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Design Thinking

DFM - Design for Manufacturing in the automotive industry. Advantages, added value and costs

06 July 2021

Many mechanisms exist to streamline and facilitate production processes. However, few of them work as effectively as DFM. Proper technical analysis is the key to reducing production costs and creating smart, efficient solutions, as well as reducing the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the business activity.

What is DFM? The role of Design for Manufacturing in the 21st century

DFM or Design for Manufacturing is a set of processes that are part of the technical analysis of a manufactured product. It consists of complex tests of various parameters, whose aim is to verify whether a given design meets the real needs of construction. In the automotive industry, DFM plays a special role. Thanks to the appropriate implementation of such processes, we have a chance to identify serious problems related to the implementation of a given solution as early as in the design stage, when the costs of changes are still relatively small. We wish to explain the DFM concept using the example of automotive plastic components. 

Design for manufacturing includes tasks such as rheological analysis, kinematic analysis and heat balance analysis. The component is examined from many angles using professional software, usually CAD systems. Simulations of real-world conditions provide a great deal of data, and their appropriate use leads to an even better understanding of a part's characteristics and potential for improvement in production. However, this is not an easy process – you need to prepare your technological infrastructure and have access to a lot of knowledge.

See also: Fourth Industrial Revolution – what does it look like in the automotive industry?

DFM requires a multidisciplinary approach

DFM engineering requires, first and foremost, a wealth of knowledge which, in the case of vehicle components, combines the physics of driving with the characteristics of the individual materials and the behaviour of the parts concerned under specific conditions. Conducting simulations to give a complete picture of a product's characteristics is not easy. Correct interpretation of the results requires experts with a very comprehensive understanding of the issues involved in producing automotive components.

A considerable amount of data is required to design a component in the right way. Experts from different disciplines can exchange their experiences within the DFM to select the best manufacturing strategy for a component. With the right flow of data between specialists dealing with material science, physics, chemistry and manufacturing itself, DFM strategies and designs can be drawn up to bring the product to market.

DFM added value in the automotive sector

DFM is often treated as a process to make a component much cheaper to produce. At this stage, certain assumptions regarding the design of the part are verified, and they sometimes turn out to be different from reality – the use of more expensive or difficult to process materials is often assumed, without any specific reason and without any impact on the production result. When we identify the role of individual materials through DFM, we have the opportunity to reduce production costs.

But there is more to it – DFM allows us to find the best combinations of materials and technologies. This in turn leads to parts that perform even better, such as those that last longer or better support driving physics. In addition, DFM has a huge impact on the manufacturing process; careful analysis significantly reduces the risks involved in making a component. We can verify that the design assumptions are reflected in real-world conditions and that the part will actually perform as intended.

What if, at a later stage of production, it turns out that the mould does not meet the needs of the project?

If we completely disregard the DFM or carry out the analysis in the wrong way, there is a risk that the developed injection mould will not be suitable for proper use. In this situation we have two choices. The first is to attempt to modify the mould and make it function in the desired way. The second is to abandon the original mould in order to create a new solution, free from the mistakes of its predecessor. When reducing time-to-market is critical to a project, however, both solutions may not be an option. This should not happen – if possible, we should definitely try to avoid it.

What is more, every modification and delay, as well as a possible redesign, create further costs. These can add up to substantial and unjustified expenses. In order to prevent them, it is enough to implement DFM in the production process – at an early enough stage.

See also: Injection mold design, tooling and manufacturing in cooperation with Knauf Automotive

Design For Manufacturing in production – Knauf Automotive

At Knauf Automotive, we strive to combine the benefits of Design for Manufacturing with the idea of reducing the time spent implementing new solutions. When working with our customers, we are committed to generating as much added value as possible from our experience and technological background. Thanks to appropriate production strategies and the advanced knowledge of our experts, we perform DFM at a very early stage of production under extremely stringent simulation conditions. We use CAE (computer-aided engineering) programmes to analyse the parameters of a component as effectively as possible and optimise its production. Professional tools and qualified personnel come together to provide very comprehensive analyses that take into account virtually every element of a particular part's specification: shape, unique mechanical features, aesthetic aspects and production cost.

See also: Injection molded car components manufactured by Knauf Automotive

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