What is Mechanical product development?

A short summary for mechanical design engineers on what is product development

Idea of product development

Invention of new products, systems, processes and tools has always been a part of the human endeavor to advance the quality of life and create paths of generating wealth all the while employing the ever-growing populations.

This very process of coming up with a novel idea and converting into something which is useful to a set of people is called product development.

From the design and development of a humble nut and bolt to the design of the large international space station each entity has followed some sort of product development process.

Learning product development is of prime importance to engineers and designers who have the ability to come up with new ideas and convert them to reality.

Product development leads to

  • Conversion of market need to a reality-based solution
  • Creating the tangible from the intangible
  • Creation of new wealth

Product development is the life-blood of companies and societies. The product could be a physical product such as an automobile, smartphone, or coffee maker. It could also be services such as new IT solution, new manufacturing process, or a new real estate marketing concept. In this platform we will discuss about physical mechanical products.

Successful physical product development actions provide the following:

Business viability of any product development effort is dependent on how novel the design is and how useful it will be to the target audience. Hence true innovation happens when desirability, business viability and technical feasibility all meet to deliver a product.

Types of products

Software – application software.


  •  Predominantly mechanical – cars, lawn mowers, engines
  •  Predominantly electrical or electronic – analog wrist watch, mobile phone

Software vs hardware product development

  •  Hardware development is capital intensive and labour intensive, software is neither.
  •  Easier to validate software compared to hardware.
  •  Failure cannot be corrected easily in case of hardware but in software it can be corrected by a bug fix or patch. The margin of error is very small in Hardwar products. They must be first time right
  •  The infrastructure required for manufacturing is huge compared to software, as only a PC or laptop is required.
  •  Physical labour costs and overheads don't figure in software development
  • Logistics and related issues are not a problem in software.

The process:

Product planning – the stage in which the need of the product is established through research

Concept development- the plan is then converted in to a concept

System level design – the Concept is developed into a design with systems, sub systems and components

Detail design – Detailing is done to the components of the product

Testing and refinement – Product is tested and design is refined to correct any flaws.

Production ramp up – After the final design is realised the production volume is increased through ramp up.

Departments (functions) needed to realize a product

  • Design – The core function of any product development effort responsible for developing concepts, validating them and making detailed designs for production
  • Manufacturing – They take the design from the designers and manufacture the designs to meet the production volumes.
  • Marketing – They are responsible for the initial planning and market research stage. Later they market the products which are being produced by the organization

Co-ordination of these three teams ensures that the

  • Product is designed as per customer needs
  • The product is manufactured as per design
  • The Product plan is created keeping in mind the constraints on manufacturing and design.

What is a design concept with regards to product development?

  • Concept is a description of the form, function and features of a product and is usually accompanied by a set of specifications, an analysis of competitive products and an economic justification of the project.
  •  It is the core idea of what a product will be and everything else is built upon a concept.
  •  During the concept development is not uncommon to have 2 or more different concepts which may satisfy the market needs.
  •  Selection of the concept is generally based on knowledge of feasibility and economic viability.

Concept selection is generally not final, there may be change in concept at the later stage if there are any major issues

Knowledge and skillsets needed to develop a product at the most basic level

Complex products require domain specific in-depth knowledge and understanding, Simple products can be developed with a smaller team without the need for specialists. Development of a car requires an expert in Body design, an expert in engines, expert in chassis systems but development of a single mechanism for a simple application may just require a design engineer.

What kind of skills and knowledge are required in developing products?

  • Industrial design – Sketching and concept generation through brainstorming.
  • CAD – Development of 3D models and 2D drawings
  • Engineering analysis – involves the understanding and application of engineering concepts in analysis ranging from hand calculations to computational methods
  • Manufacturing processes – knowledge of what are the options in manufacturing designs what are the possibilities?
  • Materials – knowledge of materials, their properties and their usage cases.
  • The product development process – To provide direction to the whole effort
  • Prototyping skills – involves the skills of validating designs using prototyping
  • Economics - To understand the economics of developing the product and Design the product as per the cost.

Categories: Design process