What is DFM in manufacturing? This is an article all about it.
There are multiple variables in the product development cycle. However, the design and manufacturing processes usually go hand-in-hand.
So most companies have discovered the trick of considering manufacturing when in the design phase. And that is where DFM comes in.
So what is DFM in manufacturing? And what are its benefits? Read on to learn more!
What Is DFM?
Design for Manufacturing or Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is the process of designing products that are easy to manufacture.
So it means designers don’t handle the design process while oblivious to the step that comes next.
Instead, they consider the materials, manufacturing processes, and equipment needed to make the product.
Advantages of DFM
The overall benefits of this process include the following.
- Reduced production and material costs
- Faster time to market (shortened lead time)
- Reduced assembly steps and parts quantity
- Better product quality (designs get refined and enhanced at each design stage)
- Early error and fault identification/removal
- Better supply chain management
- Improves competitiveness
- Enhanced manufacturing flexibility
- Ensures compliance with regulations
DFM vs. DFA vs. DFE
The DFM process closely relates to these two product design approaches.
Design for assembly involves optimizing a product’s layout to lower the assembly costs and make the assembly process more efficient.
So besides simplifying the assembly processes, DFA cuts the number of required components and reduces the assembly time/cost.
E stands for the environment. So Design for Environment is a holistic approach that factors in the product’s life cycle, including:
- Raw material extraction
- Product disposal after getting damaged or end of life
DFE’s objective is to reduce the product’s impact on the environment.
So it tries to reduce resource consumption when manufacturing and minimize pollution by enhancing recyclability at the end of life.
Here are the five DFM principles.
You must use the most optimal manufacturing process to lower production costs.
For instance, you should avoid using capital-intensive methods like injection molding to build low-volume parts.
The process involves making dies and tools first to handle the mold, which will be expensive.
It is cheaper to use cheaper methods like thermoforming for such parts.
A plastic injection metal mold
But also consider the lead time because some manufacturing processes are cheaper but take a lot of time.
Depending on the product, you can plot a graph of unit cost against lead time and tooling cost.
This graphic will compare the manufacturing processes and show the best one.
The product design process is essential before manufacturing. But complex designs are riskier and more expensive to build than simpler ones.
So always go for the simple layouts because they are cheaper to make, build, maintain, and use.
But more importantly, the part or product drawing should adhere to the recommended manufacturing principles for the selected manufacturing process.
These principles dictate that you consider thickness, texture, tolerance, consistency, etc.
Selecting the most suitable material during the early physical design stage can save you time and money.
Materials directly impact the overall product cost and quality, so consider the following properties for effective DFM.
- Thermal properties
- Mechanical properties
- Optical properties
- Electrical properties
The best way to handle this principle is to contact your manufacturer or manufacturing engineers for advice on material pricing.
Your product’s design must be capable of withstanding the environment it will operate in.
So consider these operating conditions during product design to ensure a long lifespan.
The last principle is testing. All products and parts must comply with industry standards at each production phase.
So your contract manufacturer should have industry-certified testing facilities.
Microcircuit testing (checking chips for damage)
Some fabricators also adhere to internal (company-specific) or third-party standards.
So take some time to go through their manufacturing and testing processes.
PCB DFM Design Principles
Although the principles above apply to all products, they can vary depending on the industry. This variation occurs due to the changing industry capabilities.
For instance, the soldering technologies on printed circuit boards have become automated, which lowers overall production costs.
These principles can also vary depending on the product. So the DFM principles that apply to circuit boards revolve around the following.
- PCB design/layout
- Signal integrity
- Thermal management
- Mechanical properties
Engineers checking a PCB design in an electronics factory
Factors That Enhance DFM
The primary goal of DFM is to lower manufacturing costs without compromising quality. So consider these factors to enhance DFM.
Reduce the Number of Parts
Optimizing the design to reduce the number of parts is the fastest way to cut costs (it minimizes the required materials).
Reducing components also minimizes assembly costs, required engineering, and shipping costs.
Standardize Materials and Parts
Customization might make the product look good and unique, but it has a cost implication. And it is time-consuming.
But using standardized components shortens the lead time because the parts are readily available.
Also, it enables optimized automation. And you can be sure of the quality.
Build Modular Assemblies
Modular assemblies enable manufacturers to make multiple tiny parts at a low price, then assemble them cheaply later.
Design Easy Joints
When you create modular assemblies, the next step is to make the parts have efficient joining mechanisms.
Think of interlocking sections or clips instead of screws or adhesives. And if you must use fasteners or screws, consider the following.
- Use standard fasteners
- Keep the screw count, variation, and size as low as possible
- Use chamfered or self-tapping screws
- Avoid too short or long screws
- Don’t use separate washers, flatheads, roundheads, and tapped holes
A PCB with a 4-pin connector joint
Streamline Manufacturing Processes/Operations
Manufacturing processes have limitations. And complex processes introduce more variables that increase the error-making potential.
So, streamline these processes to include only the essential manufacturing operations.
Avoid Reorienting Parts During Manufacturing or Assembly
Reorienting parts after the product goes into manufacturing can affect performance and fabrication/assembly costs.
So avoid these modifications later on.
Define The Acceptable Surface Finishes
Using PCBs as examples, not all need gold surface finishes.
So if it’s not functional, avoid the expensive finishes just for the show. Always pick function over flashy.
A circuit board with a gold surface finish
How To Implement DFM
Use these steps to get started with DFM.
Do an Early Implementation
The best time to implement DFM is during the product design phase.
Otherwise, trying to implement optimization changes later will be challenging and costly.
Identify DFM Techniques
Collaborate with manufacturers or experts to evaluate the current design and production practices to get professional feedback early.
These experts will give you valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.
Additionally, they will detect wasteful manufacturing areas and propose efficient methods that are more sustainable.
Test and Optimize
After incorporating the feedback from the professionals into your product design, do tests to inform future optimizations.
Expand DFM by Collaborating with Professionals
Manufacturing processes change over time. So you should consult professionals occasionally to increase the breadth of DFM and further lower production costs.
These future consultations can also help you reduce the product size to cut material costs.
Engineers consulting on a project
Who Handles DFM?
DFM is a collective process that requires input from the following people.
These experts develop the original designs and follow them up with the manufacturing engineers for optimization.
DFM involves optimizing the design for easy and efficient manufacturing.
So manufacturing engineers are the experts who give design engineers insights to help with layout optimization.
The procurement team is responsible for sourcing materials and parts to build the design.
So they coordinate with the design and manufacturing engineers to ensure they get the required items to make quality products.
After manufacturing, the quality control team tests the products to ascertain they meet the required quality standards.
The management provides oversight of the entire production process.
The team develops the company strategy and allocates resources appropriately to enable and enhance the DFM process.
How Long Does DFM Take?
There is no predefined time. It usually varies depending on the manufacturing process (complexity), product, and components.
But on average, it can take about two weeks, with complex products needing 3-4 weeks.
Let’s look at a few examples to drive the point home.
- Joining components using snap fits instead of fasteners to ease assembly, lower material costs, and shorten the lead time. It is easier to use additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing, to enhance production efficiency.
A 3D printer at work
- Using casting for manufacturing to minimize defects while optimizing the product’s geometry and shape.
In conclusion, DFM is critical in a product’s manufacturing process because it helps with fault identification.
This early error detection then informs the best optimization steps to take.
And it would be ideal to join the process with DFA and DFE to ensure a holistic production process. That’s a wrap for this article.
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