Published 02nd February 2023 by   |  Engineering Design & Development, Product Design

How Does Engineering Provide a Foundation for Good Product Design?

What impact does engineering have on product design? How does it play an integral part in the development and design process, impacting areas such as safety, aesthetics, and manufacturing costs?

Engineering provides a foundation for good product design – the principles of engineering help to keep the designs grounded in practical achievability, while the integration of design and engineering means that our engineers take a creative approach to any questions being asked.

Rather than working in silos, engineers can share a vision of product design, and strong engineering principles inform great design work and vice versa. We look at the job of bringing a product to life as a job not for designers who then pass over to engineers, but for designers and engineers working in concert from day one.

The logistical and iterative nature of an engineering approach to a problem is ideally suited to the field of product design, because it involves analysing different aspects of the proposed product and coming up with solutions which are practical and achievable.

How does engineering provides a foundation for good product design?

  • The principles of engineering help to keep the designs grounded in practical achievability.
  • The logistical and iterative nature of an engineering approach involves analysing different aspects of the product to find practical solutions.
  • Engineering considers important questions of functionality, safety regulations and ergonomics in product design.
  • Engineering helps to create a design that can be produced as cost effectively as possible without impacting on quality or safety.

Functionality in design

The first engineering questions related to the function of a product will be based upon the ‘what’ of that product – what is it meant to be and what is it intended to deliver?

This is the kind of question that needs to be asked and answered when a product is still at the concept stage of design, based upon the problem that the product is intended to address and the nature of the solution or solutions being suggested.

This will shift, as the design develops, to questions around delivery. In other words – does the design as it is currently proposed actually do what it is intended to do, in the most efficient way possible, mechanically, environmentally and economically?

From an engineering point of view, this question sometimes trumps considerations such as cost of production or aesthetics, and will often focus on the creation of a prototype to test the proposed solutions when applied in situ. However, some project goals singularly require clever engineering to keep costs down as the only driver i.e. cost reduction programs.

Principles of Engineering

Considering safety & regulations

Engineering puts a focus on the finished product’s safety throughout the product development journey. In the case of product design and engineering, the phrase ‘environment’ has taken on a new meaning in recent years.

As well as still referring to the immediate surroundings within which a product will operate, and therefore the safety of those surroundings, it also now covers the eco-friendliness of a product. The approach to the environment will be based on – ‘How can we make this product safer and greener?’. 

The safety of a product will also depend on an analysis of the structure and mechanics of the product. Will the product remain safe and still perform if used repeatedly in a certain way, will it support any weight it needs to support? And how safe will it continue to be once wear and tear is factored in?

If you have any safety questions, our team is very experienced building inherent safety into designs using FMEA MMEA & FTA Tools (failure modes effects analysis/misuse modes effects analysis/fault tree analysis.

In some cases, the prototype of a product may need to be broken down into specific subsystems in order to test the safety of each, i.e. is the cooling system safely dissipating the heat given off by a motor, or are any dampers absorbing the vibrations created by a product?

The questions and subsystems will vary from product to product, but the analytical approach taken from an engineering perspective will ensure that every part of that product is designed to be as safe as possible.

Ergonomics in product design

Ergonomics represents the space in which engineering meets humanity. A product may be safe to use in terms of aspects such as heat and electrical insulation and sharp edges, but will it be safe for the user in the longer term?

These questions can apply to chairs, desks, and other pieces of equipment, but they can also apply to any product which people have to interact with. Is the product designed to be held, and if so, what impact will holding it for a prolonged period of time have on the hand of a user.

This brings into play anthropometry which is also affected by demographic – i.e. the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body, affected by age, gender, geographical location, nutrition, disability or illness et al.

The question of ergonomics will often overlap with safety concerns, but it will also have an impact on the user-friendliness of a device and, therefore, on its chances of commercial success. A tool may be safe to use and get the job done, but a badly engineered and designed handle may prompt users to reach for another solution.     

Engineering Design

Giving value to a product

Ultimately, a product is designed as a commercial proposition, and from an engineering perspective, this means two things.

  1. The first of these is helping to create a design that can be produced as cost effectively as possible without impacting on quality or safety.

This might involve taking two separate components from a prototype and engineering a solution that can be produced as a single component performing the same role, thus reducing the time and cost involved in assembly during manufacture.

  1. The second question impacting the value of a product revolves around decisions to add extra features that could help to differentiate from the competition. An engineering perspective could establish whether extra features are possible, and whether the cost of including them in the design will ramp up the price of the finished product to an unacceptable degree. Knowledge of manufacturing processes and engineering creativity can, quite often, significantly increase feature richness at little to no additional manufacturing cost

Need help with your Product Development?

At CDT we place engineering at the heart of the design process throughout, from creating realistic designs to delivering proof of concept prototypes and refining various iterations of the finished item.

We can take a product all the way from the initial concept, through the design phase and prototyping all the way to market delivery. Using valuable analysis tools, manufacturing processes, employing new & emerging technologies, and having a very good cognitive empathy towards a product’s user allows CDT to produce well engineered and crafted product designs.

We can also provide expert help with vital issues such as marketing and regulatory matters.

We provide a one-stop shop for anyone requiring product realisation from a first concept or existing product, working with a network of trusted partners to provide specialist services as and when required.

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