sending full design files, naturally.
To go ahead with this service, please contact us and give us a short description of your project. If we are a good fit for your project, we will respond, send you an NDA/NNN agreement (for confidentiality) to sign, and set up a call.
By the way, a DFM review is usually not the only service we provide. As part of our new product introduction suite of activities, we help you plan ahead and we support you where you want ‘feet on the ground’, technical design & testing abilities, and knowledge of local markets, as needed to complement your current team.