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A real case of Industrial Design illustrates the importance of industrial design. There is no rhetoric in this article, but the case covers the whole process from industrial design to production and manufacturing, and reflects the company’s product design level and deep understanding of production and processing.

Background :

A American friend sent me a simple of a message ball, which he has produced somewhere. However, as his first generation of that kind of product, it doesn’t sell well. He hoped that our industrial design company team can review the design to find out the drawbacks and make improvements before production as his second generation.

After the sample arrived, I found that there was no product design element in the product. It felt like a prototype for testing, which just has  basic function of message ball. There is no point for anyone to buy it.

The product is as the picture shows below:

According to the assignment, I need to estimate the cost of the product, drawing out the production plan, bill of manufacturing and design of manufacturing, etc. However after disassembling the product, I found that the engineering design couldn’t meet the demand of production. Poor design, wrong choice in materials, too much problems in it.Next, let me discuss their problems point by point and provide corresponding solutions.

Problems Founded in Industrial Design and Mass Prodution

Here are the problems I found in the product.

1、 Problems in industrial design

The biggest problem is that the design does not conform to ergonomics. The radius on the handle is too small to be comfortable to hold in the hand. However, the position of the handle of the product is very important, because users will put his hand or leg on it to roll the ball for massaging, in that case, it is possible to hurt the people’s skin. As the picture shows below.

The handle is made of hard material, For the reason of strength, the original designer defined the thickness of the handle to 8 mm. Since the handle is also a cosmetic part, it means that it cannot be shelled. So it would leads to the product being too thick to produce, if I don’t do any change in it.

Check here to learn: The problems caused by too thick parts

2、 Problems in Mechanical design

As can be seen from the picture below, the rolling bearing is fixed by a hexagon nut. When the nut is screwed tightened, the ball will not rotate. I can’t imagine why this product was produced and circulated on the market. Entrusted by the customer, I evaluated the production cost. I also took samples to familiar suppliers. For this product, I thought that it did not meet the mass production standard. As the picture shows below.

3、Problems in Production

The ball needs a nut inside to fix the shaft. So how to put the a nut in the silicone ball? The way the engineer choose is to put the nut in silicone mold for heat pressing. This way is not totally wrong, but would results in the ball being too thick – 40 mm thickness, giving raise a series problems. The ball is too thick, result in that the producing time is too long and high cost. It is well known that the cost of the production is closely related to the material weight and molding time. As the picture shows below.

Production and manufacturing must be taken into account when designing.

The Ways I Did to Improve the Design and Mass Production

The ways I offer to solve the problems. I need to solve it before mass production

1、 Improvement in Industrial Design

Improve the handle design. The handle looks terrible and isn’t comfortable for handling as I mentioned above. Firstly I decided to change the shape to more round design. Secondly, change the outside material. There are two reasons for the innovation on the handle

1. If the outer material is soft, that means the body of the handle can be shelled in order to shorten the time of molding, and become more scientific for injection molding. No shrinking marks, easier to be shot etc.

2. Using environment-friendly TPU as the outer material, which is friendly to human skin. It will be very comfortable and soft when holding which is why many handles be made with a soft TPU layer, such as handles of spanners

After this major change, please take a look at the rendered image of the product.

The new industrial design of a message ball

2、 Improvements in Mechanical Engineering

I designed a pressing plate to fix the bearing instead of a hexagon nut. It will just fix the outer rim of the bearing instead of the both rims. This way can make sure that the bearing can roll smoothly and functional. This design omits the step of screwing hexagon nuts, and speeds up the assembly time to improve the production efficiency.

3、Mass production Plan Improvement

I designed a small hard ball inside the silicone ball as a liner. In this case, the nominal material thickness of the outer layer will not exceed 10MM. Compared with the previous 50MM thick , the molding time is at least 3 times faster than before, fully meeting the mass production standard.

And the mechaning engineering.

The new mechanical design of a message ball

After all the changes had been done, let’s check out what the prototype looks like:

The Prototype of the New Design

As you can see the picture of the prototype above. The hanle was made of hard plastic combined soft rubber. So you may ask how make a prototype combined with two fifferent materials like that? The secrect is to make handle body by CNC machinning and make the rubber by Vacuum Casting.

Check this link to learn more about Vacuum Casting: What is Vacuum Casting

To sum up:

Good Industrial design can simplify assemble flow, save your money, and make mass production more smoothly.

In the design process, all issues of mass productions should be considered, and the problem should be solved before mass production through prototyping sage. This is the practice of qualified industrial design companies.