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  • Roland Schmid

Success Stories in Product Design & Engineering


This month we talk about innovation, engineering & product design. There is a significant difference between a “CAD model”, a beautiful product rendering and the “real thing”. Anyone who has developed and manufactured products knows this. Whilst 3D design tools make life a lot easier, nothing replaces understanding of fundamental design principles, materials, production processes and costs including use of appropriate technologies to achieve set targets. Practice makes perfect – I hope that this month’s focus topics resonate with you and make you smile … Regards, Roland Schmid

1.0 Introduction:

Today we are witnessing significant changes in technology that impact traditional industry segments, both at the product and manufacturing levels.

Look at telecommunications where traditional fixed line service & equipment providers are suffering or have gone out of business! Mobile communication (iPhones) are used to do everything from banking, payments, e-mail, remote control etc.; another example is the move away from combustion engines to electric motor driven cars and the emergence of industry trailblazers such as Tesla. The changes are driven by technology, environmental needs, user expectations, etc. resulting in new opportunities for innovation, engineering & product design.

In order to survive and remain competitive many companies are seeking help from external companies with knowledge and experience to transform traditional products into “intelligent devices” by using state of the art technology.

Our examples show that adopting a systematic development approach and having a solid design & industrialization partner can help companies to “stay in the game” without having extensive in-house R&D skills.

2.0 Product Development Case (1) – Valve Actuator

Fluid control, whether in buildings, processes, fire or flood protection, water conservation etc. require electronically actuated valves. Manual opening and closing of valves is a thing of the past.

Our product development process follows a sequence of steps that ensure that the final product fulfills set specifications whilst allowing “outside the box thinking & innovation”.

The steps include:

· Product Definition (Function, Features, Ideas, etc.)

· Product Concepts (Options, Comparisons, Assessments, Mock-ups, etc.)

· Mechanical Hardware Design

· Electronic Hardware Design & SW Development

· Integration and Prototyping (Validation)

· Design Refinements (manufacturability, functionality, cost, …), incl. Certification

· Manufacturing

During the initial phases (ideation and innovation) we often work with reputable industrial design companies who challenge the status quo and bring in different perspectives and help maintaining a client’s brand image. In this case Formpol ( took a leading role at the start. The involvement of the client, challenging conventions, looking at components, materials, manufacturability & cost etc. are a must. Do not accept compromise, analyze, test, simplify, … until form, fit and functions are 100% right.

Picture 1: Integration of Electronics with Mechanics

Picture 2: Prototype Testing

Picture 3: Valve Actuator connected to a Water Pipe

3.0 Product Development Case (2) – Ventilation Control Unit

The management of air exchange (ventilation) in low energy houses is important to achieve excellent living conditions whilst minimizing energy costs.

We have developed a device that controls temperature/humidity, has 4 different operating modes that give you maximum comfort in summer, winter or at night.

A compact design allows the control unit to be wall-mounted in a double light switch cavity; up to 6 fans can be connected to the controller.

Simple Product Structure

4.0 Product Development Case (3) – Q-fan The trigger for the Q-fan development was a meeting between 3 individuals – an artist, Carlo Borer (; a business man, Martin Stadler ( and an engineer (myself). We had the ambition to transform an artistic impression of a fan into a real product. 2 years later, after cracking many nuts and overcoming more challenges than we could have anticipated, we stood in front of an iconic fan that could be mass-produced whilst meeting the production cost target that we set for the project for the ultimate “Go” or “No Go”!

from 3D Rendering to Stainless Steel Prototype (below left and right)

Finished Products in Stainless Steel Polished (left); with Powder Coating (above)

5.0 Conclusions

Good engineering and product design does not come over night – it requires clear thinking, patience, knowledge of manufacturing, determination and a “no compromise” mindset.

It took James Dyson 5127 prototypes to get the revolutionary new vacuum cleaner design/function right; the frustrations and setbacks that we have experienced in the Q-fan development are nothing in comparison with what Dyson went through – it is all a matter of courage, stamina and a belief to succeed.

Adopting a model of “Turnkey Solutions” is a cost-effective and fast way for companies to get new products into the market.

Our success in delivering excellent design/engineering solutions lies in

  • Solid knowledge in mechanical engineering, electronics hardware design and software development;

  • Ability to use simple principles to achieve main product functions;

  • Industrialization and value analysis skills based on solid knowledge of materials, manufacturing processes, available components and leading-edge technologies;

  • Good project management skills;

  • Product certification experience;

  • Network of “specialists” who can fill in knowledge gaps;

If you need a competent engineering/system or product design partner, look no further than us!

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Success Stories in New Age Metal Parts Manufacturing


This month our focus topic is “metal parts manufacturing”. Ancient man first found and began using native metals approx.. 5000 years BC and the Chinese used cast iron some 600 years BC. Metal has outstanding physical properties whether it is strength or the ability to conduct heat. We use metal products in our daily lives yet few people understand how metal is processed. Enjoy the reading. Regards, Roland Schmid

Product reviews are great if you want to compare products or gear for your readers. They'll keep coming back to you for your expertise and real world examples.

1.0 Introduction: International companies have contributed much to the significant technological advancements in China over the past 20 years. Given the size of the Chinese market and relatively low production costs, investments and developments have been massive. An example is rail transport; based on early technology from Siemens & Alstom, China’s CRRC now builds high speed trains at a scale that few people expected. China now has the world’s largest & most sophisticated high speed train network and is exporting equipment and technology throughout the world. Such industries have triggered a significant transformation in manufacturing. Living in China has given me the opportunity to witness the changes and capture these in pictures. The contrast is stark.  China has become a dominant player in manufacturing metal parts – some production processes may be relevant for your business.

2.0 Die-Casting: China is the world leader in manufacturing die-cast parts. The country accounts for 45% of the world’s casting production. The demand is predominantly driven by the automotive and motor cycle industries. To get a sense of perspective, China produced

> 12million cars in 2021 compared with 1.5million cars produced in Germany. Here are a couple of examples that show two different product types that we are manufacturing for European customers, a street lamp housing and a bicycle lever. Street Lamp Housing:  · Part Dimensions: 600x300x35 · Part Weight: 2450 g · Material: AlSi10Mg(Fe) · Tool Cavities: 1 · Part Surface: Passivation & Power Coating The project was implemented in 2 months! The pictures show first part samples that we sent to our customer in October 2021.

Bicycle Lever · Part Dimensions: 130x45x15 · Part Weight: 25 g · Material: ADC6 · Tool Cavities: 2 · Part Surface: Anodizing + Laser Engraving

3.0 Precision Stamping: Due to the large demand of precision stamped parts in consumer electronic products, there is a vast and competent supply base in China. The fast time to market and price sensitivity of consumer electronic products require high speed in manufacturing tools/parts at very competitive costs. Here is an example of an export tool for battery contacts. Battery Contact Progressive Stamping Tool: · Tool Dimension: 600x400x400 · Tool Type: Progressive · Blanking Size: 25x47x0.5 · Stamping Material: CuSn6 · Tool Mfg Time: 5 weeks

4.0 Metal Injection Molding (MIM): Metal injection molding is an attractive alternative to investment casting, in particular for small parts (< 80grams) with complex geometries + high tolerances. MIM parts stand out by their excellent surface finish. Here is an example of a holder. Holder: · Part Dimensions: 52x33x11.5 · Part Weight: 66g · Material: Stainless steel (1.4404) · Tool Cavities: 1

5.0 Investment Casting: The advantages of investment casting are the ability to manufacture complex geometries with tight dimensional requirements, whilst minimizing the post casting machine work. Whether it is a housing, a hook, a lever or a bracket – we have been supplying such parts for more than 10 years. The example below shows a pipe fitting. Angle Seat Body: · Part Dimensions: 77x39x74 · Part Weight: 255g · Material: Stainless steel (1.4408) · Tool Cavities: 1

6.0 Conclusions Main challenges for small to medium sized enterprises are: · Acute shortage of skilled labour · High production costs due to lack of scale (volumes) · Nature of production (high mix/low volume) is difficult to automate In order to remain competitive, a good balance between sourcing globally and manufacturing locally is required. Working with a competent and reliable manufacturing partner in China offers significant advantages and is an important element for success:

  • We ensure that our manufacturers have the technology and process capability to meet your production requirements;

  • We have a qualified, proven and segmented portfolio of suppliers;

  • We add value by evaluating different process options to minimize manufacturing cost whilst maintaining critical part requirements (material, strength, surface finish & quality, etc.);

  • We aggregate volumes to get the best prices whilst providing solid business to our manufacturing partners;

During the past 3 years risk management has become an important aspect of structuring the supply chain. Who would have predicted that a pandemic, a war in the Ukraine, transportation cost escalations (air, sea, road), electronic chip shortages, increased raw material costs, … would present us with challenges that can jeopardize any business in a matter of months!

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