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How to Create Product that Stands Out?

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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