A sometimes overlooked aspect of product development is Design for Assembly (DFA), how the end product will be manufactured in an efficient, cost effective manner. It is not until sometime during the validation phase of the project, that problems are realized. These insignificant mistakes can follow throughout the life of the product if not fixed. Therefore, it is a good practice to keep in mind a few simple guidelines during development.
Post Development Options
Although, not ideal, there are a few solutions to fix the problems during the manufacturing phase. Making assembly fixtures or "jigs" can sometimes make up for what could have been prevented and in some cases be the only solution. Another way to make up for the lack of preparation for DFA in the design is to create a set of detailed work instructions that clearly explain the assembly steps and have the critical aspects identified out for each step. Although sometimes making costly ECNs to the part's tooling is the only cost effective way to ensure a repeatable process of assembly.
Exploring Methods of Designing for Assembly
To ensure an efficient method of assembly, one should keep in mind a few guidelines during the final development stage of a project. Integrating these extra steps will eliminate extra work, and enable a smooth transition from development to manufacturing.
One way to accomplish smooth manufacturing is to reduce the number of parts needed in an assembly. Lessening the number of parts decreases your chance to receive out of spec parts, simplifies inventory, reduces handling costs, and makes the assembly easier to automate. This can be done a number of different ways. One common way is to reduce the variety of screws used. This can help clarify assembly by reducing the chances of incorrect screw placement when there are less possible combinations. It can also eliminate tool changeovers. Designers need to also consider consolidating multiple parts into one. A good practice is to evaluate entire assemblies and ask the following questions: Can these parts be composed of the same material? Can I build these features into the main part? Does the part move relative to other moving parts? Doing this will usually end in simplifying the assembly, create higher product reliability and ease of assembly.
Another common practice of DFA is to standardize the parts used by leveraging from other projects. It is sometimes easy for designers to try and "re-invent the wheel." It’s in our blood, and why we do what we do. However, taking a step back and thinking of other instances where the same or similar task has been accomplished will be beneficial. Designers can apply the same methods as other proven products, and sometimes, even use the same parts. Incorporating parts from other projects will eliminate the time spent on Designing for Manufacturability (DFM) and the expensive tooling dollars for manufacturing...