BHR Global Associates, Inc. is dedicated to helping companies bring their products to market successfully. We can help with finalization your design, to helping find the right source at the right price, help you maintain a solid on going supply chain and help you sell the product through our team of sales professionals. Our blog will supply information and details on successes, failures, and road blocks to avoid in bringing products to their full potential.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cut to the Bone

We’ve all seen cartoons of the caveman with his waist-high stone wheel. It literally weighs a ton and never seems to be attached to anything. We’ve seen images of chest-high, solid wood wheels on a peasant’s lumbering cart; better than nothing but still far from race-ready. The real breakthrough in wheel design came when some genius realized that a wheel needs a hub and a rim but that most everything in between is superfluous. It was only with the invention of spokes that the wheel—suddenly lighter, more economical, and with less angular momentum to spin up and brake down—came into its own.

The same principle applies to plastic parts. Plastic is inherently light, generally economical, and relatively easy to form. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t, with thoughtful design, be lighter still and even more economical, all without sacrificing performance or complicating manufacturing. Accomplishing this requires the elimination of unnecessary material, which raises two questions: why and how.

“Why” has several answers, and the first is cost. A recent item in TPE (The Plastic Exchange) pointed out that buyers were snapping up supplies of resin in late January 2012 to avoid price increases expected in February. The impending increases ranged from $.02 to $.06 per pound on some relatively inexpensive resins: polyethylene and polypropylene. If pennies-per-pound savings are that motivational, any significant reduction in the per-part volume of resin could be even more worthwhile, and such savings would be proportionally greater on more expensive resins.

The second reason to trim down is weight. From bicycles and cars to military gear and aerospace, weight reduction has become a kind of Holy Grail. Plastic is, of course, lighter than metal, but less plastic is lighter still. As the saying goes, “You can never be too thin or too rich,” and in today’s market being lighter can make you richer by reducing cost and increasing functionality.

Another argument for trimming is style. Perhaps because skeletonization is associated with high-tech, sport, and the like, it has developed a certain cachet. Minimalism sells, which brings us to the next question, which is “how?”

One of the simplest ways to lose weight in a plastic part is to core out thick areas. This not only saves money and weight, but also prevents problems like sink, voids, and warps (see past Design Tip on coring). Another approach is skeletonization. The concept has been used for years and applied to all sorts of materials. Wood and metal trusses are designed to maintain strength while minimizing material requirements. So is a honeycomb. In many cases, hollow cylinders can replace solid posts, and properly positioned arches can redirect forces and replace bulky solid supports. All of these techniques can be incorporated into plastic parts. The challenge is to remove material without impairing function. Figure 1 shows an example of the process.

Figure 1: This part evolved from a solid disk to one with cored-out sections to a fully-skeletonized spoke wheel with no loss of functionality.

Since resins vary widely in their characteristics, the amount of material that can be eliminated from a particular design will depend on the material, and choices of material and form will interact as the designer searches for an optimal design. Finite element analysis (FEA) software is great during the early virtual phase of development, but prototypes using actual materials are necessary for testing and refining the design as the process moves forward.

Thoughtful prototyping by rapid injection molding can provide maximum information at minimum cost. You can test multiple resins in the same mold (as long as you remember that resins with different shrink rates will produce parts of slightly different dimensions). Depending on what you plan to test, e.g., individual part performance rather than a final assembly, this may not be a problem. Also, if you plan to test varying degrees of skeletonization, remember that metal is easy to remove from a mold but hard to add, and less metal means more plastic. In other words, start with the most trimmed down version of your part. If it doesn’t stand up to testing, you can add plastic for your next iteration by milling more metal from the mold instead of starting from scratch. As with skeletonizing a part, it’s a way of trimming fat from your development process, maintaining effectiveness while reducing cost and effort.

Thanks to ProtoMold for contributing to this posting

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Innovation Crucial in Current Low-Growth Economy, Manufacturers Say

Manufacturers are investing in product innovation and added-value services as a means to compete and drive growth according to IDC Manufacturing Insights' latest report, “In Pursuit of Operational Excellence: Accelerating Business Change Through Next Generation ERP.” It highlights that while cost containment remains important in this low-growth economy, it is taking a back seat to initiatives which will help manufacturers differentiate their offerings and drive competitiveness.

The report, sponsored by business software provider Infor, reveals that innovation-led business strategies are currently hampered by inadequate business processes and IT systems, which are crucial when it comes to facilitating the working practices and communications necessary to develop new offerings quickly, collaboratively and cost effectively. In fact, according to 60 percent of manufacturers, ERP in particular falls short of optimizing the decision-making necessary for operational excellence. Top of manufacturers' wish lists for improved systems are social networking-style features within ERP to facilitate timely, accurate, informed decisions.

The research was conducted in October 2011 among 378 manufacturers in the automotive, industrial machinery, high-tech electronics, and aerospace industries in the United States, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Australia, China, India, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Russia.

Among other findings of the research:

• The majority of manufacturers around the globe are balancing growth strategies together with a focus on cost cutting. However, while this balance is weighted in favor of sustained growth in APAC, Russia, the Middle East, and the Americas, in Western Europe, particularly Germany, Italy, Spain and France, they place greater emphasis on cost control, perhaps an indication of the deepening eurozone crisis. Interestingly, the UK bucks this regional trend, with the vast majority of UK manufacturers investing in sustained growth over cost cutting.

• The white paper highlights that product is king when it comes to growth, as innovation (63 percent) and added-value services to products (58 percent) rank higher than expansion into emerging markets (42 percent), with product innovation significantly higher in the automotive (78 percent) and high-tech electronics (75 percent) industries.

• Cost containment strategies across the board have moved out of the plant and into the supply chain. Optimizing production is a cost priority for only 11 percent of manufacturers, indicating that savings have been exhausted, while reducing the number of suppliers (77 percent) and shortening the supply chain (55 percent) rank highest.

• The report also focuses on the criteria for innovation, and respondents point to faster business processes (85 percent), access to real-time information (60 percent) and improved collaboration (60 percent) as critical in this quest. However, 60 percent of manufacturers claim that their systems fail to support the fast, informed decision-making necessary to innovate, with 35 percent heralding mobile and social networking as crucial to transforming the way manufacturers work.

• Looking ahead to the next three years, speed is a critical component of manufacturers' growth strategies. Reacting faster to changes demanded by the business, particularly in aerospace (71 percent) and high-tech electronics (78 percent), and streamlining processes to achieve operational excellence (72 percent) top manufacturers' wish lists. More detailed insight (58 percent) and improved collaboration (42 percent) also dominate short to medium term ERP needs.

"The current economic headwinds have brought with them lower business growth, presenting new challenges for manufacturers looking to compete on a global stage," said Pierfrancesco Manenti, head of IDC Manufacturing Insights, Europe, Middle East & Africa. "While active cost management remains crucial, companies can only truly differentiate themselves through innovating with products and services. Smarter processes and IT systems represent a substantial source of savings, differentiation and agility – helping to make informed decisions and establish a strong foundation to encouraging innovation where the company meets the customer."

Source: IDC Manufacturing Insights

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What ls New Needs to Be Proven

If you have an idea for a product or service you need to prove to yourself first that it is unique and provides a value for the cost.
Too many product ideas never see the light of day and never make it to market because the intended marketplace is too small and NOT truly needed.
Therefore if you have a product idea, do market research and determine the size of the market in both UNITS and more important dollars.
You also have to figure that your percentage of the total market will NOT be 100%, therefore if you determine that there are 10 million customers for the product and over time if you can sell 10% of the market then the project sales will most likely be in the 150K-200K range per year once up to speed.
Well even though that could be a large UNIT volume you then need to see what the DOLLARS will be as well as how many customers, assuming a retail product, you need to sell.
Unless wnhat I described above relates to product that sells for $30 or more this is NOT a viable product and will not sell.
Do the research and you will see what I am saying is correct