Since 1990 we have been helping large companies and startups overcome their challenges on the journey from concept to product end of life. Our design process fits into an overall product development process that balances engineering trade-offs to develop a system, or component, to meet the desired needs.
At Fusion Design, we do industrial design and mechanical engineering and our process always starts with the needs and requirements of the user. We believe that a successful project must meet or exceed these needs and requirements. We orient our efforts within seven phases of development.
Strategy: Always Start With User Needs
To understand user requirements fully, we do client interviews, brainstorming and competitive research. We look at interconnectivity - how do products and features work together? How will the device be used? We also look at image attributes. What should the device look like? How should it work? What are the paradigms that are in the industry now? What are your competitors doing, and where do you fit within that? How do you position yourself?
We do user research, competitive research, market trend research and ergonomic research. Sometimes this requires building a mockup and watching how people use it. We worry about what's comfortable. How much can people lift? At seating positions, what's the eye line? How much weight can people carry? User profiles are a powerful tool for developing and testing ideas and strategies.
After our research efforts, we might build models that test what the users will want, and then watch them in use. Often users' reactions and behavior tell you more about what is needed than their words. So our motto is to "watch behavior."
In one classic example, for the design of a control panel for a machine used for eye surgery the user had been a fighter pilot and had changed careers to become an eye surgeon. We had built a push button panel, where you push the buttons to get things to work; more light, less light, focus this, focus that, weigh up, down, more energy, etc.
He saw that and he said, “You know, I don't like this. I like knobs.” But before that, every doctor except him had said, “Oh, I love these push buttons.” The ex-fighter pilot said that he preferred knobs specific to each area. “As I’m looking through the microscope, I can reach over here, turn the brightness up or down and always know where that is. I don't even have to look. This control is power and this is brightness. All are oriented based on position.” This was important because the doctor is in a dark room when he's doing eye surgery. We mocked up what he requested, darkened the room, and let him and several other doctors try it and we learned a lot from that. Every doctor agreed. The machine that we built has knobs, not buttons, even though the original paradigm was buttons. That's why we do research.
We start by sketching and brainstorming and quickly the concept begins to take shape. We start to formally define the mechanical envelope and the product/user interaction and we begin testing sketch and ergonomic mockups.
Conceptualization can include all of these elements:
Mechanical Envelope Definition
Product/ User Interaction
3D CAD Rendering
User interface Concepts
After conceptualization comes the refinement stage that can range from mini or full scale mock ups to 2D&3D CAD renderings. We also use storyboards to validate our initial user interface concepts.
At this point we'll do the definition. Color, texture and finish are defined with 3D models.
We use a combination of industrial designers and mechanical engineers. Industrial designers are more involved in the initial phases and mechanical engineers in the later phases, with the mechanical engineers overlapping into industrial design and vice versa. Otherwise design tradeoffs might change the intent. A blend of the two points of view, design and mechanics, is necessary for a good successful product.
Using SolidWorks, we built full 3D models. Working with the electric team, we develop the circuit board layouts, define connector positions, mounting points, switches, fans and power supplies.
We do validation of the design including thermal analysis, airflow analysis, fluid dynamics analysis, and structural analysis. We quickly and accurately optimize the design for system performance objectives:
Limit a critical temperature, stress, or vibration response.
Minimize weight, cost, or defects,
Maximize performance, reliability, throughput, reconfigurability, agility, or design robustness.
Common types of validation:
Fluid Dynamics Analysis
Using our in-house 3D printers and machine tooling, we do a great deal of prototyping. When needed we have the resources to short run prototypes and explorative assemblies. thus giving confidence in the final design and ensuring a successful manufacturable product.