Achieve faster time to market by reducing design and prototype cycles

Do you want to reduce development cost and time? Do you want to gain a competitive edge by beating your competitors to market? Ignoring mechanical variation during the initial design activities usually causes multiple iterative design loops as problems are uncovered during validation, prototype, and pilot stages. Fixing the problems after they appear, instead of preventing them initially via planned simulation activities, leads to expensive engineering changes, added prototype costs, and delays in the products release dates. Design engineering teams can reduce these costly changes and bring products to market more quickly by using Sigmetrix solutions to:

  • Quickly build tolerance models to explore concepts
  • Check product/process feasibility during concept and design
  • Gain insights that prototypes don’t typically provide
  • Analyze product concepts that were previously too difficult to model
  • Provide consistency of data and understanding throughout the process

Quickly build tolerance models to explore concepts

For over 20 years, Sigmetrix has focused on “ease of use,” allowing more users to perform tolerance analysis more quickly.  This democratization of tools and information can be powerful – but it will provide no value to an organization if it can’t be readily adopted and provide meaningful and accurate results that allow users and management to confidently make actionable decisions.

There are two common approaches found in companies for dealing with mechanical variation:

  • Stack-up analysis is performed by the engineer/designer most often in Excel but sometimes by hand on paper. Some companies have templates or guidelines that engineers can plug nominal values from CAD models and tolerances from standards or legacy drawings into. If the tolerance stack shows that the limits of the specification will be violated, the engineer/designer will typically tighten tolerances on parts the ones that can be changed, or those costing the company the most, and move on. Companies that take the time to do detailed analyses across their designs admit that it takes too much time and, in many cases, lacks the accuracy of modeling real-world behavior necessary to avoid problems when production starts.
  • The designer could also make things look good in CAD, a design that is nominally perfect and looks great in design reviews but ignores the analysis required to understand how real-world imperfect parts will behave.  If they must dimension and tolerance the prints, they might reference legacy drawings of similar products and copy the dimensioning scheme and tolerance values. This creates a false sense of security that no problems will occur once production starts. While this certainly doesn’t seem like a successful approach, it’s quite common – over half of the companies we speak with admit they do some analysis, most often on things deemed most critical, but they don’t do enough.

In either of these cases, the design is “thrown over the wall” and manufacturing/inspection must guess on the intended function of the product or deal with the unanticipated variation while trying to bring it to production.  The result? Over 70% of the companies engaging Sigmetrix are seeking solutions to reduce manufacturing problems caused by tolerancing issues. A third admit to wanting to reduce problems that arise after products ship to their customers. Both approaches are inefficient and lead to costly loopbacks in the design process.

Sigmetrix provides simulation tools and education that enables design teams to build tolerance models that more accurately predict, or simulate, real-world behaviors in equal or less time than it takes to populate a stack up spreadsheet. These tools allow designers/engineers, who are being asked to take on this new responsibility, gain insights that can help them design better products in a shorter amount of time.

Check product/process feasibility during concept and design

Although many companies recognize the usefulness of using GD&T to better manage variation, it can still be difficult

The task of building tolerance stacks has traditionally been performed during the validation stage or later in the product development process. Many companies continue to work this way today. This is partly driven by the dependency that traditional stack-ups have on completed drawings. As those drawings feed into spreadsheets there is less opportunity to have the tolerance analysis influence dimensioning schemes and, more importantly, design decisions. High performing companies are taking a new approach and considering variation as early as concept and R&D stages.

This new approach only needs very crude, conceptual CAD models with surfaces and construction geometry that represent critical-to-function interfaces and critical-to-function features. This is like what some might call a “skeleton” model. Our simulation tools can use this simplified representation to create variation models early in the development process, prior to final geometry being defined.

Because these models require little effort and can be built quickly, engineers/designers can build and compare many design concepts. Infeasible or costly concepts can quickly be eliminated allowing the product team to focus on developing concepts that are more likely to succeed. These models will remain associative to the CAD geometry as it is updated throughout the development process.

These models also provide the engineers/designers with valuable insights into the robustness of the design and the ability to answer questions they have about their design without being burdened by the often-complex mathematics required to calculate the answer. These insights also help users make decisions about manufacturing, assembly, and inspection processes – well before the CAD geometry has been finalized.

Gain insights that prototypes don’t typically provide

Prototype, pilot, and test builds can provide valuable information during the development of a new product. However, physical prototypes can be costly and have significant limitations.

These physical builds:

  • Are not able to provide a statistically significant sample size that represents the production volume of the final product
  • Don’t typically represent realistic process capabilities of production manufacturing/assembly processes because better tools and more skilled operators are used. In other words, they typically represent the best assembly possible and not what is likely to be created during full production.
  • Don’t typically allow your team to “look inside” the product to determine the root cause of failure of Critical-to-Function requirements

Like other Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tools, Sigmetrix Solutions are built on a robust mathematical models that can be used to simulate the impact of variation without the need of physically building a prototype.  These tools give your organization the ability to simulate “real world” conditions and make design and manufacturing decisions that are not typically possible with traditional prototypes.

Analyze product concepts that had been considered too difficult to model

Sigmetrix’s powerful tolerance analysis solutions make it easier to analyze product concept or designs that were previously too difficult or impossible. Broader design exploration is possible because of the speed of modeling and the richness of the data provides more insights that may lead to unique design solutions. There is no longer the limitation of only looking at what can be easily analyzed or quickly tested. It is now possible to test product-level performance characteristics and not just fit and finish characteristics without the need for a prototype.

Provide consistency of data and understanding throughout the process

Product lifecycle efficiencies are not limited to the concept and prototype phases. Promoting a consistent understanding and vocabulary for sharing variation related data and concepts can also help speed up the overall process.  In an ideal organization, Design, Manufacturing, and Quality departments all “speak the same language” and work together during the product development process. There is less room for miscommunication that lead to misunderstanding and costly mistakes.  The training solutions provided by Sigmetrix help ensure that everyone in the organization can share a common understanding of what is needed and why during the product lifecycle.