Technology and Product Development - Key Stages
The open culture and collaborative working style means that a number of clients work alongside AES personnel within the AES design and manufacturing facility to develop solutions in real time.
Designing for manufacture is a key element. Where feasible, the use of modular designs and the avoidance of artisan trades in the installation phase enable quality standards to be achieved and consistency in build. Product styling becomes an integral part of the product design rather than an afterthought when functional electronics have emerged.
Testing and diagnostics together with future proofing and anticipated maintenance requirements lead to reduced costs and downtime in the field. End users are encouraged to participate in the initial product specification stage and this often proves illuminating and beneficial. It also secures conceptual buy-in with the ultimate users of the technology.
Planning, estimating and project mapping
Defining the critical path and setting clear project milestones is the key to the success of the product design and development process. Project creep, cost overruns and disappointment arising from diverging strategies arise from poor communication and are to be avoided. Realistic cost and time budgeting is essential. The use of agreed milestones together with regular project reviews ensures that the development process is on track, that the project brief is still appropriate and that progress is being made.
The recent introduction of ISO 13485 quality requirements has further improved the project tracking and evaluation process. AES is working toward further integration of the project tracking with its clients' systems.
Feasibility study and risk mitigation
Whilst many projects involve the use of established technologies, AES is increasingly becoming involved in the development of novel solutions. This has a higher risk and reward profile. What might appear to work on the CAD package might be a different proposition in reality. Various measures may be taken for mitigating risk and maximising benefits.
The use of rapid prototyping is well established. The tools and processes however, are developing quickly. Software modelling together with 3D CAD simulation enables designs to be evaluated and redefined before embarking on a particular design path.
Prototyping and modelling
SLA and SLS prototypes are used but there is an increasing use of techniques such as 3D printing and new moulding and machining processes. Recent innovations include the use of full scale, 3D virtual modelling in conjunction with the MTC aerospace facility. Clients are able to “experience” the use of the new technology before committing to physical prototypes and expensive tooling.
AES is an active member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Aerospace Forum. (CWAF). Through this network of renowned aerospace manufacturers, AES can call upon complimentary skills and services to assist in the design and manufacture of high quality electronic prototypes. Recent applications include laser cut components for specialist lighting applications. Fully functional prototypes were produced in a tight time frame for evaluation in the field.
The collaborative process brings together an awareness of emerging technologies with our clients' market and commercial knowledge. However, it is not until the end product has been tested in a real life application that the suitability of the specification and final prototype can be fully evaluated.
AES works with clients to evaluate and where applicable evolve the design and manufacture of the product in light of the market feedback. The ISO 13485 quality programme the design changes are tracked and iterations are recorded before adoption in the final product specification.
Pre-production batch manufacture
This usually marks the start of the home straight in terms of the product development process. The pre-production batch manufacture is used to fine tune the manufacturing process; to ensure that the manufacturing elements are in place and that consistency of build is achievable. During this phase, opportunities for next generation, product development may emerge.
Feedback from the initial pre-production batch is a valuable tool in terms of the future-proofing and commitment to production tooling, jigs and fixtures. Similarly, testing and inspection processes may be developed to move the quality assurance processes from development to the production process.
Client sign-off and release for production
The final sign off marks the end of the product development process. However, the collaboration process is not finished. With forward forecasts the supply chain management process can begin to support the future production requirements. The final bill of materials, software and standard operating procedures are defined and stored. These enable the enhanced services to be implemented.