Design for Manufacturability: An Introduction

09 April 2024
Design for Manufacturability

Effective product development relies on a strong design foundation, ensuring products not only meet customer needs but also stand out in the market while optimizing manufacturing for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Integrating Design for Manufacturability (DFM) early in the product development process, before tooling and assembly, is crucial. DFM principles offer several advantages during this phase:

  1. Simplified Design: Streamlining product complexity and avoiding unnecessary features minimizes costs and enhances efficiency.
  2. Easy Assembly: Incorporating features like self-aligning components or connectors ensures seamless assembly, reducing errors, defects, and production operations.
  3. Standardization: Standardizing materials and components, along with minimizing the number of unique parts, cuts costs and simplifies the manufacturing process.


By prioritizing these DFM principles, manufacturers can achieve optimal outcomes in product development, creating products that are not only customer-centric but also efficient and cost-effective in production.

Image: Josh Beech

History of Design for Manufacturability


In contemporary product development, Design for Manufacturability (DFM) introduces a data-driven methodology, a departure from traditional practices. Previously, reliance on experience and comparable projects served as the primary sources of manufacturability data, with limited modeling capabilities for production, leading to a reliance on trial and error. However, this outdated approach is no longer sufficient in today’s dynamic manufacturing landscape, prompting the emergence of groundbreaking prototyping solutions like 3D printing.

Designers are no longer constrained by informal calculations, lacking the means to accurately assess the interplay between design, manufacturing, sustainability, and cost. Today, they have access to powerful software tools that analyze and optimize product design, resulting in reduced errors and costs. This shift marks a significant advancement in the field, empowering designers with sophisticated resources for informed decision-making in the modern manufacturing era.

Design for Manufacturability
Image: Getty Images

What are the DFM Principles?


Creating products with manufacturability in mind is crucial for optimizing the production process. By incorporating key principles during the initial stages of product development, you can enhance efficiency and streamline manufacturing.

Pick the Correct Process

The initial step involves selecting the most suitable manufacturing process for your part or product. Opting for injection molding in low-volume scenarios might lead to substantial upfront expenses for molds and tooling. Conversely, thermoforming could offer a more cost-effective alternative, requiring less expensive tooling. Considering factors such as production volume, part complexity, and desired features is crucial for optimizing both product development and manufacturing. Manufacturers in the field of manufacturing (MFG) offer a diverse range of manufacturing processes.

Design for Efficiency

For efficient and high-quality production, it’s imperative that part drawing and design adhere to robust manufacturing principles. The subsequent list provides an illustrative example specifically tailored to the plastic injection molding manufacturing process:

  • Maintain consistent wall thickness for even and rapid part cooling.
  • Incorporate proper draft angles of 1 or 2 degrees.
  • Avoid thin walls that could increase injection pressure.
  • Eliminate undercuts or features necessitating side action.
  • Apply a texture ratio of one degree for every 0.001” of texture depth.
  • Design ribs at approximately 60 percent of the nominal wall.
  • Implement the loosest tolerances while maintaining product quality.
  • Engage in discussions with the contract manufacturer to ensure adherence to sound manufacturing principles.

By following these guidelines, you can mitigate potential production issues and achieve optimal results.

Image: Acton Crawford

Careful Material Selection

Consider the following material properties during the DFM process:

  • Mechanical Properties: Determine the required strength of the material.
  • Thermal Properties: Assess whether the material needs to be heat-resistant.
  • Color: Specify if the part must have a particular color.
  • Optical Properties: Decide if the material should be reflective or transparent.
  • Electrical Properties: Determine if the material should act as an insulator or conductor.
  • Flammability: Assess whether flame resistance is necessary for the material.


Incorporating these material properties into the DFM process ensures that the selected materials contribute to the peak performance and functionality of the parts.

Image: Getty Images

Evaluating the Operating Environment for Optimal Performance

Ensure your part or product is designed to withstand the specific conditions of its intended use. A well-crafted design becomes inconsequential if a part fails to meet performance expectations in its normal operating conditions.

Prioritize Compliance and Testing for Product Assurance

Ensure your product aligns with safety and quality standards, whether they are industry-wide, third-party, or specific to your company. This commitment ensures that your product meets established benchmarks, promoting safety and quality across the board.

Design for Manufacturability FI
Image: Gomi

Why is Design for Manufacturing Important?


For companies aiming to achieve efficient and profitable product production, DFM is indispensable. DFM empowers businesses to make pivotal product development decisions at the initial stages.

Incorporating DFM principles into the design process offers substantial advantages, notably in the significant reduction of final production costs. By doing so, companies can pinpoint and quantify inefficiencies or waste at different stages of the manufacturing and production process, contributing to a more cost-effective and streamlined production.

Design for Manufacturability (DfM) Influence on Cost
Design for Manufacturability (DfM) Influence on Cost

What Benefits Can Buyers of Manufacturing Services Expect from Effective DFM?


Embracing Design for Manufacturability (DFM) principles in product development often translates to reduced production costs, offering several advantages:

  1. Error Prevention: DFM facilitates the identification and elimination of costly mistakes or design flaws before the manufacturing process begins, averting potential setbacks.
  2. Assembly Efficiency: By consolidating parts, DFM helps minimize assembly steps, streamlining the production process, and enhancing overall efficiency.
  3. Accelerated Time-to-Market: Implementing DFM expedites product development, shortening the time-to-market, and enabling a quicker introduction of products to consumers.
  4. Enhanced Quality: DFM contributes to the production of higher quality products, components, and parts, ensuring a superior end result.
  5. Safety Improvements: DFM aids in creating a safer working environment by identifying and eliminating potential hazards early in the design phase.


smart app objectives
Image: Scott Graham

How Long Does DFM Take?


The duration of the DFM process varies, contingent on the product type and manufacturing intricacies involved. On average, DFM typically spans approximately two weeks, though more intricate projects might necessitate an additional week or even a more extended timeframe. A well-defined product design that aligns seamlessly with all parties’ criteria can expedite the process. However, certain factors, including the quality and complexity of arising questions, as well as responsiveness and attention to detail in addressing them, may extend the overall production timeline.

For a more precise estimate, consult with your contract manufacturer to gauge their insights on the expected duration of the process. It’s essential to note that prioritizing a quality product remains the primary objective, with speed considered as a secondary factor.

Conducting a comprehensive DFM ultimately results in a streamlined design complexity, meeting customer requirements regarding price, specifications, materials, and scheduling.

A man designing a mechanical component
Image: Kumpan Electric



Integrating Design for Manufacturing principles can result in measurable reductions in both the complexity and cost of manufactured products. Beyond the initial design stage, it is imperative to consistently enhance your product. When opportunities for improvement arise, revisiting the drawing board to incorporate these enhancements becomes crucial. Continuous improvement forms a fundamental aspect of the entire product design and manufacturing process.

DFM plays a pivotal role in diminishing the final cost of a product without compromising its durability, quality, and performance. While the principles of DFM may appear straightforward initially, their profound impact on streamlining the manufacturing process is invaluable. The substantial savings achieved through DFM underscore its importance, making it essential to contemplate incorporating these principles during the design or improvement phases of your product.


Report by Danny Weller



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