The pressure of time, quality and cost, together with increasing product variety, more customised products and worldwide competition is driving technology development and implementation in the area of Rapid Manufacturing (RM). Traditionally, the manufacture of tooling for both prototype parts and production components represents one of the longest and most costly phases in the development of most new products. The cost and time implications of the tooling process are particularly problematic for low-volume products aimed at niche markets, or alternatively for rapidly changing high-volume products.

Rapid Prototyping (RP) and Rapid Tooling (RT) have the potential to dramatically shorten the time required to produce functional prototypes or products. Functional Analysis (FA) plays a key role in the design process of the actual tools, allowing for innovative solutions that can be achieved with RP and RT.

This paper presents a FA methodology to design for manufacture (DFM) based on RP- and RT-specific characteristics, aimed at improving process efficiency, streamline energy consumption, use of volume material, usage of structural innovative lightweight materials, decrease overall costs and improve product quality. Design for Rapid Manufacturing (DFRM) allows for geometric freedom, leading to changes of the overall design process, thus enhancing the FA process. FA begins with stating the need, in a DFRM case that translates into diagnosis, the determination of the manufacturability of the present product and comparison with similar products on the market. Setting objectives, in terms of production costs, quality, flexibility, risk, lead-time, efficiency, and environment are other milestones in FA. Actual function definition involves defining the main functions of the product and their interactions. Clarifying the evaluation parameters, setting criteria levels and technical dimensioning is done for each of the main product functions. The conceptual design process then follows a top-down sequence: corporate, family, structural and component levels. Evaluation and selection of the optimal concept resulting from the FA consists of assessing the manufacturability of the proposed concepts in terms of the DFM objectives. The selected best fit concept is translated to design in the last stage, when the chosen concept is communicated to the development team. The detailed design is carried out in parallel to marketing and product development.

Targeted FA is shown to enable generation of innovative solutions, while improving manufacturability. The present research stands as a starting point in the development of product design methodologies that use RP and RT applications for manufacturing physical products.

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