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The Embodiment Design phase is essentially about understanding the separate functions the product must perform, followed by identifying the assemblies or modules necessary to perform those functions.
During the Embodiment stage (sometimes referred to as preliminary design), the agreed product concept is further developed, with greater consideration about the function, position and geometry of the assemblies/modules. In addition, thought is given to interaction between modules, together with how they are integrated into the product as a whole. For many design engineering organisations, Embodiment Design involves analysis and modelling, to demonstrate if the arrangement of the product assemblies will work.
Embodiment design is all about applying more detail to the concept, further developing it and starting to think about more specific engineering considerations. These include solutions to specific functional problems, as well as manufacturing considerations. Depending on the size and complexity of the product, some businesses amalgamate Embodiment Design, either into Concept Design or (more typically) the following stage, Detailed Design. However, running this stage separately clarifies thinking, enables more modular design (and therefore flexibility) and as a result reduces the risk of design changes and errors later on.
Identifying Functions and Product Assemblies
A good place to start is by identifying and separating out the main functions of the product. Defining and noting down a short description of each function helps to clarify thinking. Requirements from the specification may feed into each assembly description. Once the range of functions is clarified it often helps to map these out. Is it possible to arrange these functions as assemblies or modules serving a particular purpose? If so schematic diagrams, sketches and block diagrams are all encouraged to flesh out how the assemblies are positioned and interact with one another. In this way, identifying the building blocks or assemblies of the product helps to organise and progress design activities.
As stated above, the function or purpose of each assembly can be listed. In addition, it may be possible to assign cost estimates to each assembly. If beneficial, size estimates can be listed too, together with general arrangement and orientation decisions. Importantly, use the assembly headings to jot down thoughts on key design features, mechanisms, technologies, systems, ideas and considerations. Listing these ideas one assembly at a time, enables engineers to focus their efforts systematically. As a result notes, ideas and considerations can then feed into the detail design necessary to realise the function of each assembly. Detailed Design, of course, is the next stage of the product development process.
Other considerations engineers may want to start thinking about at this stage include control systems and circuitry (electronic, electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic depending on the nature of the product). Consider using common solutions and assemblies found elsewhere in your product range, so as to minimise costs.
At this stage it’s worth briefly reviewing some of the theory around why product development is organised in this way, together with the advantages further down the line in the process.
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