27 Jun 2011

Custom design: the death of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model

Owen Kivlin, Group Head of Technology with Elektron plc, discusses why custom design and customisation for components is now top of the agenda for design engineers

Design engineering is increasingly becoming a customer centric industry where new standards are driven by end user requirements.

Customer demand is at the heart of all design engineering, whether for industrial applications or consumer facing end user products, and influences the range of products introduced to the market.

Devices, equipment and consumer products are expected to fulfil a long list of criteria, from rugged design, high functionality and aesthetics.

Design engineers must remain agile and responsive to these ever-changing demands. They require reliable component parts which will meet the high expectations of the end user. There is a wealth of options to choose from when sourcing component parts and a design engineer may ask themselves a number of questions when evaluating the merits of one component part over another.

Traditionally, component parts were assessed for their functionality, cost efficiency and performance and the market for electronic components was dominated by affordable, durable parts, which could be widely used for a number of end user applications across a range of industries.

Typical customised switch

Today, engineers acknowledge the ‘one size fits all’ model is out dated and no longer applicable. Design engineers are becoming more vocal about the design challenges they face and Elektron Technology, design consultancy and owners of the Arcolectric, Bulgin and Sifam brands, has seen a surge in demand for customised switches, connectors and meters.

There are a number of benefits to choosing to work with a specialist design consultancy, such as Elektron Technology, that can assist in developing customised component parts to meet specific design challenges.

Customisation for aesthetic design

It is quite common for a design engineer to ask for component parts to be colour matched with other elements in the end user product to give consistency with other product ranges and the company’s branding. This is a typical request in domestic appliances, power tools and consumer electronics but also in industrial applications such as test equipment and processing systems.

In addition to colour matching, component parts should fit within the overall design of a consumer product. Take as an example sub-panel mounted switches, where the switch body is mounted in equipment such as a washing machine, television set or radio. The actuator for the switch – which is the consumer interface – needs to fit the design of the device. It must either blend in to the overall design or stand out for ease of use and for stylistic purposes.

Design engineers may wish to alter various physical characteristics of component parts from the size, colour, ergonomics, ease of use right down to colour and illumination. While there is an increase in demand for flexible, adaptable component parts, which an experienced design house should easily manage, the benefits of customised design extend beyond aesthetics.

Enhancing performance through customisation

Strict international and industrial approvals processes are in place to ensure all component parts used in electrical equipment meets quality standards before the equipment can be deployed for use in an end user environment. None the less, design engineering is a dynamic industry where standards advance at a rapid pace. . . . . .

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About the author

Owen Kivlin is the Group Head of Technology for the Elektron Group. He is responsible for driving new product development for Elektron Group brands and overseeing new R&D projects. He boasts a wealth of experience in design engineering, having spent over 5 years with technology design and development firm Cambridge Consultants. He joined Elektron Technology in August 2010 and was promoted to his current position as Group Head of Technology for Elektron Group in March 2011.

Elektron Technology, owners of the Arcolectric, Bulgin and Sifam brands, designs and manufactures products for connectivity, environmental sealing, switching, illumination and indication and supplies globally into a wide range of applications and industries. With expertise, experience, flexibility and an innovative approach, Elektron Technology can provide custom functional modules to achieve substantial savings in development time and production costs for its customers. The company has a proud heritage of product engineering and has contemporary manufacturing capabilities on three continents resulting in excellent standard products and a global custom and integrated module service.

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