The first phase usually begins with an idea for a new product. A product
specification is developed to define the functions and performance criteria
for the product. Depending upon the product, one or more industrial design
concept sketches are created to define the visual appearance features.
The second phase is to develop a design based upon the concept model and
specification. The design is developed using either Pro/Engineer (Creo) or
SolidWorks which are three-dimensional CAD programs. CAD models are created
for the individual parts and for the assemblies which show how the parts go
together (see examples
). This virtual prototyping allows for interference
checking and range-of-motion studies before any physical parts are made. The
CAD models are built to be robust to ensure minimal impact by downstream
revisions. Parts are designed with consideration to how they will be
manufactured, assembled, and used.
As the physical shape is being developed, the design is evaluated from an
analytical standpoint to ensure there will not be any performance issues.
The analysis to be performed varies depending what is being designed, but
may include things such as stress or thermal analysis. These can be
hand-calculations, or if needed, finite element analysis (FEA).
Once the design is completed, prototypes can be built. Plastic injection
molded parts can be quickly simulated by stereolithography (SLA) or other
rapid-prototyping means. If multiple parts are required, a silicon mold can
be made and urethane cast parts can be made. For fabricated parts, detail
drawings are created and sent to machine shops.
Assemble and Test
Component parts are assembled and tested to ensure the product meets the
performance specification. If changes are required, the CAD models are
updated and the prototype phase is repeated.
The final phase is to release the product for production. A documentation
package is delivered which includes detail drawings of custom components and
assembly drawings with bill of materials. For tooled parts, CAD data can be
exported in a variety of formats to enable tooling directly from the CAD
database to ensure accuracy and expedite the tooling process.