The most successful products are a direct result of solid collaboration. But for such collaboration to work, designers need to grasp the purpose of the intended product and understand the fundamentals of the manufacturing process.
As manufactures ourselves, our highest priority is to relay the specifications of the application and then work with designers to understand how our material can address their needs. PopFoam is versatile and can be used in many ways and in many different products. And once designers understand that the process is quite different from other injection molding, their scope for creativity widens.
Value From Mutual Trust
Manufacturers are more creative than even they sometimes believe. They really do know how to solve problems, but often out of respect for the designer, they keep quiet. Their job, the thinking goes, is to build products, not design them.
However, the truth of the matter is that manufacturers' experience working with numerous products and talented designers puts them in a unique position. They have innovative ideas that often just don't get communicated. For their part, designers bring a willingness to push creative boundaries and limitations. As a result, manufacturing leaps ahead into new territory, creating future value.
For instance, when we worked with One World Futbol, we had to push creative boundaries to create a custom mold and fixture to ensure the ball maintained its round shape but was also lightweight, durable, and long-lasting. Our ultimate success can be directly tied to our hands-on collaboration and problem-solving with the founder, Tim Jahnigen.
For this reason, the vetting process is especially crucial. Most manufacturers provide general requirements to designers through their websites — such as part size, design requirements, and the CAD types they can work with. Additionally, most manufacturers have unique legacy processes and typically only share basic, need-to-know details about what's required in part design.
As the project moves forward, the collaboration may naturally deepen because more process information comes to light, but for the best results, there must be collaboration from start to finish. Designers should select their manufacturing partner well before the design process is underway. They need manufacturers who are open to fresh perspectives, understand creative thinking, and have confidence in their capabilities.
A true partner can and will provide valid, useful input throughout every step of the design process. Plus, this will arm the manufacturer with a thorough understanding of the product design, which will lead to a more accurate production quote.
What Manufacturers Want Designers to Know
That said, there are some aspects of manufacturing that designers should understand before seeking a collaborator. Strictly from a design perspective, a designer should be aware of basic manufacturing specifications. In our case, that includes:
- Part wall thickness limitations
- Parting line theory
- Part size limitations based on manufacturing
From a relationship perspective, the designer should be able to:
- Provide costing targets
- Research the manufacturer to ensure a good fit
- Assume a partnership approach with the manufacturer
Similarly, there are aspects the manufacturer must be made aware of, such as any needed environmental requirements, expected annual volume, or timeline to product launch.
Manufacturers earn revenue by making parts, while the designer, or the design company, makes money by selling products. Each must give the other what they need for the relationship to work. When designers and manufacturers can come together, some of the most innovative products will follow.