Design Innovation Series, Blog #2

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In our previous blog about Design Innovation, we discussed the importance of (1) developing and understanding design requirements, (2) documenting those design requirements, (3) evaluating previous designs, and (4) drawing ideas from previous designers. While each of these steps is important, there comes a time when a new, innovative design approach is warranted. This type of design innovation is the subject of this second blog in our series.

Understanding Design Innovation

Design InnovationIn order to understand project goals, design team engineers must understand a project’s innovation scale, which is determined by weighting standardization versus innovation. Standardization brings known approaches, familiar materials, established vendors and known performance to the project, while innovation extents vary based on the project’s budget and design requirements.

Design innovation covers a range of subjects handled by engineers, and may include:

  • Addressing problems through a fundamentally new approach
  • Solving a different problem to achieve similar results.
  • Combining design elements with new approaches in a multi-functional strategy
  • Employing new materials to address known failure modes of established parts
  • Engineering critical contact surfaces for other parts, such as actuators, belts, tools, human hand, wear, etc.)
  • Utilizing the latest manufacturing methods (for cost control, inventory strategy, precision machining, surface treatment, dielectric constant, etc.)
  • Revising tolerance controls or critical dimensions (CD) to match performance goals (tightening or loosening to avoid under- or over-specifying a parameter)
  • Redesigning to take advantage of new and improved process control.
  • Design of Experiment (DOE) to understand and make product performance less sensitive to manufacturing processes.

Planned Innovation and Contingency

Experienced engineering organizations should track and evaluate design innovation as an ongoing parallel path activity utilizing non-critical path resources. Because of the relative unpredictability of innovation, the design team should establish a back-up plan.

In addition to developing at least one contingency plan, the
organization should delegate a “parallel innovation roadmap” within its supplier base, which allows the organization to assess the strength and commitment of each supplier. In the meantime, the customer can review and approve all changes before implementation begins.

Stay tuned for the final blog in our series, which will cover the use of finite element analysis (FEA), computer simulation and accurate modeling to tackle common and uncommon design challenges.

When your organization requires professional, licensed engineers experienced in design function, FEA and project management, the Glew team gets up to speed quickly. Augmenting your existing team or managing your design function in its entirety, we’re ready to assist you with rapid product development and successful project turnaround. Call today to inquire about our wide range of technology services.


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