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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are all our answers to the most commonly asked questions about design, manufacturing in Australia, and our process of manufacturing your products.

Design & Prototyping Questions

Design-led manufacturing uses the design phase to determine product attributes for the entire product lifecycle. Designers and engineers will consider every element of functionality, durability, manufacturability and circularity of a product and design tailored solutions for all.

The design process considers the potential challenges that manufacturing the product will incur and ensure these are resolved prior to production.

A Design-led manufacturing approach to production ensures:

  • Minimal wastage
  • Optimal time and cost efficiency
  • Product performance
  • Circularity/reusability/recyclability of the product
  • Ideal material selection
  • Output consistency and quality 

 

Design For Manufacturing involves efficiently designing or engineering an object during the product design stage to reduce manufacturing costs.

Doing this during the design phase means it is easier and less expensive to figure out certain manufacturing details to streamline production. Similar to the provisions of design-led manufacturing but specifically focussed on the manufacturing phase. 

The benefits of design for manufacture are:

  • Shorten product development cycle
  • Achieve the lowest total cost of ownership
  • Attain consistent quality control.
1. Process – estimating the manufacturing processes; quantity of parts, materials used, complexity of the design, cheapest manufacturing solution and tolerances of the materials.
 
2. Design – collaboration with engineers to ensure the design will transform into the final product following the most effective manufacturing processes.
 
3. Material – material experimentation ensures the material is suitable for the product, this stage requires consideration of aesthetics, functionality and durability for the final product.
 
4. Environment – the part/product must be designed to withstand the environment it will be subjected to.
 
5. Compliance/Testing – all products must comply with safety and quality standards
A Product Designer, at its core, is a problem solver.
 
Product design is the process designers use to blend user needs with business goals to help brands make consistently successful products. Designers assist and manage the following processes;
– ideation
– sketching and rendering
– prototyping and testing.
 
At Black Lab we design for manufacture – meaning our initial design process is forward thinking to how the product can be produced most effectively and efficiently during the manufacturing phase.
Our team of talented industrial designers, metal fabricators, powder coating specialists and project managers work closely together and collaborate with our suppliers and partners to deliver outstanding solutions for our clients.

Our services range from design all the way through to logistics management. With our wealth of machinery and in-house abilities, we conduct:

– CAD designs, rendering, animation, 3D modelling, graphic design and systems/software programming
– Digital printing and packaging production
– Automated laser cutting and turret punching
– Multi-material bending and forming
– All metal fabrication
– Powder coating
– CNC Routing 
– Final product assembly
– Dispatch and delivery

Industrial Designers plan, design, develop and document industrial, commercial or consumer products for manufacture with particular emphasis on ergonomic (human) factors, marketing considerations and manufacturability, and prepare designs and specifications of products for mass or batch production.

Intellectual property (IP) is the property of your mind or knowledge. It is a way to protect your unique ideas, whether it’s an invention, trade mark, process, design, or brand – your ideas are valid to be protected.
 
The most relevant type of IP to design is Trade Marks (logos or certain aspects of packaging or branding). A  design right protects the overall visual appearance of new and distinctive products.
 
Tips for how to protect your Intellectual Property are:
1. Keep your idea confidential until it is protected
2. Document your processes to demonstrate the idea is yours
3. Register your IP
4. Avoid joint ownership or get strong non-disclosure agreements to cover your property
CAD (computer-aided design) is mainly used for detailed engineering of 3D models or 2D drawings of physical, manufacturable products. We use Onshape as it allows multiple users to access and work on a single design concurrently using cloud computing.
 
Read more about our experience using Onshape here.

Prototypes stimulate the end product and will detect any performance failures in the early stages of manufacturing, which will save time, money and material down the track. In prototyping, the products durability, functionality and manufacturability is tested.

7 advantages of prototyping are;
 
1. Early discovery of design problems
2. Estimate of production costs, manufacturing time, and requirements for materials
3. Determine manufacturability and machinery necessary for production
4. Testing to determine durability and usability
5. Receive feedback from client and end-users to help identify improvements
6. Determine final function and design
7. Aid in obtaining funding and investors
The time, energy and cost that goes into producing a prototype is worth every resource it uses from a quality control perspective, however the following things could deter someone from including prototyping into their design process;
 
1. Time consuming
2. Can become expensive – especially when prototyping an electronic device
3. Can lead to big changes in the design and manufacture of the product, causing delays in delivery date.
Prototypes can be throwable or non-throwable types. Both have their own benefits a throwable type is done just to get an idea of a product, a non-throwable is one which improvements can be made to arrive at the final product.

Protyping can be conducted with any of the following methods:
 
1. 3D printing
2. CAD (computer-aided design) prototype/ Rapid prototype
3. Cardboard modelling
4. Wireframing – ideal for app and website designs
5. Working model/ Mock-Up – a way to test the final materials and manufacturing processes
1. Low-Fidelity- a set of drawings (e.g., storyboard) that provide a static,
non-computerised, non-working mock-up of user interface for
the planned system
 
2. High-Fidelity – a set of screens that provide a dynamic, computerised,
working model of the planned system
 
3. Exploratory – a throw-away prototype used to clarify project goals, to
identify requirements, to examine alternative designs, or to investigate a large and complex system
 
4. Experimental – a prototype used to validate system specifications
 
5. Operational – an iterative prototype that is progressively refined until it becomes the final system
 
6. Horizontal – a prototype that models many features but with little detail
 
7. Vertical – a prototype that models few features but with much detail
 
8. Global – a prototype of the entire system
 
9. Local – a prototype of a single usability-critical system component

Rapid prototyping (RP) is the fast fabrication of a product that closely matches the final product you are designing. RP uses CAD, 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies to bring an idea into the physical realm.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing is the process of using computer-aided-design (CAD) software to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes.
 
Rapid prototyping is a method that typically combines 3D printing with other manufacturing processes to create a part or scale model at speed that replicates the same features of the final design. 

Manufacturing & Production Questions

Well, you’ve found one! 

It can be hard to know where to start when you have an idea that you want to get prototyped, tested and produced. The first hurdle is finding an appropriate manufacturer that fits your needs.

If you have a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve with your idea or product, contact a manufacturer and talk them through the problem that you are trying to solve. You don’t need to have any knowledge of product design or the manufacturing process, we can handle that for you.

1. Document your idea, consider getting a patent to protect your IP of the idea.
 
2. Create detailed drawings of the idea, including dimensions, bill of materials, quantity ect.
 
3. Prototype your idea to create a full-working 3-D model or a detailed CAD drawing.
 
4. Start with a potential supplier list either domestic or overseas, and work through the list to identify your best manufacturing partner.
 
5. Get a quote for manufacturing costs and negotiate minimum order quantities.
 
6. Each manufacturer is different, so engage in clear communication with your chosen supplier to ensure you are on the same page about materials, quality, quantity, shipping options and delivery time.
Designers on our team need to know a few details about a potential product before they can begin the manufacturing process;
1. An overview of your challenge or requirement
2. Are you trying to manufacture an existing part OR if you are looking to design a brand new product
3. What is the purpose of your product?
4. What environment will the product be used in?
5. Rough dimensions of the size of the product, or a sample of an existing product similar to your new design
6. The quantity of units you are planning to get manufactured
 
This information will help us in the design process, and we can assist you to transform initial ideas into detailed sketches, CAD drawings, prototypes and a resolved final product.
There are multiple steps to go through from the moment you conceive of the idea until you transform it into a fully-working product. The cost of the new product varies depending on these below variables;
 
1. The brainstorming and initial design – compiling a collection of multiple ideas on the product itself, such as colours, textures, materials, shapes, features, and functions.
 
2. Prototyping – the product needs to be 3D modelled on a CAD system before prototyping can begin. The cost of this varies depending on the complexity of the design. Additionally, the product must be physically prototyped, because you want a fully-working model, not just simply a representation of what the product would look like.
 
3. Once the prototype is made and tested, we must source the raw materials for manufacture. The price of raw materials is a huge factor in the overall cost of developing the product.
 
4. Manufacturing the product to a certain quality while hitting a quantity takes time and money. A manufacturing factory must have the correct tools and equipment to complete the manufacturing process.

Cost estimates can be provided when a brief is received and good manufacturers will happily take the time to explain reasoning behind individual costs.   
China has been an attractive destination for manufacturing products in recent decades thanks to its low labour costs, technically skilled workforce and infrastructure. Depending on the product, local solutions can be more cost effective and produced at a far higher quality. 
 
Issues to be conscious of if you do decide to manufacture in China rather than domestically are;
 
– Rising labour costs
– Drawn out lead times
– Design and innovation skills shortages
– Intellectual property protection
– Quality control
– Environmental responsibility
– Shipping costs
Offshore suppliers are commonly seen as the most appropriate option for finding a manufacturer for your product, however in reality, there are wealth of local manufacturers that would be able to produce your required product. 

It pays dividends to look locally for a manufacturer prior to contacting suppliers in Asia or elsewhere. Local production for local consumption provides:
 
– Guarantees of product quality
– Ease of project management
– Visibility over the production process
– Shorter lead times
– Lowered risk of project disruption from global forces
– Reduced environmental impact through removal of overseas freight requirements and operations performed to local sustainability standards
–  Cultural sensibility and understanding of project     
MOQ stands for “minimum order quantity”. It means the minimum quantity of items a manufacturer will accept for a production order.
 
Not all manufacturing business’ have MOQ standards in place. This is dependable, but is common due to the costs associated with manufacturing.
 
With custom manufacturing, it can have a VERY big impact on price. In general, high quantities are available at a lower price per unit. Because of this reason, a big factory is not a good fit for a startup, or for a small product order.

We will treat every job independently and share with our clients an MOQ depending on the type of product required. For example, we do many one-off custom fabrications for large products such as a custom fence gate or an outdoor gantry. 
Our goal is to continually optimise our processes, whether in production or in testing.
 
Our main environmental challenge is energy efficiency. We work alongside our machinery suppliers like TRUMPF and AMADA to collaboratively work out more energy efficient solutions in our manufacturing processes.

Our design for manufacture approach ensures production efficiency is optimised and material wastage is minimised. Unused scrap metal is recycled with certified scrap metal recyclers. 
We are constantly focusing on design excellence, agile production process and machinery capability to enable our team to design the most effective and intelligent products. Our aim is to always deliver a consistent, timely and cost effective solution.
 
Black Lab Design is all about building a culture and delivering value beyond just the finished product to our customers.
 
We encourage open collaboration and friendship between our own team and clients where we share knowledge, ideas and success.
There are actually several processes that go into any manufacturing production.
 
1. Product conception (initial drawings and material experimentation)
 
2. Market research (what is already on the market, is there a gap in the market of similar products?)
 
3. Designing – this process involves brainstorming; functionality, user-experience, cost of materials and end product and packaging design.
 
4. CAD drawings and 3-D prototyping.
 
5. Product testing (does the product solve the design problem?)
 
6. Manufacturing – this process involves; choosing a manufacturer, minimum quantity orders, cost of production, material sourcing, timeline until customer delivery, shipping options.
 
7. Quality assurance (QA) is a way of preventing mistakes and defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering products or services to customers.
This is actually not always the case.
 
China has been an attractive destination for manufacturing products in recent decades thanks to its low labour costs, technically skilled workforce and good infrastructure.
Depending on the product, local solutions can be more cost effective and even produced at a higher quality.
 
Issues to be conscious of if you do decide to manufacture in China rather than domestically are;
– rising labour costs
– design and innovation skills shortages
– intellectual property protection
– quality control
– shipping costs
One potential drawback of Chinese manufacturing is the high minimum order quantity (MOQ). When aiming to only get a prototype manufactured in China, local options may be cheaper. Some Chinese factories will quote a MOQ but then negotiate down to a lower number, so it all comes down to communication.
 
Chinese manufacturers will produce exactly what you ask them to make. If something is wrong with your design, it’ll be included in the final product. Few Chinese manufacturers will make adjustments to correct anything that’s wrong with this design. Western manufacturers are much more vocal about identifying any issues for rectification before proceeding. You can iterate your design alot faster and easier domestically.
 
If you need drawings or a prototype made, we offer engineering, design and prototyping as a part of our services. Our team will work with you to get the drawings and prototype right. If you decide to continue with a Chinese manufacturer, you can be confident the designs have the correct information for manufacturing.

A patent is not necessary for every situation. You can use contracts and trade secrets to avoid using a patent to protect your invention. However, if these other forms of intellectual property protection don’t give you the protection you need, you will need to follow the process for filing for a patent.

It is recommended you head to IPAustralia’s website to learn the specific steps of applying for a patent.