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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Physical product development process basics

The process is as simple as research, concept, design, test, and then produce. However, one needs to utilise experience.
Written by
Mohamed Hassan
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Work Sample

Research and Development R&D

Prototyping

Design Thinking

Research usually involves finding a solution for the presented challenge, this could be a new solution, or an existing solution that can be adapted to make the new physical products. Expired patents are a good place to start, although it is recommended to study current patents as well, to avoid infringing on other companies intellectual property rights. In the case of a brand new solution, a feasibility study is a must to ensure the solution is manufacturable. The sub-steps of this step are: Development Plan, Feasibility Study, and Design Research.

Concept development is initiated after the solution direction is identified in the research step. It is then followed by designing the outline of the main features. This can be done using hand sketches on paper or digital drawing software. The tool we prefer is Sketchbook for its platform diversity, ease of use, and compatibility with Samsung Galaxy S-Pen and Microsoft Surface Pen. The sub-steps of this step are: Concept Development and Preliminary Design.

Ava (virtual model) approaching a cobot robot
A collaborative robotic arm (cobot) design by our studio

Design is further developed based on the concept with all the details and parts being defined. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software is almost a necessity in this step, at least in modern times. The tool we prefer is Fusion 360 for its collaborative features that supports our online, remote, and global team. If the physical product has electronic or software components, they are also developed in this step. The sub-steps of this step are: Detailed Design and Technology Integration.

Test is how a product is validated and how the design is improved. This starts with prototyping which can be digitally simulated or physically built and tested. The design is then reviewed and optimised. The step involves going back to the design steps multiple times to improve the design and reduce the risk of future failure. We usually prefer to utilise FDM 3D printing for initial prototypes, and more time consuming high accuracy SLS 3D printing for final stage prototypes. The sub-steps of this step are: Design Prototyping, Design Test, Design Review, and Design Optimisation.

Produce is the final step in the development process where final designs are documented into a standard technical format. Potential suppliers are then vetted to set up the supply chain. The production management then involves supervision of the selected suppliers, usually onsite for more complex products. Finally, quality control expert comes in to validate the products are being produced according to specifications. The sub-steps of this step are: Technical Documentation, Supply Chain Setup, Production Management, and Quality Control.