When it comes to product assembly, time is money!

by | Feb 4, 2020

Designing your product to be optimized for assembly is critical to keeping your manufacturing costs as low as possible. When it comes to manufacturing, time is money. Anything that you can do to accelerate your schedule will equate to significant savings. Scott Miller of Dragon innovation does a great job summarizing some best practices and tips in his DFM series (with references to the books “Product Design for Manufacture and Assembly” and “Designing Plastic Parts for Assembly”). I have outlined many of the key elements here.

One of the primary goals of designing for assembly (DFA) is to reduce part count and assembly time to improve quality, reduce cost, and accelerate schedule.

Advantages of reducing part count include:
  • The fewer parts you have, the fewer fixtures you need to build
  • Less documentation
  • Fewer parts in inventory and fewer suppliers (can’t run out!)
  • Fewer inspections and less rework
  • Lower tolerance stack-up

The 3 types of assembly are manual, robotic, and automatic. Most assembly (low to high volume) is manual and incorporates operations with simple, general-purpose tools and is very flexible.

Manual assembly incorporates bins of parts and simple clamping fixtures with a line of assemblers putting products together. As such, cost is not a function of volume but instead a function of labor rate.

Robot assembly is somewhat flexible to design changes and is often used to pick up small parts and use general tools.

Automatic assembly is highly inflexible and only used for high volume. Machines are built to be completely dedicated to a certain product. Parts are automatically fed and transferred from station to station and significant capital investment, engineering, and QC is required.

Common assembly methods include: screw bosses (self-locating), press fits, snap clips, ultrasonic welding, cold/heat staking, living hinges, solvent bonding, adhesives, hot plate, lasers, inductive welding, spin welding, and vibration welding.

DFA Techniques:
  • Determine if you can combine parts whenever possible
  • Design parts to be self-aligning
  • Design to accommodate sloppy tolerances
  • Use standardized parts across products
  • Ensure parts can be handled and all areas accessible
  • Minimize reorientations during assembly

To conclude, it can be difficult to design your product with assembly in mind from the get-go, but if you get to the point of production it becomes imperative.
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