Digital Prototyping Workflow

Product development can be broken into the following general phases at most manufacturing companies:

  • Conceptual Design
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Customer Involvement
  • Marketing Communications
Typically between workgroups such as industrial design, engineering, manufacturing, sales, and marketing exist gaps. Digital Prototyping using a single digital model throughout the design process to bridge the gaps. 
Conceptual Design
The conceptual design phase involves taking customer input or market requirements and data to create a product design. NC&C works digitally, from the very first sketch, throughout the conceptual design phase. Then we share that data with the customer. The industrial design data is then incorporated into the digital prototype to ensure technical feasibility.
Also, we review digital design data via high-quality digital imagery or renderings to make informed product design decisions. We may create and visualize several iterations of design, changing things like materials or color schemes, before a concept is finalized.
During the engineering phase of the Digital Prototyping workflow, we create the product’s 3D model (the digital prototype), integrating design data developed during the conceptual design phase. We also add electrical systems design data to the digital prototype while it’s being developed, and evaluate how different systems interact. At this stage of the workflow, all data related to the product’s development is fully integrated into the digital prototype. Working with mechanical, electrical, and industrial design data, we engineer every last product detail in the engineering phase of the workflow. At this point, the digital prototype is a fully realistic digital model of the complete product.
We test and validate the digital prototype throughout our design process to make the best possible design decisions and avoid costly mistakes. Using the digital prototype, we can:
  • Perform integrated calculations, and stress, deflection, and motion simulations to validate designs
  • Test how moving parts will work and interact
  • Evaluate different solutions to motion problems
  • Test how the design functions under real-world constraints
  • Conduct stress analysis to analyze material selection and displacement
  • Verify the strength of a part
By incorporating integrated calculations, stress, deflection, and motion simulations into the Digital Prototyping workflow, NC&C can speed product development cycle by minimizing physical prototyping phases.
Also during the engineering phase of the Digital Prototyping workflow, we create documentation required by the production team.
In a Digital Prototyping workflow, we get manufacturing team involved early in the design process. This input helps us and manufacturing experts work together on the digital prototype throughout the design process to ensure that the product can be produced cost effectively. Manufacturing team can see the product exactly as it’s intended, and provide input on manufacturability.
Digital Prototyping also enables us to share detailed assembly instructions digitally with manufacturing team. While paper assembly drawings can be confusing, 3D visualizations of digital prototypes are unambiguous. This early and clear collaboration between manufacturing and engineering teams helps minimize manufacturing problems on the shop floor.
Customer Involvement
Customers are involved throughout the Digital Prototyping workflow. Rather than waiting for a physical prototype to be complete, we bring customers into the product development process early. We show customers realistic renderings and animations of the product’s digital prototype so they’ll know what the product looks like and how it will function. This early customer involvement helps us get sign-off up front, so we don’t waste time designing, engineering, and manufacturing a product that doesn’t fulfill the customer’s expectations.
Using 3D CAD data from the digital prototype, we create realistic visualizations, renderings, and animations to market products in print, on the web, in catalogues, or in television commercials. Without needing to produce expensive physical prototypes and conduct photo shoots, we can create virtual photography and cinematography nearly indistinguishable from reality.
Realistic visualizations not only help marketing communications, but the sales process as well. Companies can respond to requests for proposals and bid on projects without building physical prototypes, using visualizations to show the potential customer what the end product will be like. In addition, visualizations can help companies bid more accurately by making it more likely that everyone has the same expectations about the end product. Companies can also use visualizations to facilitate the review process once they’ve secured the business. Reviewers can interact with digital prototypes in realistic environments, allowing for the validation of design decisions early in the product development process.
Connecting Data and Teams
To support a Digital Prototyping workflow, NC&C uses data management tools to coordinate all teams at every stage in the workflow, streamline design revisions and automate release processes for digital prototypes, and manage engineering bills of materials. These data management tools connect all workgroups to critical Digital Prototyping data.