Product development and design are essential for ensuring that you can actually produce and sell the products you make. Oftentimes, products are designed and produced in a way to maximize quality. In order to achieve that, tight tolerances are focused on during the development process. What exactly are tight tolerances in product development? Tolerances are variables in the design, usually concerning the dimensions of a specific product.

In layman’s terms, it’s a plus or minus here and there that are allowed in product design. Tolerances influence the overall design of the products, as well as its manufacturing and quality control. In some cases, tight tolerances are absolutely necessary to ensure that the product can perform appropriately. However, strictly leveraging tight tolerances isn’t mandatory in every case. What’s more, they will only increase the production costs. Therefore, here’s how increasing design tolerance can actually cut costs.

Determine the functionality of a product

The functionality of a product determines how it will be designed and produced. In some cases, tolerances of even a single decimal can mean the difference between a functioning product and a failed one. That is only the case if product functionality depends on tight tolerances. However, materials used in the manufacturing process also play a role in determining acceptable tolerances in product design. In other words, not every part of the product needs tight tolerances, but in most cases, the entire product is based on strict requirements.

For instance, a product with a certain number of components requires a tolerance of ±0.001 because there’s a specific way component must fit together. But, a separate part is also automatically specified using the same tolerances, even if the part does not interact with the others or may not need the same tolerances. That’s why it’s important to determine the functionality of the product and which component – if any – requires a tight tolerance to function.

Consult with a manufacturer

Creating a product design eventually comes down to tolerances that are numbers on paper. You may think that those tolerances are absolutely necessary, even if that’s not the case. Tolerances are influenced by the materials used in production, how they’re made during manufacturing and the sensitivity of product features to variations in design. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced manufacturer on board that can help you determine if there’s room to increase the design tolerance or not.

For example, if you’re developing a design for electrical components, you should consult with an electronics manufacturer. That way, a manufacturer can go over your design and help you determine the acceptable increases intolerances to help you cut costs. Electronics are produced by the IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries) standards which allow certain tolerances in product design. Your manufacturer will know how to best implement those tolerances, without compromising the product’s functionality and quality.

Understand the costs of tight tolerances

As mentioned before, product developers and designers focus on tight tolerances in order to ensure product quality. The reality is that tight tolerances do not always influence quality, but they are always expensive to implement. You need to consider these costs before insisting on tight tolerances. For example, tight tolerances require more precise tools and higher grade materials, which cost a lot more. The tighter the tolerance is, the more it will cost you. In addition, tight tolerances require more processing, which increases the costs of the machinery used and labour.

Moreover, you need to pay for a close inspection to determine whether the tolerances are within the acceptable range. What’s more, if you cannot implement tight tolerances on your own, you may need to outsource the process, which will cost you more. In the end, you end up paying for precision that may not be required. That’s why it’s important to actually determine if tight tolerances are mandatory for your products. If you don’t need such tolerances, you should take the opportunity to implement more appropriate variables and greatly reduce the costs of product development.

Don’t relax tolerances too much

In an effort to cut costs, increasing the design tolerance is quite beneficial. However, relaxing the tolerances too much involves certain risks. For example, the product components may not fit well together if tolerances are too extreme. In addition, your customers may disapprove of increased tolerances, if you haven’t consulted with them beforehand. Also, you may need to repeat the manufacturing process and redesign your products if you’re not careful with tolerances.

That will only skyrocket your costs. Instead of focusing on tight tolerances or relaxing them too much, you should focus on implementing quality assurance and tolerance analysis. That way, you’ll be able to determine exactly which variables are acceptable for your product design. In addition, you’ll know exactly where to apply strict tolerances and, of course, how much you can increase them to cut costs.

Product design is important for the manufacturing and quality of the products. However, ensuring product quality doesn’t always rely on implementing strictly tight tolerances. Tight tolerances are only required when there are specific needs and functionality requirements. Other than that, you can consider relaxing the product design tolerance and save yourself a lot of money during the development process.

About the author:

My name is Raul, editor in chief at Technivorz blog. I have a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing. You can reach me out on Twitter.

Posted by Miley Dowling

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