Product designs come in all shapes and sizes as savvy and experienced executives, engineers, and designers strive to differentiate their product or part. If you are one of these individuals, you know that whether your target audience is a consumer, a passenger, a patient, or an operator, that the look and feel of your product or part shapes the perception and experience of the end user.
Why is Part Geometry and Mating So Important to a Design?
A study done by the Chalmers University of Technology and published in the International Journal of Design in 2013 showed that:
Roughly 2 out of 3 people will select a product with good geometry over a product with geometric deviations, such as gaps between assembled parts.
The study also stated that people may associate products with geometric deviations, such as gaps in a product’s design, with poor quality, durability, reliability, and performance. (Click to read the full study for more details.)
Creating a product design with excellent and highly appealing part geometry may only be limited by creativity and inspiration. However, it is one thing to render an image of a flawlessly designed part or product, it can be quite another to manufacture such a design with the same elegant geometry, continuity of parts, and seamless assembly.
Producing this design physically will be dependent on the capabilities of the medium and manufacturing process selected. This is especially true of projects comprised of multiple parts requiring assembly, as achieving a seamless mating of parts with geometry can be difficult if not impossible with some manufacturing processes. Material characteristics, manufacturing tolerances, mold and processor capabilities, and many other variables will ultimately influence the ability turn your ideal design into an achievable finished product.
Part Geometry and Mating Points with the Heavy Gauge Thermoforming Process
If aesthetic design, high quality part geometry, or brand differentiation are important to your project, you should consider the benefits of the heavy gauge thermoforming process. The thermoforming process has a number of advantages in achieving high quality finished parts with unique styling and design more economically than other processes.
Consider some of the advantages:
- Complex geometry achieved economically
- extensive styling can be achieved with much lower tooling costs than matched mold processes in either metal, composites or other plastic molding methods
- includes very large parts
- Styling and design geometry flexibility
- design can include aerodynamics, a rugged look, logo and other features
- parts are not limited to a boxy look or enclosure as with certain processes such as sheet metal
- make a product recognizable from a distance no matter the color
- Part design continuity, tight tolerance capability, and mating points
- can provide design continuity over multiple part assemblies, even with complex design geometry
- creation of “lap joints” for mating parts is much easier with thermoforming and can be more stylish than with metal
- one advantage of this type of assembly mating is to avoid gaps created by varying materials expansion/contraction allowance
- thermoforming design flexibility allows for more stylish mating edges and surfaces
- a “returned edge” on a thermoformed part can provide a clean sharp edge and will provide greater part rigidity
- Tactile geometry
- soft touch and feel thermoformed plastic materials can convey features of safety or add to styling by varying surface look and feel throughout the geometry of the component
- thermoforming assemblies can include varying geometry parts with surface decoration to simulate the look of carbon fiber, camouflage, brushed metal, and many more