THE R.M. HOFFMAN DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT PROCESS FOR THE MOTION CONTROL INDUSTRY WHITE PAPER
Culminating a year of blogging, R.M. Hoffman has assembled a guide to the company's value-added design and development process. The guide unites six discrete steps or phases into an illustrated discourse to assist new customers seeking custom or semi custom motion solutions to difficult engineering problems.
The guide's six sections cover discovery; design; adaptation; prototype creation; validation; and production of the motion control hardware. Spanning 11 pages with color illustrations and infographics, R.M. Hoffman Company’s Value-Added Design and Development Process for the Motion Control Industry is being distributed free as a PDF document.
Tom Hoffman, CEO and President, said "With experience spanning several decades, we've refined our approach to custom and semi-custom motion solutions. Our well-lubricated process is fully explored in this guide, which encourages new customers to bring us their tough motion problems. We are good at solving them and this guide shows how we work. The examples are brief mini case studies of keen interest."
The guide may be downloaded here.
Hoffman’s well-developed business process for motion solution design comes full circle
Last summer, we introduced our blog audience to R.M Hoffman’s well-developed process for value-added design and development of unique, problem-solving motion control solutions. In successive episodes we examined these steps:
• Discovery – where we learned about your requirements and engaged in research toward useful solutions
• Design – a collaborative endeavor to arrive at a probable solution
• Adaptation – interactive bench testing to ferret out and resolve problems; redesign and needed
• Prototype creation –proof of both concept and manufacturability
• Validation – pre-production quality control and final design tuning
Our Sunnyvale, CA facility has assembled literally hundreds of solutions as the direct result of the value-added process. Typical new projects call for as few as two dozen assemblies. Some projects run into several hundred. Depending on the availability of special components and/or the need to subcontract certain parts, customers should allow between 12 and 18 weeks to finish production.
In most cases – owing to the precision and material strength requirements embodied in motion control – we subcontract components that require machining, CNC milling and laser metal cutting. Just as our customers have learned to place trust in us, we’ve developed strong relations with reliable vendors. At any given moment, of course, our vendors need to slot our job into their flow.
Hoffman’s chief role during the production phase is two-fold. First, our Sunnyvale facility serves as the assembly plant. We organize the bill of materials right here. Next, our experienced assembly techs employ quality control best practices as they turn parts into final products.
Our production process – like yours – is governed by a design package that includes the bill of materials, drawings and specifications. If you called upon us several years down the road to produce the same assembly again, we retain the documentation to enable success.
Now that we’ve closed the circle, perhaps you’d like to review the full blog series in a single document. We are building the e-book! R.M. Hoffman’s Value-Added Design Process will be ready soon.
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.
Teamwork and quality data are at the heart of design process
By Tom Hoffman, CEO/President
During the discovery process preceding the design meeting, Hoffman establishes non-negotiable elements like the physical envelope, materials and technical mandates for RPM, torque, gear train backlash, and available electrical and environmental requirements. “This arms us with an understanding of the negotiable elements and specifications that are variable. We also consider both upstream and downstream possibilities for incorporation into our design,” says Krieger, “Customers are always appreciative of the extra steps.”
Our custom project veteran, Ray Krieger, leads many design sessions. Ray says most design meetings wrap up in about an hour. And most of them take place in one or more of three ways:
• Simple teleconference
• E-mail conversations
• If complex ideas need to be aired and discussed, Hoffman uses services like Citrix’ GoToMeeting so that computer screens can be shared.
One example of a successful design process is the forward-looking infrared assembly shown on the left. The design needed to meet aircraft rating standards. And it had to withstand excessive vibration during flight. By discovering these requirements in advance, at the design meeting we were able to offer an optimal motor drive and ideal linear actuator. We knew in advance what we could provide in terms of motion adapters and vibration mounts. Read more about the solution here.
Most design meetings employ a simple agenda -- there is no pro-forma script to be followed. Once everyone is conferenced-in, we ask the customer to update the requirements.
To the extent feasible, our engineering team always
- Looks first to our extensive line card of off-the-shelf mechanical motion hardware -- linear actuators, motors, gear trains etc.
- Years of working with our mechanical motion OEMs gives us a leg up when factory modifications to a standard product can solve the problem.
- In other cases, we have been able to make modifications in-house.
Some projects require a fully customized solution. Our engineers are prepared for demanding requirements -- after all, customers come to us because they have been unable to arrive at a local solution. And most of our projects use mechanical component designs that we outsource to trusted and accommodating machine and metal craft shops that we have partnered with for years.
The deliverable in this process step is the priced proposal including prototypes (assuming that all parties are comfortable with the scope and terms of the project). Upon acceptance, Hoffman gets to work building the prototypes. Once they are ready, we meet again to evaluate and adapt the assembly for the problem.
Decades of field engineering experience guide our process, steering customers to manufacturable solutions
¬By Tom Hoffman, President/CEO, R.M Hoffman Company
We call our initial engagement with value-added clients our discovery process. When we meet (usually, on the phone or via computer teleconference), we’ll engage in an informal field-proven approach represented as Step 1 in the infographic. Our objective is to discover everything knowable. Successive steps beginning with Design rely on no surprises. Like you, we don’t want false starts.
Brake and gearbox assembly designed and manufactured by R.M. Hoffman to solve a challenging human safety issue (cantilevered human load) in a medical diagnostic system used at hospitals and clinics. Read about the solution here.
Our team consists of veteran engineers with a combined resume that is second to none. We build our team for your specific issue, selecting backgrounds, skill sets and team member experiences most likely to achieve a best-practice approach. With decades of field work, R.M. Hoffman’s resources represent a storied history with a high success rate.
To the extent possible, we’ll ask you to supply the following information in advance or during our discovery meeting. By working closely with you as a team, R.M. Hoffman gains needed information and clear understanding. Flexibly, we know that data changes unexpectedly at times.
- Your type of business and industry
- Clear statement(s) of the problem. More than one point-of-view is welcome
- Background — you’ll tell the story of how this issue developed
- Solutions you’ve tried that have failed or fallen short
- CAD files, photographs, blueprints, engineering drawings of impacted mechanisms
- Videos and photos that demonstrate the problem
- Specifications for connected system hardware
- Special design and engineering concerns. For example, is human health and safety involved? Will the hardware need to survive a high-debris environment? Any standards (such as OSHA) to meet?
- Equipment duty cycle and efficiency needed
- Equipment certifications required
- Specific physical objectives:
- Voltage, torque, speed, configuration specifics
- Must the solution fit a specific physical envelope?
- Does the operating environment rule out – or rule in – the use of electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic motion devices?
- Is the solution destined for an “intrinsically safe” environment (e.g., process control of combustibles)
- Will the solution need to accommodate fieldbus sensors? Which?
- Will the solution include integration into a PLC or DCS (e.g., shaft encoder, sensors)?
Our Interview Produces a Proposal
We often learn about mechanical motion problems during routine sales engineer visits. And sometimes our phone rings. An anxious client asks for help. Hoffman immediately engages our discovery process. As soon as we gather needed information, test the data and agree to a tentative schedule, R.M. Hoffman will generate a design concept proposal for prototypes and an estimate for production.
On approval, the design effort begins without delay. In addition to the discovery steps enumerated above, there are inevitable questions on both sides of the table so team work is our style.
Future blog episodes will offer more in-depth examples. NEXT UP: Our design process. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our wide range of successful projects and read other Blog episodes. You’ll be able to get in touch quickly to begin Step 1 with no obligation. CLICK HERE.
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Field-tested process ensures a quick route to solutions that solve motion design problems
By Tom Hoffman, President/CEO, R.M. Hoffman Company
One example of many. Hoffman custom crank arm drive designed to fit a tight envelope while delivering high torque (3ø motor), no backdriving in the wormgear. Industry: semiconductor manufacturing.
R.M. Hoffman continues to build upon nearly 60 years experience in design, engineering and production for demanding clients who have high-value motion control and factory automation requirements. When mechanical design problems crop up – problems not amenable to usual or easy in-house solutions – Hoffman’s has the reputation as the go-to solution partner to bring in.
There’s a good story behind our reputation. Could it be as simple as the enforcement of a clear, proven, well-defined process? We’ve decided that it’s time to blog about it, trumpeting our proven capability to support motion customers. You’ll learn who/what/where/when/why and how, getting a leg up in advance of needing our services.
Our customers have much in common
Hundreds of high-value projects have been handled at Hoffman’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Clients who partner with us share many qualities:
R.M. Hoffman’s Rapid Response Engineering Design Process
About Our Blog
The R.M. Hoffman Company blog is dedicated to bringing mechanical design engineers the latest motion industry information. As your value-added design and development partner, we invite you to explore our blog for insightful articles, engineering best practices and motion design solutions that directly impact your world and ours.