Design thinking can be termed as a non-linear process. It is a term commonly used by engineering and manufacturing teams to understand the users, access problems and then come up with creative solutions to test their probable solutions. It generally involves five different stages namely define, empathise, prototype, ideate and testing. Design thinking is considered one of the most effective techniques used to solve unknown or ill-defined problems.
There are innumerable problems that the industry has to face. One of the major problems faced by industries is sourcing sub-assemblies and components via the right process. Focus is laid on making the supply chain leaner and thus removing waste. Integrating several discrete components is considered one of the best and most effective solutions by several top designers.
Metal Injection Moulding or MIM have been successful in offering effective integration solutions which have successfully reduced the number of components in the sub-assembly. MIM involves manufacturing as well as designing of a mould which helps in producing a large number of parts according to the design in the mould. The design might be a multi-cavity design which therefore will improve productivity. It is also very easy to incorporate the complexity of the parts in the mould design by a creative approach of the designers. Moreover, you can also create functional prototypes using the technique of mim prototyping.
Even the best product design is not able to perform well commercially because of high production cost as well as its inability to ramp up the quantities quickly. MIM helps to bridge this gap by making the complicated metal components at low costs with a high ramp-up rate. A MIM tool with 16 cavities can easily upscale the production to one million components per week. This automatically makes it perfect for automotive products, smartphone parts and medical equipment that need to ramp up quickly.
The traditional process of manufacturing might work against design thinking. MIM eliminates the traditional limits of the design for manufacturability and provides the freedom to draw complicated geometry.
Moreover, MIM also gives freedom when talking about mechanical and material properties. In other processes such as CNC, the manufacturer has to choose a standard raw material. On the contrary, in MIM a manufacturer can customise alloys to meet the requirements of any particular function. For instance, it is possible to make golf wedges heavier or light using different alloys. Likewise in the case of automotive applications some properties such as increased elongation or high-temperature resistance can be attained by the differing percentages of Mo & Ni in the standard carbon steels.
When talking about the speed of the prototype samples, MIM has several methods like soft tooling. With the help of soft tooling, a manufacturer can make as many as 5000 samples for large scale production. Another method is known as green machining. In this method, a moulded block is CNC milled. Several other methods like binder jetting 3D printing are also a great option if you want to manufacture prototypes very quickly. In today’s world of consistent innovation, a designer can now see the samples of the prototype in less than seven days once the 3D model is uploaded.
Design thinking is a great way of creating innovative and unique products. However, the design will only prove fruitful if the products are made at the right time and the right cost. The capital investment involved in MIM is also very economical. For instance, if it takes 15 minutes to mould through 5 axis CNC then it can be moulded in merely 15 seconds with MIM. It not only reduces the capital machinery investment but also the production cost. When complicated components can be manufactured in time it leads to overall savings which reduces the selling price. Once the selling price is reduced it will lead to a higher demand for the product by end consumers.
Designers have a very critical role. The products designed by them have an impact on the environment. When it comes to environmental impacts in the metal manufacturing industry, MIM ranks highest. Another process like CNC is a very subtracting technology because it produces loads of chips along with the product. These chips are however recycled but there is again an added cost of recycling and an environmental impact.