Engineering is defined as applying knowledge and principles to problem solving and utilizing a process to design solutions. Engineers typically rely heavily on scientific knowledge and principles when it comes to overcoming obstacles, but what process do they use to get to the end result? The answer to that question would be the design loop, a series of steps engineers will follow when coming up with design solutions for problems. There isn’t one process with the same exact steps that all engineers follow. Companies that offer engineering design services will typically have their own spin on how to get from point A to point B, but all design processes generally start with a problem and end with a solution.
The Basic Three-Step Loop
The design loop can best be explained in three simple steps. It begins with idea generation, then moves to implementation. From implementation, it moves to testing and then back to idea generation, because it is common for new ideas to be generated during the testing phase. Engineers will have different ways of getting from step to step, but these three basic steps can be found in most design processes.
Tying It Together
Here are some steps that work well when incorporated into the three-step design process for effective solution and product development:
Understand and define the problem: This is an extremely key first step in the process. In order for a problem to be successfully solved, it must first be fully understood.
Explore all possible solutions: In this step, engineers will research solutions to the problem and the ways they can be used.
Define the solution goals: Here, the goal of the solution is defined, rather than how it will be accomplished.
Idea generation: Here is where the idea generation step of the loop would be inserted. This is when the engineer brainstorms ideas on how to reach the end goal and how the solution will be carried out.
Prototype: Engineers make mock-up versions of some of the ideas they have generated.
Choose a solution: Now that the engineer has come up with several solutions, it is time to choose the best based on goals and prototype results.
Refine and validate: In this step, it is time to make the concept more real. Details are crucial. For instance, in medical device development, the engineer will need to confirm that the design solution will meet specifications and intended use.
Design review: This is an approval process for the design.
Implementation: This is the implementation step of the loop. The design is put into action.
Testing: In the testing part of the loop, engineers determine how well the solution worked.
We recommend you don’t get stuck in the loop! As engineers, we tend to suffer from analysis paralysis and at some point, we need to accept the best option and move the process forward. Most industrial design firms in Philadelphia have a project management team that are the motivators for forward progress. Any product design and development project starts with an idea and will require a partner that offers engineering design services to move your idea into the Design Loop.