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Virtual Prototyping to Accelerate Consumer Product Development & Reduce Time to Market

Learn how advanced engineering simulation tools once available to the aerospace industry are now being employed to accelerate the development of consumer products and lowering time to market.

Traditionally, the product development process involved a large number of prototype iterations to reach a design that worked. The engineers also relied on adding a large factor of safety to the designs which made them bulky and use more material than required, this was both costly and unsustainable. With virtual prototyping and advanced simulation tools, engineers are now able to cut down the number of prototype iterations, test product variations without making prototypes, identify potential issues beforehand and optimize products for the best performance and cost. All this lead to better products and accelerated development cycles.

According to a report by Aberdeen Group,

  • Best in class manufacturers hit their revenue, cost, launch date, and quality targets for 86% or more of their products.

  • All best in class manufacturers use simulation in the design phase compared to only 75% of laggards.

  • Best in class manufacturers of the most complex products get to market 158 days earlier with $1,900,000 lower product development costs.

In this article:-

1) Virtual prototyping & its key advantages in lowering time to market.

2) How we use virtual prototyping to accelerate consumer product development.

What is Virtual Prototyping and what are its benefits?

Virtual prototyping involves the use of computer-aided design and engineering tools to simulate a design in a virtual environment in order to test and optimize its performance before committing to build actual physical prototypes. Below we have listed some of the key advantages of using virtual prototyping in the product development process.

1. Reduce physical prototyping cycles and minimize trial and error

A virtual prototype is simulated and optimized in a virtual environment before even a single physical prototype is manufactured. Thus, it can help you establish a more focused product development strategy and minimize the number of physical prototype cycles required to reach a functional design.

2. Identify potential design flaws early on

Changes at later stages of product development are very costly. Virtual prototyping offers the significant advantage of performing repeatable tests under real-world operating conditions that may be difficult to create with physical prototyping. This helps in identifying design flaws early on and ensuring that the final design meets the engineering criteria. Complex mechanisms, weak areas, assembly issues, part interference and material behavior can be identified and corrected during early stages of development, therefore avoiding issues from occurring later down the line.

3. Meet product development timeline and budget goals

Traditional product development involves a lot of uncertainty on how the prototype would perform in the real world. The physical prototyping build-test-iterate loop can take upto months to get a prototype that works as expected. On the other hand, virtual prototyping makes it possible to cut down a lot of that time and uncertainty by allowing engineers to efficiently test and iterate upon multiple design solutions in a virtual environment. This brings predictability to the otherwise chaotic product development process and allows us to meet the committed time and budget goals.

4. Try product variations quickly without waiting for physical samples

Using advanced 3D visualization software, we are able to render multiple variations of the same product in any number of colors, materials and finishes in a matter of days instead of months if we were to try out all the options by creating physical prototypes. Virtual prototyping allows us to narrow down to a few most suitable CMF combinations from a large number of possible options and then get physical samples made only for the selected combinations. This saves a lot of time without compromising on the number of CMF options that we can try.

5. Reduce wastage and bring sustainability to new product development process

As a result of testing and iterating products before manufacturing prototypes, the overall wastage in materials can be significantly reduced, especially for large parts and products. Further iterations are carried out by altering existing simulations and the total number of physical prototypes goes down, thus cutting down on production scrap, resources and time. This leads to a sustainable, low wastage product development process.

How we use virtual prototyping to accelerate the development of consumer products.

1) Finite element analysis to design strong, durable parts

Consumer products, especially electronics involve the use of a lot of plastic parts. FEA simulation helps us optimize the structural integrity of these parts so that they are strong and durable enough to withstand rough handling during manufacturing, shipping or during day to day use by the end user. Plastic enclosures also contain a lot of snap fit features, ribs and buttons whose performance can be optimized with the use of FEA.

Analysis of a Plastic Snap-fit

2) Mold flow simulation for high quality plastic injection molded parts

Plastic parts in high volume consumer products are usually manufactured through injection molding which is a complex process and requires high upfront investment in molds. Getting the part design right is crucial for a good quality part. Mold flow analysis allows us to detect any molding problems early on and reduce the risk of defected parts.

3) Thermal analysis for electronics enclosures

Consumer electronics contain components that generate a lot of heat during operation. In order to dissipate that heat and prevent damage to components, the electronics enclosure needs appropriate thermal management. With the use of thermal flow simulation, we can design better thermal management solutions and reduce the number of prototype iterations.

4) Dynamic simulation of mechanisms

Many consumer products (example: electric shavers) contain several moving parts and mechanisms that need to function reliably throughout the product’s intended lifespan. With dynamic simulation, we can simulate such mechanisms and discover potential problems before creating a physical prototype and shortening the time required to get to market.

5) 3D visualization to try multiple CMF combinations efficiently

With ultra realistic 3D imagery of the products, created from the CAD models, it is possible to try a wide range of colors, materials and finishes in a virtual environment and find the one that suits the best. Creating physical prototypes for each different CMF combination would otherwise have taken months, but now we are able to only test physical prototypes for a select few CMF combinations.

Virtual prototyping offers several advantages in creating better quality products and is a key enabler for manufacturers and brands in hitting cost, quality, product launch and revenue targets. In the highly competitive marketplace, advanced technologies like virtual prototyping can be leveraged to gain an edge over competitors.

Outdesign Co is a product design & development company helping clients across 15+ countries turn their ideas into “World-Firsts” and award-winning products.

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