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Manufacturing knowledge key for metal product development

What is the role of manufacturing knowledge in your product development process? For many companies, the question of manufacturability only comes up when release dates or pricing for a product have already been set. By then, it is too late to make meaningful changes to the design, leading to delays or significantly increased costs. How do you prevent this? In this article, we discuss how we work with companies to consider key manufacturability factors during product development.

For many machine builders and OEMs, research and development, prototyping, and manufacturing used to all be equal parts of their primary process. These companies only worked with external suppliers for extremely specialized processes or for the supply of commoditized parts. In the Netherlands, Philips is a great example of such a company, they had everything inhouse to make amazing products, from industrial applications to television sets.

For some time now, these companies have been increasingly focused on areas such as R&D and prototyping, making suppliers responsible for all subsequent steps. This means that manufacturing expertise, and what we call manufacturability knowledge, has moved away from OEMs  towards suppliers. This has been working well for some time now, the customer focuses on developing new and exciting products while the suppliers make sure it gets manufactured and shipped on time.

product development

Engineering for manufacturability

Recently though, OEM’s and machine builders are facing significant challenges that require manufacturing expertise to solve them. Expertise that they no longer have. Moving from concept development to at-scale production is becoming more time constraint as market pressure increases due to both competitive pressure and customers expecting rapid innovation (and iteration). Instead of an extended process in which the team repeatedly moves back and forth between phases to eventually arrive at the right product, time is of the essence. Modular engineering and prototyping require a wide range of expertise to be available during the decision making process in order for the product to make it to market in time.

It means that these companies need to incorporate the manufacturing knowledge of their suppliers into their development process in order to make their product manufacturable.

Guiding the customer in the world of metal

At Antonius, we have been expanding our engineering and project management capacity to be able to fully support our customers from their development process on. We provide the manufacturing expertise necessary for the development of manufacturable products, products that can actually be manufactured in the correct timeframe and for a competitive cost. Our experience with manufacturing large and complex metal shapes and assembled products makes us the ideal partner for companies that lack internal manufacturing expertise or capacity.

Our input often impacts the following aspects of product engineering:

Tolerances

Generally speaking,  narrow tolerances (higher precision) are more expensive to achieve. Furthermore, tolerances influence each other when a component is part of a larger assembly. According to Rob Derix, Commercial Director at Antonius , this can sometimes present challenges:

“Sometimes, we receive drawings that make little sense. A young engineer might have used tolerances from his literal schoolbook but when we combine the components that he’s drawn these tolerances make them impossible to assemble. Welding is an area where this happens often, insufficiently taking into account the expansion of metals due to temperature is a classic mistake with grave consequences. Many companies will say: ”We have done what the drawing says”, but that is a bad outcome for everyone involved. We like to work with clients to get a manufacturable design to production.”

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    Material selection

    Each individual material has its own characteristics ranging from tensile strength or corrosion resistance to specific weight. And while a material might be ideal for a part it might not be ideal for production or the application as a whole. The former applies, for example, when a certain material is difficult to source or when it makes manufacturing unnecessarily expensive because of sizing or plate thickness. And the interplay between parts and materials needs to be considered, how does this material work with the other materials in the design? Antonius’ practical knowledge and knowhow is invaluable to answering these challenges.

    Production techniques

    What production technique should you use to manufacture a certain part? There are many different techniques for shaping metal and each has its own advantages and challenges. And that is not even considering the rest of the production process. If, subsequently, a part has to be heat treated or assembled in a certain way that might influence what production techniques are used.

    During engineering, we often discuss a variety of options with our customers. Total cost of production is an important factor for these discussions. Deciding on a more expensive material might result in lower production costs further down the line, for example. Together, we will create an overview of the options available to us and make a decision that we all fully support before moving on to actual production.

    Manufacturing capacity

    After the design has been finalized, Antonius can of course provide the necessary manufacturing capacity or coordinate production of the product. Our specialists interface directly with production staff and keep you appraised of everything that happens. By then, you will have learned to trust our experience and expertise and can rest assured that your product will be completed on time.

    Want to learn more about the way we collaborate with our customers for the efficient production of high-quality, metal products? Please contact our sales team at sales@antonius.nl or +31 (0)475 439 000.

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