July 30, 2022

The Steps and Details of Machine Design

The Steps and Details of Machine Design

Machine design is not a simple process but can be done with the right detailed steps. Learn how to design a new machine here.

Mechanical design is a high-value, in-demand skill worldwide. The global market value for industrial design services alone is $2.4 billion

If you're interested in jumping into the machine design field, there are plenty of opportunities. Learn how to design a machine, and the skill will serve you well.

This brief guide introduces the steps in the machine design process. Discover the three types of machine design, when to apply each tactic, and a reliable method of bringing your idea to reality.  

Types of Machine Design

Engineers tend to divide machine design projects into three categories. The categories note the types of skills, modes of thought, and purpose unique to each group. The categories are:

  • Adaptive design
  • Developmental design
  • New design

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design is the process of modifying or iterating on an existing machine. The adaptation, or re-design, is typically driven by a desire to improve the machine's quality. Quality improvements can be functional or aesthetic.

Alternately, adaptive design may modify a machine so it functions appropriately in a new context, or within new parameters. 

Developmental Design

Like adaptive design, developmental design projects begin with an existing design. But, the goal is not to adapt the existing design.

Instead, developmental design projects take the underlying, functional principle of one machine, then apply it to another machine to create a new product.

For example, the invention of the motorcycle was developmental design. An engineer applied the functional principle of a car (movement via combustion engine) to the structure of a bicycle. 

Developmental design is also useful when you want to transform an existing design with a new manufacturing process or build it with new materials. 

New Design

New design is synonymous with "original design" and "innovative design." New design projects create a machine that didn't exist before. The first telephone, or the first assembly line, are examples of new design. 

1. Determine Machine's Function or Purpose

The first step is to identify and clarify needs. Define the problem your machine will solve. Brainstorm how your machine might solve the problem (mechanisms).

If you're adapting or developing an existing design, note problems inherent to the current design.  

2. Note Requirements for Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product solves the problem. All requirements at this stage are rooted in solving the problem.

List known restraints. This eliminates potential "solutions" that aren't feasible.

Develop a rubric to evaluate solutions. The rubric helps you answer, "how well does this machine solve the problem?" 

3. Evaluate Potential Mechanisms to Serve Function

Brainstorm different mechanical functions your machine could execute to solve the problem.

Research previously utilized mechanisms for solutions. How have other engineers attempted to solve this problem? How have other machines served this function mechanically?

Finally, identify functional parameters. Note potential barriers, potential materials, and potential resources associated with each approach.

4. Conduct Research, Analysis

Once you've brainstormed and ranked potential mechanisms your machine may use to function, conduct research and analyses. Research may be divided into four categories:

  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Operational research
  • Hazard analysis
  • Force analysis

Stakeholders are both users and non-users whose life and work may be affected by your machine. Operational research considers the constraints your machine must work within, and what resources and materials are available. 

Hazard analysis is a systemic method of predicting and mitigating future risks of using your machine.

Force, Torque, Power, Energy Analysis

Force analysis considers the impact of all forces on each element of every piece of equipment during machine part design. This involves predicting process forces, which you might do with a predictive, mathematical model.

Force analysis gives you a complex, thorough understanding of the kinematics of your machine. With it, you're equipped to envision the effects of force, torque, power, and energy relative to your machine.

Force analysis examines the types of loads that will impact your machine, then explores potential stress due to each load.  

5. Conceptualize Design

After conducting research, and with your rubric for evaluating functional solutions, it's time to generate design concepts. Concepts are more detailed and specific than solutions or functions.

With your rubric, choose the best concept. Perform functional synthesis tasks to flesh out your concept. Divide your design's overall function into sub-processes.

To engage in functional synthesis, create a complete list of all functional requirements for each sub-process. Explore different tactics to realize each function requirement, including potential materials. 

As you assess different tactics, list and choose the materials best suited to the machine's functions. 

6. Create Specifications

The Product Design Specifications (PDS) document should be comprehensive. It functions as a "bible" for the product's future developers and manufacturers.

Use a design matrix to derive specifications from your design concept. Specifications describe design requirements in quantitative terms. 

There are different approaches to developing a specifications document from your concept. One popular, formal approach was presented at the 2010 International Design Conference.

This approach applies software engineering practices, workflow diagrams, and knowledge management strategies to create a requirements model that streamlines quantification. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology published a formal guide to representing PDS in order to validate a design concept. The method presented in the guide is similar to standard methods by other government departments.

The processes are equally effective, as long as everyone is on the same page.  

7. Develop a Design Document (Communication)

Communicating your design to other developers and manufacturers is crucial. To do this, create a design document.

A design document includes your PDS. It also typically includes drawings and blueprints created with CAD software. 

Written communication, like an analysis of the drawings, enables effective mathematical modeling of the machine. A thorough design document makes future iteration easier. 

8. Finalize Prototype Design, Manufacture

Assess the design document. Then, finalize it.

With your finalized design, work with a manufacturer to produce a prototype of your machine.

Test the prototype in different contexts. Verify that it works as intended. Perform a quality check.

Consider using the guidelines established by PPAI to create your quality checklist.   

Ready to Design a New Machine?

Machine design is a reliable method for adapting and evolving mechanical products—and even building them from scratch. Yet, even the most well-designed product is only as good as its parts.

At Intech Powercore, we believe knowledge drives engineering. That's why we're dedicated to raising the bar for durable, low-maintenance, high-performance plastic machine products. 

Explore Intech Powercore machine parts, and elevate your machine design today. 

Tag(s): Machine Design
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