How to Design a Part to Ensure a High-Quality Product

By Protolabs

Every product designer and engineer dreams of creating parts free from defects the first time around. But the reality is creating a product that is genetically reliable and free of defects is an incredible challenge. In our 25+ years of business, we have not only faced this challenge but also gained a deep understanding of the correlation between design, geometry, and materials and their overall impact on how the end-use part will perform. Our expertise in this field can give you the confidence to design high-quality products.

mould tool

Shape up your Success: How Part Geometry Impacts Performance

It surely won’t surprise you to hear that part geometry plays a crucial role in determining your product's or part's performance. As a product designer or engineer, your understanding and manipulation of part geometry can significantly impact the final product's performance, making your role in the design process even more crucial.

Geometry can impact many characteristics, including strength, durability, weight, fluid or aerodynamics, heat transfer, manufacturability, and assembly. Let’s delve deeper into how geometry can affect some of those characteristics.

When it comes to strength and durability, the geometry of your part can have a direct effect. Fillets, ribs, or some reinforcement designed into your part can distribute stress more evenly, reducing the risk of it failing under load.

What about weight? Lightweighting is not just a trend, it's a necessity in many industries today. This is especially true for aerospace, where lighter parts are needed for flight efficiency and environmental factors. However, when lightweighting, it is also important to ensure that you are maintaining structural integrity. Using software such as topology optimisation and generative design can support this, motivating you to achieve the dual goal of weight reduction and structural integrity.

It should come as no surprise that geometry will significantly impact any fluid dynamic or aerodynamic applications of your part. The shape of your part will greatly influence and impact the flow pattern, pressure distribution, and overall efficiency.

Unlocking Quality: How can DFM help with improving part quality?

Design for Manufacturability (or DFM) is a method of efficiently iterating designs. This software will show you weaknesses and problematic areas on the part you’ve designed before you go to production. Walls too thin? Support needed? Features too small? All of these potential issues could show up in your analysis feedback. From there, it is a case of looking into fixes, re-uploading, and trying again.

Material Matters: How can material selection improve the lifespan of your end-use part?

How will your part be used? What environments will it need to withstand? These questions can support you when selecting a material that significantly increases the lifespan and performance of your end-use part. For example, if you have a part that must withstand high temperatures, temperature resistance should support expanding the life of that part. Other characteristics, such as mechanical properties, corrosion resistance, wear resistance, chemical compatibility, UV stability, fatigue resistance, environmental factors, and more, could all support extending the life of your part, depending on what you intend to use your part for.

Mastering Quality: How can you adapt the manufacturing process to improve the quality of the product?

Many considerations can be made during the manufacturing process to improve the quality of parts. This can include process optimisation, advanced manufacturing technologies, quality control systems, training, material handling, supplier quality management, continuous improvement, and traceability. Let’s look at a few of these in more detail.

Process optimisation - analysing manufacturing processes to identify areas where parameters such as temperature, pressure and speed can be optimised to ensure consistent quality.

Quality control systems—Whilst it may seem pretty self-explanatory, having these systems in place means that inconsistencies and deviations can be identified and corrective action can be taken in real-time.

Material handling - Ensuring proper handling and storage of raw materials. If not handled and stored correctly, materials can become contaminated, degrade or be damaged, resulting in poor-quality parts.

quality check

Fast-Tract to Success: How can you streamline the prototyping process?

A streamlined prototyping process is more realistic with a digital, automated process. This might involve using DFM software to rapidly iterate designs. Rapid prototyping is used to produce parts quickly for functional testing before going into full production. Collaboration between designers and engineers, whether internally or externally, utilises support from manufacturing partners to ensure designs are optimised for supplier manufacturing processes and their capabilities.

Stacking up quality: What is meant by the term tolerance stack up? And how can this change the quality of the end product?

Let’s start by defining tolerance stack-up. It refers to the process of adding up total part tolerances, calculating the variation of each component to get a stacked-up variation, and then comparing this to the available gap so that your designed part will function correctly.
So, how can this change the quality of the end product? The answer is, in many ways. If cumulative variation exceeds acceptable limits, it could affect the fit and functionality of the part. Perhaps the parts won’t assemble or fit together properly, resulting in poor performance. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to quality issues, higher manufacturing costs, and unreliable parts.
Understanding and managing tolerance stack-up is essential for ensuring a final part that is good quality, functional and reliable.

Going Green: How can you build sustainability into your product?

Building sustainability into your product involves considering the entire lifecycle. An additive process is more environmentally friendly than a subtractive one (less waste), certain materials are renewable or recyclable, and it may even be that your non-recyclable material requires less energy to process, transport, and machine/ mould. The durability and lifespan of your part are also key considerations. If you would like more advice on how to design a sustainable part, you can read our design tip.

Navigating Standards: How do you ensure you meet industry standards and what should the product testing phase look like?

Industry standards should be a major factor in your design process. Designing a part with these standards in mind is much easier than adjusting a part later to try to fit within them. Fully understanding these standards and what is required could involve heavy research, engagement with experts, and comprehensive testing, documentation, and certification.

Feedback Finesse: How to implement a feedback loop to help with future developments?

A feedback loop is essential for continuous improvement. A clear process should be in place to gather feedback from stakeholders, functional testing and even customer usage. This feedback should then be analysed and implemented in part upgrades and outcomes communicated clearly.

Ultimately a combination of these considerations together can help ensure a high-quality product that not only complies with industry standards but also enhances customer satisfaction, drives innovation, and promotes long-term success.

Tagged: design