In the uber-competitive world of product graphics, continuous improvement upon existing merchandise or the creation of something entirely new is crucial to captivating customers and keep them coming back for more. You need to “wow” them with stunning visual features, innovative function and superior ease of use. In other words, to survive and thrive today, you need new design – perhaps one that’s never been seen before. And that requires risking a lot  – from putting your new product launches and budgets on the line to placing your company’s reputation – not to mention your own professional future – in a potentially vulnerable position.

Just how much risk can you tolerate? There lies the conundrum. New product development inherently involves risk, but company profit margins, shareholder values and increasing demands for speed to market offer little in the way of tolerance with uncertainty.

We’re here to help you minimize risk

At DuraTech, we specialize in defining what’s technically possible and in determining if those possibilities are financially feasible for the customer. Our goal with every new product development project is to generate new features that meet or exceed required specifications – and do so within a practical cost structure. To that end, we created a dedicated risk management team more than 15 years ago that has since helped hundreds of customers concept, design and manufacture new product features for the automotive, consumer electronics, appliance, medical equipment and other industries.

We also have a dedicated R&D department with state-of-the-art equipment specifically reserved to experiment with new designs and functionalities. This feature allows us to run tests without competing for time on regular manufacturing equipment – meaning that we can run tests and report results to the customer in as little as a day, instead of waiting to squeeze tests in during valuable production time, which could take weeks.

Our philosophy

Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to mitigating risk. We’re big believers in consistent and transparent communication with every customer so that both sides know and understand the possible risks, the process we use to examine each risk to determine if it’s feasible to resolve it, how that resolution will play out and what associated budget ramifications are. This is particularly important in In-Mold Decorating (IMD) and In-Mold Electronics (IME) parts, as the design and manufacture processes involved can take longer than traditional in-mold injection or graphic printing projects.

Customers who bring our design team in early also will benefit from our company’s vast library of resources and new product development experience, which can help avoid missteps before they’re taken. For example, early design team involvement with the selection, assessment and interactions with supply chain partners can ensure quality materials from the start, speeding up the development process. When working with a third-party molder, having the printer assist with development stages and be present at mold trials is key to identifying variables that need changing.

Our process

Design is always controlled by the customer; however, we validate designs for manufacturability during the quality planning process. We apply an extensive design and feasibility checklist to every new product development project. Among the elements we examine and questions we answer:

  • Artwork viability (bleeds & line weights)
  • Application environment
  • Shop or station capacity – is additional equipment required?
  • Will alternative manufacturing methods be required?
  • Are there special shipping requirements, or packaging or shipping tests?
  • Adhesive requirements
  • Are there color callouts? Are color chips available? Is color matching required?
  • Are chrome inks needed?
  • Are there specific defect requirements?
  • Will a clean room be necessary?
  • PPAP/FAIR requirements, UL, ISO, other certifications and documentations
  • Is tooling required (embossing, cutting, forming, test equipment, assembly)?
  • For In-Mold-Design and In-Mold Electronics: What resin will be used?
  • Are there gate locations or multiple gates? Are tiecoates needed?
  • Process specific questions involving ultraviolet inks versus solvent inks, cure requirements, racking and cart requirements, thickness of materials, material pretreatment

To further minimize risk for our customers, we build upon the design and feasibility checklist with a phase gate process – a management technique where we divide a project into phases, or gates. Any potential foreseen risks are clearly communicated and resolved before the next stage can be started. When necessary, design reviews are conducted to better understand product requirements and verify that the process will be satisfactory. Validation activities may be conducted at DuraTech, at third party labs or by the customer. If a gate can’t be passed, the next stage won’t be started unless authorized by the customer. A project could also end at any gate for varying reasons – lack of feasibility, project hold or altogether termination by the customer.

The five gates in our process are: 

  • GATE 1 – Sales visit or conference call
  • GATE 2 – Determine deliverables, conduct initial feasibility review, examine material samples, provide basic quote
  • GATE 3 – Design review with full team, run prototype/sample trials, provide quote
  • GATE 4 – Final prints, final design review, final quote, PO, PPAP/FAIR, review scrap and costing
  • GATE 5 – Release to production; wrap up, review lessons learned

Rapid and partial prototyping

Prototyping is another key component to minimizing risk in any new product development project, and we’re big fans of rapid prototyping, which allows us to build, mock-up, test and try out parts before any commitment is made to tooling expense. Rapid prototyping not only helps to avoid costly mistakes, it also can refine a project, giving it an edge so that it advances from a good project to a GREAT project.

For example, we offer various ways to prototype membrane switches. Through rapid prototyping, we can build a membrane switch before constructing capacitive touch within a part. By marrying the two, we can quickly determine the quality of the part’s functionality so that the customer can then make informed decisions about proceeding with development and, if needed, secure additional budget. Rapid prototyping also enables the ability to build partial prototypes for concept proofs. For instance, using the rapid prototyping machine, we can build a working model of an intended part and use our membrane switch capabilities to simulate the final product with full electronic capabilities.

Ready to start?

From helping to develop ultraviolet inks that withstand the rigors of IMD and IME production to printing on unusual materials and even designing IMD and IME products from traditional parts, DuraTech is no stranger to keeping the risk out of new product development. If you’re ready to venture into a new frontier with your products, let us be your guide. Contact us at info@duratech.com or 608.781.2570.