Our Design Process
Each project is unique; therefore, our design process is scalable to any need and flexible enough to work with any size company. Whether the requirement is a full scale program to revolutionize a product category, or simply to evolve an existing product line, Tool can provide the correct level of resources and services to fit the needs of all our clients.
Our design process consists of planned iterations to incorporate the multidisciplinary perspectives of our staff, partners, and clients. What appears to be a linear design process is actually an integrated team of designers, engineers and researchers working hand-in-hand throughout each process phase.
For further insight, look at each of our process phases to uncover how we work.
Relying on instinct or assumption is dangerous. Successful product design starts with a clear understanding of the consumer’s needs and wants. Our research services include in-depth consumer interviews, observational & ethnographic research, competitive audits & benchmarking, user needs assessment and patent & technology assessment. This research identifies latent needs, product gaps and market opportunities and translates into well informed, innovative design. The correct mix of research will depend on the project requirements and Tool’s recommended strategy.
In this concept development phase, we provide our clients with a wide variety of product concepts illustrating technologies, functions and forms. Concepts are initially presented in hand-drawn sketches, allowing for a rapid exploration of multiple conceptual paths. Based on the merit of each concept and its ability to satisfy user needs and product specifications, concepts are selected for further refinement. This iterative process allows for the full exploration of ideas, concepts and alternatives, while involving all stakeholders in critical decisions regarding concept directions.
From the multiple product concepts generated and refined in Ideation, a small set will typically be selected for further refinement. These often include new directions that mix-and-match features from the initial concepts. Ultimately, one single direction will be selected for final refinement in preparation for the subsequent engineering phases. Selected design solutions will be modified to further enhance design language, user features and overall part geometry. 2D sketches and CAD drawings as well 3D NURBS and CAD models may be used to illustrate the product’s design direction.
The engineering phase builds upon the design work conducted in the Ideation and Refinement phases to develop 3D CAD databases required for manufacturing. tool. uses a variety of 3D products, which include Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks and Inventor, to develop final part geometry. Issues of material selection, manufacturability, assembly, internal & external features, structural & thermal analysis, as well as safety compliance, are addressed in this phase. Mechanism development and vendor-supplied component options are examined and prototyped as required. Final drawing packages, complete 3D part files and bills of material are the end product of this phase.
Prototyping is critical in our design and development process and can take place during any phase of the project, depending on requirements. Prototypes allow for feedback at critical decision making points, reducing the risk of costly iterations later in the process. Tool uses our internal model shop to provide rapid prototypes through a number of different methods. Futhermore, Tool has relationships with a variety of machine shops and rapid prototyping vendors which may be called upon as needed for additional capabilities.
Our Dimension 3D printer allows us increased efficiency by quickly validating concepts at any point in the development process. Using highly durable ABS plastic, prototypes can be sanded, milled, drilled, painted and even electroplated. Our in-house capability lowers prototyping costs, reduces expensive revisions and gets products to market faster.
Tool provides complete manufacturing support for the products we design. We conduct searches for appropriate vendors and qualify them based upon their experience in manufacturing similar products. Vendors are provided with complete quotation packages that may include 3D databases, dimensioned drawings, bills of materials and tooling masters. Tool will evaluate all quotations and make appropriate recommendations on vendor selection. We have extensive experience in both domestic and offshore markets, and our understanding of these markets allows Tool to help you efficiently plan your manufacturing strategies.