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Designing machinery that will succeed in a competitive marketplace and make people want to use it requires a detail-oriented, thoughtful approach. Design team members must consider various aspects that will ultimately contribute to or detract from usability. Here are some actionable strategies to keep at the forefront of your mind throughout the design process.

1. Be Open to Using Newer Technologies

Some design principles are virtually timeless. However, many machine designers now use emerging technologies to help them reach conclusions faster and more confidently. Even if you’ve never tried them before, now is an excellent time to explore the possibilities and learn how people in positions similar to yours have applied them so far.

Digital Twins Allow Designing for Specific Needs

One possibility is to use a digital twin. They’re highly detailed, digitized versions of real-life assets. People use them to plan factory remodels and assess different what-if scenarios that could impact a company. As you might imagine, they’re also incredibly useful during all parts of the design process.

One company used several pumps to drill for oil and gas at various sites. Designing a digital twin for each asset gave representatives real-time operating information. They relied on that data to improve predictive maintenance strategies and better understand when each pump needed replacement parts.

Doing something similar when designing machinery is beneficial when you know customers will use your products in dusty environments or extreme temperatures. What impact do those factors have on how the product performs or how long it lasts? A digital twin can tell you those things and many more.

Artificial Intelligence Offers Takeaways From Massive Amounts of Data

Artificial intelligence (AI) has rapidly changed many industries, from agriculture to health care. People and organizations use AI differently, but one popular application is to have algorithms find patterns and other valuable details in huge amounts of data. This enables learning things in minutes or days that might have taken months or years to discover.

Previous artificial intelligence applications have included helping mechanical engineering students learn better and predicting which parts of a structure are most likely to experience high stress.

A more recent example particularly applicable to designers involves using AI to analyze the friction between two surfaces. Once an algorithm detects damage caused by parts rubbing together, it can make changes. The components come into contact less often, which should mitigate the issue.

This application centres on what the researchers call “morphing materials,” which can alter based on environmental conditions. Even so, it’s a fascinating example of using AI to tackle undesirable consequences.

2. Make the Machine Easy to Maintain

Understanding the intended application and functionality is the first step in designing a product. However, after ironing out those foundational principles, people making machinery must explore the most practical ways to help future owners perform maintenance.

Numerous things can cause machines to fail prematurely. However, designers can plan for many of them and reduce the associated risks by making certain choices. For example, water or coolant getting into a part of the machine where it doesn’t belong could cause corrosion. Designing the product to keep at-risk areas clean and dry minimizes the chances of that outcome.

Besides assessing the potential risks and designing to reduce them, people must always ensure the machines they create are easy to maintain. That’s the defining principle around an approach called design for maintenance. Designers following it understand that ease of upkeep is necessary and build their machines accordingly.

What Constitutes Ease of Maintenance?

Ease of maintenance is a broad idea. It could mean that:

  • People can easily get spare parts for the machine
  • Interchangeable components are available
  • Workers can quickly access the parts they need to change
  • It’s easy to identify all the machine’s components
  • All parts are standardized
  • The equipment has fault-isolation and error-identification features

However, many benefits occur when it’s easy to perform upkeep on the machine. When people perceive it’s too hard to give equipment the necessary attention, they may wait longer than they should to do it. That could lead to gradual performance degradation. Conversely, if it’s extremely hard to maintain a machine and people need highly specialized skills, finding trained technicians in some areas could be too challenging.

The workplace could become safer when people prioritize designing machinery for ease of maintenance. Managers who wait too long to change a part or fix a machine with a visible leak increase safety risks that put others in danger.

3. Prioritize User-Friendliness When Designing Machinery

A well-designed machine is usually easy to learn how to operate. Even items requiring highly specialized training and knowledge should still be straightforward enough to interact with.

Designers should put themselves in the position of the average person who will use this machine. Which features would they most appreciate? Which aspects of similar equipment have people complained about? How could you make seemingly small but meaningful decisions that make daily use of the product more enjoyable?

Another thing to consider is whether you’re building a wholly new machine or an updated model of an existing one. If it’s the latter, pay attention to feedback from people who have used the earlier version. What did they like the most and which aspects did they find most frustrating?

It’s also valuable to get input from groups of future potential users when developing a new machine. Do they currently have equipment comparable to what you’re building? What are their favourite characteristics of it and where do they feel the design falls short?

Companies have also made various improvements to how machines connect and communicate. Spending time designing those relevant aspects could be important, especially if one of the main selling points is that people can link devices to get more done faster.

Designing Machinery With Care Is Worthwhile

When a piece of machinery is well-designed, customers are likely to love it. There’s also a higher likelihood that the machine will last as long as its expected life span and that the product will not be recalled due to future problems. These are some of the main reasons why it pays to give yourself plenty of time when designing machinery and not try to rush the process. The decisions you make now will help your company or client reap benefits in the future.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over six years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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