Written By Mike Yim
We’ve talked before about the value of design, but what about the other half of our company, the engineering side? Mechanical engineering is defined as “developing, testing, and building mechanical and thermal sensors and devices” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). To us, it goes beyond building the product. Without even realizing it, we use products every day that have been mechanically engineered.
Mechanical Engineers are characterized as multi-skilled individuals, most of whom have a working knowledge of analysis, critical thinking, design, manufacturing, and operation/maintenance of technological systems. Anything from cell phones to airplanes, engineers play a critical role in developing almost every piece of technology we use today, and their skill sets allow us to use products with ease.
It Goes Beyond Building the Product
Mechanical Engineering is arguably the most versatile of the engineering fields. From costs of components to economic impacts of using specific materials, mechanical engineers harbor extensive knowledge in a wide array of industries. They must understand the housing environments of parts, its subarts, design for assembly and manufacturability, and ensure that each part will function without failure.
According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, “33% of the world’s most successful companies have a leader with a background in engineering.” Microsoft is among those companies. Because engineers by nature are detail-oriented and understand how all components work together, they have the ability, knowledge, and resources to make great business leaders.
Where Does M.E. Fit in the Design Process?
As we’ve mentioned before, both Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering go hand-in-hand in early-stage product development. Oftentimes, clients will come to us asking to differentiate between the two because they are not quite sure what the differences are. So, where does ME fit in the design process?
First, we need to identify the need. The clients we work with are early-stage startups, so they are often looking to develop a proof of concept to demonstrate an idea, usually in physical form. Or, the client may need a “looks-like and works-like” prototype asset for investor meetings. Other times, clients are looking for alpha/beta prototypes or prototypes for their pilot program. Regardless of the maturity of the project, Hatch Duo has experience and the capability to support end-to end-development.
Second, DFA, or “Design For Assembly.” After the Industrial Design team successfully hands off CAD files, the ME team is responsible for applying best practices and optimizing strategies for assembly, features, or methodologies for installation. At this phase, we may also work with stakeholders like ID and EE (Electrical Engineering) to optimize placement of internal components while preserving UI and UX. Some things to consider at this stage are the sequence of assembly, tool access, wrench clearance, disguising hardware, compatibility of dissimilar metals, and even optimizing the variety of fasteners that are used throughout the assembly to simplify the Bill of Materials.
Following DFA, the ME team begins rapid prototyping. Nothing beats the speed, price, and options available from our third-party partners. Generally, we like to work with ABS, glass/carbon-filled nylon, multi-jet fusion, polycarbonate, or directed energy deposition composites materials for rapid prototyping options.
Because engineers are trained to execute correctly on the first attempt, the next step for us is to test functionality. At this stage, we modify by hand and/or using machine tools if necessary.
Concurrently, our stakeholders capture adjustments and fine tune in real-time. Design updates are captured in CAD, typically to improve fitment of mating parts discovered in the testing functionality phase. This stage is usually rinsed and repeated as needed as budget and schedule allows.
Lastly, we apply design for manufacturability methodologies to further de-risk design, particularly if the client’s intent is to pursue mass production. At this phase, we generally design parts with features according to specific manufacturing processes; however, this is dependent on the production volume and materials.
Why Should Startups Integrate I.D. & M.E.?
Other than the fact that it lowers production costs, integrating both Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering ensures a more nimble process for time-to-market. Specifically, for early-stage startups, this is vital for a successful product launch. Mechanical Engineering is often the side of product development clients don’t often see, but an extremely important role that should not be overlooked. Engineers must be ready and willing to adapt and direct change, and they are the ones behind the world’s constant development. By implementing both design and engineering simultaneously, it allows for a product idea to reach its full potential in terms of innovation and sustainability. We need a healthy balance of both fields to bring ideas into reality. Need tips on integrating both ID & ME for your product idea? Shoot us an email or comment below!