Topic outline

  • General


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    Designing is a process that people use to plan and produce something of value for a potential customer.  It can be through either innovation or invention.  As shown in the above video, sometimes, the product may be for yourself.

    • Innovation is changing or modifying an existing product to improve it.
    • Invention is the creation of a product that has never been thought of before.

    The result may be a product, process, or system that meets a specified human need or solves a particular problem. The solutions to these problems often improve and even save our lives.  In this module the focus will be on product design. The following links illustrate some interesting examples of good and bad designs.

    Good Designs and Bad Designs

    Individual creativity offers a larger number of results when a team works on a project as each member will have differing backgrounds, corporate or country cultures and experiences that help add to a variety of possible solutions. An example of this is told by Steve Jobs at the 2005 Stanford Commencement Address where he talked about "connecting the dots."

    Therefore, the team must be made up of other talented people beyond designers, such as engineers, quality control, manufacturing and finance personnel. All of this work is documented in the product specification and is constantly being negotiated and altered based on negotiations and constraints.  During the process, the customer or client should always be involved to substantiate the need for the product.  In the end, all design is a compromise.

    Engineers are interested in technological designs that require the combination of creativity and technical know-how to create practical solutions that can be manufactured at a competitive price.  Design and creativity go hand in hand; enhancing your creativity will improve your designs and improve your technical knowledge   Engineering design is very often influenced by art:  creative abstract thinking and visualizing. Once a solution is decided, it is up to manufacturing engineers to create the tools and equipment to make the product.  When creating a design for manufacturing, a detailed understanding of production and assembly processes becomes important in the process.  The quality control staff makes sure that the product performs as it is designed.

    Assignments: 9Glossary: 1Lessons: 6Quiz: 1Folders: 2Pages: 2

    Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Phase 5 Phase 6 Phase 7 Phase 8

    Click on any step to jump to that lesson.Informed Design Process

    Similar to the Scientific Method or the Problem Solving Process, the Design Process can be shown in as few as three steps or broken down to as many as twelve or more steps. Each step is typically iterated multiple times to obtain the best and final result.  Experienced designers tend to skip around inside the process with multiple iterations of the various steps as needed.

    Technological design, as a rational process involving planning and production of artifacts and systems, goes back to the beginning of civilization. The pyramids, early ships, and canals are examples of technological design. It was not until the last two centuries, however, that technology has emerged as a discipline characterized by a combination of prior experience, rules of thumb, mathematical reasoning, and scientific knowledge. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) defines design in the Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs as “the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences and mathematics and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective” (ABET, 2000)1.

    We will be using the Eight Phases of the Informed Design Cycle to show more clearly defined phases.

    As you work on each step of the design process, all of the information that is collected should be recorded in an engineer’s notebook. This method is used to formally document, in chronological order, all work that is associated with the specific design project. Each page is signed and dated for verification.

    The process of design also includes a variety of ancillary considerations: How and where the product will be created along with sustainability, standards, ethics and risk assessment must all be reviewed.  As potential protection against liability for future expense after the product is sold, companies are now becoming certified by ISO 9000 standards to verify that their products are reliable, made to standards and environmentally manufactured.

    Part of the design phase also includes evaluating the methods and processes to produce the product to determine the machines, the method of production and the production procedure or layout.  The cost of the machines, the operating costs and the overhead costs are also factored into the amount that an organization would need to know in order to make a profit.

    The phases of the informed design that you will learn about include:

    Phase 1:  Clarify the problem, specifications and constraints.

    Phase 2:  Research and investigate the problem.

    Phase 3:  Generate alternative designs.

    Phase 4:  Choose and justify your optimal design.

    Phase 5:  Develop a prototype.

    Phase 6:  Test and evaluate the design solution.

    Phase 7:  Redesign the solution with modifications.

    Phase 8:  Communicate your achievements.

    1 Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. (2000). Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs: Effective for Evaluations During the 2000-2001 Accreditation Cycle. ABET. Baltimore, MD.


    What is the problem and how do you explain it?

    Glossary: 1Lessons: 3Assignments: 12Quiz: 1Pages: 2Folder: 1

    Learn as much as you can about your product and others that are similar.

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 6Quiz: 1Folder: 1Pages: 2

    What other ways are there to approach and explain the problem you are solving?

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 6Quiz: 1Folder: 1Pages: 2

    Pick one solution and justify the choice.

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 5Quiz: 1Folder: 1Pages: 2
  • PHASE 5 DEVELOP A PROTOTYPE are used to learn about the product.
         Will it work?
         How well does it meet the customer needs?
    Prototypes are used to communicate an idea.
         To the development team and the company
         To the vendors and suppliers
         To the customer
    Prototypes are used to determine component interfaces.
         How components and parts can fit together in an assembly
         If components and parts can work together in an assembly

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 3Quiz: 1Folder: 1Pages: 2

    Prove that the product will solve the problem.

    During this phase of the design process you and your team should develop a test, or several tests, to asses the performance of the design solution.  Test the design solution, collect performance data, and analyze the data to show how well the design satisfies constraints and specifications.

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 3Quiz: 1Folder: 1Pages: 2

    Consider the manufacturing processes and verify the methods.

    In this phase, the design is critically examined by noting how other designs perform to see how your design can be improved.

    Lesson: 1Pages: 4Quiz: 1Assignments: 2Folder: 1

    Sell the product to the sales and manufacturing departments.
    (Make sure they are involved with the development)

    Lesson: 1Assignments: 5Folder: 1Pages: 2

    Lesson: 1Quiz: 1Folder: 1Page: 1