Prototypes from adaption step prompt much improved design
By Tom Hoffman, CEO/President
The third episode of our Process series explored our Design step. As any engineer will attest, the proof of design is in the proverbial pudding. There are times when an engineering effort must return to the drawing board if an effort to adapt the design to actual hardware reveals unexpected or unanticipated issues.
Adaptation is R.M. Hoffman’s process to prove the suitability of the custom or semi-custom solution we’ve worked out with the customer. Once in a great while a case comes along that breaks all assumptions. This is such a case. It proves the value of the adaption step like no other.
In other words, it was not a Hoffman design. Yet, it intersected our well-oiled process at the adaptation step. This is where we acquire hardware and craft the design in our lab, leading to prototype(s) and validation testing.
As a reminder, our process starts with comprehensive discovery then shifts into design, all with customer involvement. In this case, neither discovery nor our design work preceded our efforts to build and test the assembly before proceeding with adaptation, prototype creation, validation and production. The design package in this interesting case came from a third party.
We treat our process seriously because high value components are always involved. And in this case, humans (patients) are the physical objective of the hardware. We were surprised, of course, when the third party design specs led swiftly to assembly problems during adaptation. This was just the beginning of our surprises.
Adaptation Lessons Lead to Re-design
Circling back a second time, we were able to acquire a new gearbox from a different vendor, modified with the required precision keyway. We modified the design accordingly and proceeded back through adaptation. Currently, we are making prototypes. Throughout the process, our intention has been to exceed customer expectations. We are nearly ready to build production assemblies.
This experience show how our process – exemplified by the adaptation step -- is truly a team effort. Our gearbox vendor gets kudos for swift action to ensure that their product meets the new requirements. The same accolades apply to our customer for clearly communicating their design requirements and quickly reviewing the adapted design.