Blackwell Plastics partners with OEM manufacturers and sub-tier suppliers in South Texas including Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi to provide plastic injection molding and plastic extrusion of engineering grade resins that satisfy demanding industrial applications. Blackwell Plastics supports plastic injection molding and plastic extrusion projects from design to fulfillment.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Product Design




Navigating the path to bring a new product to market often leads you to unchartered territory and treacherous decision points that can lead to costly if not tragic results in bring a new product to market. A general overview of bringing a product to market would cover these milestones.
• An unmet need
• An innovative idea
• Good Industrial Design/Engineering working with all available collaborative technologies.
• Material selection
• Tooling
• Manufacturing

You need all of these disciplines working together and need experts in those fields that are best suited for the product because of their specific experience. Finding the right designer and engineer with a history of designing similar parts is key to the success as you can build on the experience of others that have gone before you and benefit from the good and bad lessons learned and realize efficiencies gained by following in the path already blazed by another. In some instances you may need to work with a couple design firms to get all the expertise. For example one design firm may be great at the creative and mechanical aspects of the design, but does not have electronics and reliability engineering in house.

Depending on the application choosing the right material can also be a critical decision in ending up with a product that meets all the requirements at a lowest cost. A good first question to ask is “can we make it in polyethylene?” If not then begin going up the engineering material chain to find the right material for the application. The material suppliers have excellent resources and can be invaluable partners in helping you select the right material and help in understanding the market.

The next hazard is developing the tooling. There are many niches in tooling companies. Some include prototype, bridge to production tooling, speed, cost, polish for lighting and reflectors, corrosive materials, multi-shot, coordinated automation, insert, etc. Choose the right tooling company that also has a track record of building tools for your type of application. This is most important when working on high volume or complex parts.

Last is finding the right processor. Whether it be injection molding, extrusion, blow molding or other process, finding the right supplier that fits for you is another critical area in making a successful project. Not all processors are alike. As with tooling there are niches such as prototyping, low volume, high-volume, engineering materials, clean room, highly automated or highly custom. A couple suggestions that will help you pick the right processor. When possible use a regional supplier that is close to you. Communication and transportation costs alone are just a couple items that make will make this relationship pay off. Certainly there are scenarios that competitive cost drives manufacturing to other regions, but proximity will be your friend as you work through the manufacturing challenges. Next look at their business and see if the majority of their business looks like yours. If you have a low volume custom product and they have a highly automated shop that manufactures long runs then it probably isn’t the best fit. Most importantly recognize that the processor is your manufacturing partner and as such communication is critical to your success. Having a partner that you can trust, communicate, and shares your passion for building your business will make your life much more enjoyable. After you meet all these criteria then work on getting pricing that works for both of you.

What makes the product development process so interesting and difficult is that the combination of these key relationships is rarely the same from product to product. No one supplier can be all things to all application, but finding the right fit in each of these critical "cogs" makes the product realization experience work well. Do your research, look at the portfolios of the Industrial Design firms, know the key characteristics of your tooling that will make your product successful, take advantage of the vast resources of the material suppliers technical and marketing expertise, visit the processors to see if their business is a match and find a relationship you can trust and enjoy the experience of building your product and your business.

For assistance in navigating this path and for identifying possible partners to collaborate on your product, please feel free to contact us at 713 643-6577 or email engineering@blackwellplastics.com