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FAQ

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. The 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 in volume further down the track.

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.

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 toy 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 to generate revenue from sales. 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, you 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.
All those parts of the process can cost considerably on your part. However, there is no standard pricing.
A joint venture eases the financial burden to get a product to market, but, quite often, it does not happen, unless the product is overwhelmingly innovative and profitable. Many businesses outsource the manufacturing process overseas to save money, especially in countries where the labor cost is much lower than in the home country.
 
However, cheaper costs can lead to lower quality, so ensure you establish good communication and enforce proper quality control.
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
The manufacturing process is a complex one that can be impacted by many factors: supplies, equipment, factory overhead, the need for special parts, and the people who work at all points in the process.
 
1. Supplies – a well-managed supply and inventory is very crucial in order to run manufacturing process smoothly. The manufacturers must brace themselves up and ready to overcome any unexpected delays in supplies due to weather or transportation hindrance.
 
2. Equipment – equipment’s are the central unit for any manufacturing business; regular maintenance and cleaning of machinery is of utmost necessity to avoid a breakdown in the middle of production.
 
3. Factory Overhead: Without power supply, manufacturing is not possible. Always keep plan B ready in case of temporary power cut down.
 
4. Special Parts: Before ordering any made to order parts, ensure it fits your timeline, especially if it is imported from long distance.
 
5. Work Force: Human resource is equally important and plays a major role in manufacturing processes. You must also consider human error.
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. Low quantities are available at a higher cost per unit. Because of this reason, a big factory is not a good fit for a startup, or for a small product order.
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
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.
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.
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.
We are constantly focusing on design excellence, agile production process and machinery capability to enable our team to design the most effectively and knowledgeably projects. 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 finish product to our customers.
 
We encourage open collaboration and friendship between our own team and clients where we share knowledge, ideas and success.
A poor man’s patent is mailing a description of your invention to yourself in order to authenticate a date of invention for you by the Post Office.
 
In trade mark law in Australia, the “use” of a trade mark by a trader in relation to their goods or services on a commercial level is important and can assist in determining matters such as: the ownership of a trade mark, the distinctiveness of a trade mark, whether a trade mark registration should be removed from the Australian trade marks register for non-use and whether a registered trade mark has been infringed (amongst others).
 
Australia is therefore considered to be a “first to use” country – that is, a country which gives priority to those who are the “first to use” a particular trade mark in Australia “as a trade mark” in relation to goods or services, and can demonstrate evidence of that use, even if another party has applied to register that mark as a trade mark in Australia first.
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.

Canton Fair is organised by the China Foreign Trade Centre in Guangzhou, China. Canton Fair is a trade expo for win-win cooperation between different countries, where entrepreneurs, wholesalers and manufacturers connect with China, share opportunities and pursue common development. It has contributed significantly to the economic and trade ties between China and the rest of the world.

China has hundreds of factories that specialise in certain products. Choosing the right manufacturer is the first and most crucial step of getting a product made in China.
 
When it comes to manufacturing products in China, it’s in your best interest that all of the details are clearly shown in detailed engineer’s drawings, including all dimensions, finish requirements, bill of materials, and packaging.
 
There are many factories available in China that can make a product for a few cents less than the other guy, however quality of the product is the most important feature. The key focus when choosing to manufacture in China is ensuring your customers get quality products and on time.
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 above process of filing for a patent.

The majority of tags, labels, and stickers on a variety of goods proclaim they are “Made in China.”
 
One of the reasons companies manufacture their products in China is because of the abundance of lower-wage workers available in the country.
 
China’s business ecosystem of networked suppliers, component manufacturers, and distributors has evolved to make it a more efficient and cost-effective place to manufacture products.

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.
In the product development process, prototyping is an iterative process of trial and error to achieve design verification and push through to manufacturing confidently.
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.
 
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
Waterfall is a linear approach to software development. In this methodology, the sequence of events is something like:
1. Gather and document requirements
2. Design
3. Code and unit test
4. Perform system testing
5. Perform user acceptance testing (UAT)
6. Fix any issues
7. Deliver the finished product
 
Agile is an iterative, team-based approach to development, with a focus on the customer/user experience. Deliverables are prioritised by business value as determined by the customer. If all planned work for the sprint cannot be completed, work is reprioritised and the information is used to redesign the product once it is already on the market.
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
The answer to this question depends on WHY you want a prototype and WHAT for?
 
Features that increase the cost of a prototype are;
– Materials
– Designer & engineer labour time
– Complexity of design
– Size of prototype
– How close to final product in terms of functionality the prototype is

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 combines 3D printing with other manufacturing processes depending on the product to create a part or scale model that replicates the same features of the final design.
“What good is a product design if we can’t make it?”
 
Designing a product calls for crucial choices—about materials made or bought, about how parts will be assembled and how the different elements will work together. Converting a concept into a complex, high-technology product is an involved procedure consisting of many steps of refinement.
 
Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is the process of engineers and designers designing parts, components or products for ease of manufacturing with an end goal of making a better product at a lower cost.

DFM involves efficiently designing or engineering an object, generally during the product design stage, when it is easier and less expensive to do so, to reduce manufacturing costs.

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

Assembling is a manufacturing process where finished products are past through stages/workstations of a factory where parts are added in sequence until the final product is completed for distribution.

Design led manufacturing is when designers and engineers consider the whole life cycle of a product from functionality, durability and the manufacturability of the product. The design process considers the potential challenges that manufacturing the product will incur.