Four tips for design engineers

Aki Norrbacka, Technology Manager at Veslatec, is a design engineer with more than 30 years of experience in production roles in various industrial companies.

He has learnt a great deal during his career and is here to share four key tips with you.

1. Identify the main focus of the design task

According to Norrbacka, the design process is always a compromise. Often, a decision has to be made between the product’s features and the budget, but priorities can also include dimensional accuracy, design and manufacturability.

“You need to identify the parameters for the design and make a compromise that fits within them. I know there’s always a rush to get the design finished and that it’s difficult to be creative when there’s time pressure, but it’s worth taking some time to explore the options. This is how you get a good result.”

Norrbacka adds that the appearance of the product, such as curved shapes, presents challenges for manufacturability. These require different stages of work and this increases manufacturing costs. Rigorous dimensional accuracy requirements also add to the price. In design, it is crucial to strike a balance between these variables.

2. Keep up to date on manufacturing methods

According to Norrbacka, manufacturing methods are constantly evolving. Manufacturing methods and production equipment have come a long way in the last 10 years. At the same time, the latest practical know-how is not always available in educational institutions.

“The best way to deal with this would be if experienced design engineers could pass on their knowledge to younger ones, and these younger ones could bring fresh ideas to more experienced engineers. However, it’s important to remember that experience alone does not make you an expert. Even an experienced design engineer needs to keep up to date with advancements in technology.”

Norrbacka points out that there is a lot of information available on different manufacturing methods, and Veslatec is happy to demonstrate the different methods to design engineers.

3. Make use of laser welding

Laser welding is still a relatively little-known process in Finland. However, laser welding can, for example, reduce the number of working stages or achieve better dimensional accuracy.

“If two components are welded together using conventional methods, the intense heat will cause deformation and the piece will have to be machined afterwards. In laser welding, the deformations are so minor that it is usually the last working stage. I particularly recommend learning about laser micromachining.”

Norrbacka advises that if a product is to be laser-welded, it must be designed with this in mind from the outset to achieve the maximum benefits. Laser welding is not a direct substitute for conventional welding.

4. Make sure your manufacturing partner has modern production machinery

When a design engineer invites subcontractors to tender, it’s a good idea to ask what kind of production machinery the company uses. There can be significant differences between different companies’ machinery. Modern machines make work faster and produce more accurate results.

“At Veslatec, our machinery is new and modern. We are happy to talk to design engineers and share with them what kind of accuracy we can achieve,” Norrbacka says.