Product Development Processes: Exploring the Pros and Cons

Whether you run a startup or you founded a successful company with decades in your given industry, engineering and product development may be at the forefront of what you do. Bringing new products to market is one way that businesses can compete. After all, careers involved in product prototyping (including graphic designers, software developers, mechanical engineers, and others) accounted for 1.2 million jobs nationwide in 2016. In other words, there’s a demand for new and innovative offerings that can improve our lives.

However, getting to the final development stages is no easy task. Even determining the need for a certain product or the basic details of said product can be a challenge. And in many cases, the steps to creating a given product aren’t totally clear.

If all of that sounds familiar, your business could benefit from working with a product development firm. It’s one thing to have incredible ideas; it’s quite another to make them into a reality. All of that starts with identifying the right product development process for your business — and working with a product design and development company that can accommodate those preferences. Whether you need guidance on software design or you’re looking to receive step-by-step assistance on the development of new electronics from a product development firm, understanding the possible processes you might use for developing a new product can be a great place to start.

Waterfall Approaches

Traditional engineering and product development will typically align with “waterfall” approaches. It’s essentially a linear process, meaning that there are specific stages that need to be completed in a certain order before the next one can begin. After a stage is completed, the team generally can’t go back to a previous stage. Instead, movement through the development stages goes in only one forward direction (hence the name “waterfall”). In many cases, there’s a “gate” that exists between each stage, as well; these milestones need to be checked off before moving ahead to the next stage. The original model for waterfall product development featured the phases of product requirements, analysis, design, coding, testing, and operations, but subsequent models have included different variations on the initial process. Usually, waterfall product development approaches are structured as one large project that has well-defined requirements made before beginning any work. Waterfall approaches are used in all kinds of product development, from software and IT to manufacturing and construction.

Waterfall approaches have historically been a popular choice for engineering and product development due to their ease of use. The process is simple to follow and to manage, which also means team members don’t necessarily require any additional training to use it. It’s also a process that’s easy to share with clients. In fact, doing so is actually part of its design. That said, waterfall product development approaches do come with certain limitations. Changes are difficult to accommodate and because the process is so rigid, it can actually be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Agile Processes

Agile product development processes, as their name might suggest, are more flexible in nature. Agile actually refers to a large category of several different processes, including scrum and Kanban (though there are distinct differences between them). Agile methodology forgoes detailed planning at the beginning of a project, instead favoring to changing requirements based on feedback and knowledge. It’s a more incremental approach that focuses on accountability, communication, and collaboration in order to achieve both the customer’s needs and the internal goals of the organization. Efficiency and frequency are prioritized, as are simplicity, sustainability, and competitive edge.

The adaptability of agile processes is a huge selling point, as are the values of consistent improvement, teamwork, and customer feedback. However, these processes do require highly skilled individuals and increased dedication to product development. By working with product design consulting firms, agile development processes are more likely to produce effective results.

When choosing a methodology for your engineering and product development, one type isn’t necessarily superior to the other. Your decision should be based on the needs of your customers, the capacity of your team, and your ultimate vision for your organization. To learn more about how our engineers can help streamline your company’s product development, please contact us today.

24/7 In-Line Monitoring Filter System

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, continues to revolutionize manufacturing, with a filter system that uses a series of in-line sensors to monitor fluid condition and filter performance 24/7. This system is not only beneficial to the manufacturing sector, it opens the door for product design/development of similar types within any sector of the industry.

The filter has been engineered to include data 24/7, meaning that consumers will never again have to monitor filters beyond what data is made relatively available to them. Cloud-based software then translates this data into easily understandable information, which reduces the amount of time needed to determine what the system is trying to convey. The filter also maps current conditions against historical trends, process variables, and predictive algorithms—another innovative product design decision.

The filter has also been designed to alert the user when the filter needs maintenance, and the RFID technology streamlines maintenance, verifying health and remaining life of filter. For many users, a product designed to take care of itself while doing the job it’s been tasked with doing is not only cost-efficient, but time-saving. This enables users to keep a close eye on the health of their manufacturing systems, without the hassle and inefficiency of weekly or monthly fluid testing.

Product Development Process

To create this filter system, Porticos’ engineers created a 3D print prototype of the filter, incorporating a RFID tag reader, RF-coupled antenna boards, LED ring status lighting, and an electrical box that gathers and communicates data wirelessly to the cloud. This prototype was then used to test electrical and software components, and Porticos’ engineering team developed several sizes of 3D models for injection molding, based on customer-requested design updates.

Porticos is proud to have been involved in the development of this innovative technology, and is responsible for the prototype, testing, and final product.

Porticos Attends SolidWorks World 2019

Porticos provides a substantial professional-development allowance for our engineers to keep them current on the latest methods and tools.  We intend to ensure that Porticos is efficient at finding and implementing the optimal solution for any engineering challenge.

Six Porticos engineers traveled to SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019 in Dallas, Texas.

SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019

Our engineers attended numerous classes and workshops with titles like:

  • Electronics Thermal Management
  • Using Structural Simulation Engineer to Solve Real-World Problems
  • Free Surface Flow Simulation
  • Designing for Additive Manufacturing
  • 3D topology optimization

They also met with partners specializing in additive manufacturing, robotics, materials, and other tools that make Porticos engineers ever more capable and current.

Porticos Travels to Dallas – and Establishes an Office

The conclusion of three days of education coincided with the cancellation of all Dallas flights due to smoke in the TRACON.  Our squad was forced to spend one more day in Texas.

Ever diligent, they found a way to get to make that day productive, establishing a temporary Dallas “office”.

Your Product Design and Development Engineering Consulting Firm is Growing. And 3D Printing.

With great support from our customers, employees, and partners, Porticos continues to grow. Here are some new things you might see around our office.

New Capabilities and Equipment

Every year, Porticos adds to our infrastructure to support upcoming projects.  In the last few months we have deployed:

  • Google Cloud “Virtual Machine” to speed up simulations. This virtual computer boasts up to 96 CPUs running in parallel, which dramatically accelerates Computational Fluid Dynamics and Structural FEA simulations.
  • Three-axis CNC machining center. Fabrication of Proof-Of-Concept prototypes no longer relies on manual machining or outsourcing.  We can now go from CAD to physical part in the same day.
  • Laser Cutter. This machine has been used every single week since we installed it in January.  It can cut shapes from most non-metal materials up to ¼” thick.  We’ve used it to make custom rubber seals, structural mounting plates, and alignment jigs.
  • 3D Printer. We’ve added even more 3D printing capability with a benchtop unit that can print up to 5 materials in a single model.

New Knowledge – No Rest for the Learned

We’re proud of our extremely well-credentialed staff.  Of course, every employee has an engineering degree, but some have gone further:

  • 6 have Master of Science degrees
  • 2 hold a Professional Engineer license
  • 8 have advanced CAD credentials (e.g., Certified Solidworks Professional)
  • Several have additional degrees including Mathematics, Physics, Material Science, Environmental Engineering, and Economics.
  • Plus a host of technical certificates like Six Sigma, Systems Engineering, Refrigeration, etc.

On top of all that learning, our top three inventors are named on 30, 27, and 24 issued patents.  Porticos employees now boast 115 issued patents, with more slated to issue later this year.  We are going to need a bigger wall…

Porticos Patent Wall
The Patent Wall at Porticos

Growing is a Pain!

Almost 12 years ago, Porticos purchased 7500 square feet at the Copeland Oaks office park.  It’s been our home and Global HQ ever since.  Back then it was more space than we needed.  We leased one third to another firm, and installed a pool table to take up floor space (and lunch breaks.)

Then we expanded.  We had to turn the “spare” bay into a workshop.

Then we grew again, banishing the pool table in order to add more offices.

Now the office and the workshop are both at capacity, and we are looking forward to continued growth.  What does the future hold?  A second site?  A mezzanine?  A new pool table?  Stay tuned…

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” -Benjamin Franklin

Collaboration on Medication Monitoring Device: Porticos and Porticos Asia

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, and Porticos Asia, its manufacturing partner, recently collaborated on a medication monitoring device that helps patients and caregivers keep track of medications via a smartphone app.

The device can be attached to prescription pill bottles at the pharmacy, and it tracks the weight of the pills with a high-precision sensor to determine if they are being taken as directed. The device then communicates via Bluetooth to the patient’s smartphone app. Downloading the app brings the patient into the device eco-system, providing the patient with medication reminders and providing their caregivers with a complete record of their medication compliance.

Product Design and Manufacturing Partnership

Porticos worked directly with Porticos Asia to rapidly deliver 2,500+ units for user trials on a tight schedule, working throughout weekends and holidays to meet deadlines.

Headquartered in Hong Kong and working with suppliers in the Shenzhen region, Porticos Asia is in the advantageous position of being able to provide low cost, high quality production to customers who may otherwise not have access to such capabilities. The focus on production services will include part, sub-assembly and full production manufacturing, supply chain management, cost reduction, quality control and order processing.

Product Design Challenges

Porticos is proud to have been involved in the conceptual design and development of concept of operations and device feasibility, and was responsible for the definition of requirements, the research of available sensing technologies (capacitive, resistive, strain gauge, etc.), and the proof of concept performance testing of sensing technologies.

Porticos also designed and built a fixture to efficiently program and test PCBAs during inline assembly testing, and designed and built a fixture for end-of-line checkout of devices with initial device calibration.

Porticos is proud to have been chosen for this project. For more on Porticos’ engineering consulting services, click here for a services list.

Product design for cooler pet beds. Literally.

A cool concept. A bed for your pet that will help them keep their cool, literally.

The Porticos team was approached to redesign a non-functional cooling pet bed.

Product design: Engineering challenges overcome by critical thinking

An interesting concept that had several pieces and parts from the different components involved in the bed itself, analysis of dc adapter or ac power, how to keep the fan quiet, portability, and cost.

Then there were design challenges the Porticos team met with enthusiasm such as: how to simulate a dog in a computer thermal situation, what device to use to actually cool the bed, what the proper amount of cooling should be appropriate for a model-sized dog, and which materials would be most efficient.

Engineering consulting for Fido

This was another successful design completed with a pet bed that becomes cool to the touch in only a few minutes, and can provide enough cooling for even a 70-90 pound dog.

See more about the cool pet bed by reading the technical case study here.

Product Design and Development Example: Redesigned Gear Mechanism

Say this five times fast… custom involute gear mechanism that can convert rotational motion into precisely timed intermittent linear or reciprocating motion.

At first glance, this commercial generic gear mechanism is what the Porticos team needed. After looking into the fine details, however, it had many flaws, and it was a good start for a redesign.

Redesign Projects in Product Design: Proof of Concept

The team had a tall order with a short timeframe ahead of them to make a new design work as a proof of concept prototype. Detailed design included analysis of the gears, the turn knob, the spring and life of the spring, plastic and sheet metal component design of 27 custom-made parts, analysis of assembly tolerances, materials selection, detailed 2D part drawings with associated tolerances.

The team worked up several concepts, each building on the last. The final prototyped gear is by far easier to manufacture, has larger and stronger teeth, and alignment concerns have been eliminated.

When Product Design Leads to Patents

Kudos to the Porticos team as the customer submitted at least one design patent application with Porticos engineers named as the inventors.