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Concurrent Engineering Blog

How have Product Design Tools Changed and Developed

Posted by Emma Rudeck on 30-May-2013 11:44:00

product design toolsFrom humble beginnings to advanced CAD technology, product design tools have come a long way. The tools now used in product design have developed significantly to the sketches and drawings first used by designers. In this blog post, we’ll look at how product design tool have changed and the impact this has had on product development process.

The beginnings of product design tools

It wasn’t so long ago that all new product designs started life in the minds of solitary inventors. Often, this would be a solitary venture, with no real external input. These inventors would sketch their ideas, but only some had the means to turn these sketches into final products.

By the start of the 20th century, companies were increasingly at the forefront of product design, with teams of people working on the projects. But, still, they relied on hand sketches to develop their ideas and concepts.  It wasn’t until the 1940s that common standards were established for drafting, allowing design intent to be built into the drawings.

Increased communication between design and manufacturing

The story goes that a designer called Stanley Parker realised that some of the parts that his team designed were being rejected after manufacturing, even though they were working as intended. Parker came to realise that this error was because the traditional X Y constraints for parts inspection constrained the parts inspectors too much. By creating a circular tolerance zone that fit within the traditional X Y tolerance boundary, Parker created geometric dimensioning and tolerance (GD&T). From that point onward, this method was used by manufacturers to help understand why a designer placed a feature where they did and help manufacturers build products that were true to their original design. It helped to further product development by improving communication between design and manufacturing.

The current state of product design tools

Today, software tools, including CAD and PDM, are ever more common. These have made it easier than ever before for designers to thoroughly explore complex design ideas before production. Product design software and processes can have a very important role when organising the design and development of complex machines. For instance, large assemblies can be split into more manageable sub-assemblies, which are handled by the appropriate team. Who is able to modify what is then enabled by CAD software, such as Creo. Without the aid of this system, the design process can easily become disorganised. For example, one team could make changes, which directly affect the work of another team.  

How are product design tools going to develop in the future?

One thing is for certain, product design tools are only going to get more advanced and responsive to user names. While product design software has allowed designers to collaborate on bigger and more complex product concepts, the scope of this software is only going to grow further.

Other possible areas of growth could come through the increased use of social media for product design. Social media can be a powerful tool for designers, when it comes to brainstorming new ideas for products. Companies can call on all their designers to submit ideas or comment on the feasibility of an individual concept. This way, designers can get more insight and input into their work, helping them to create a better product.

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