Design for Manufacturing and Assembly | DFMA Principles Explained (2024)

In the past few decades, research into design thinking has engendered a new wave of methodologies in product design and manufacturing processes. These methodologies have saved billions in product development and ensured lower cost, higher competition and greater product reliability.

Among these methodologies, one of the most prominent ones, Design for Excellence (DFX), has since fragmented into smaller focus areas such as Design for Manufacturing (DFM), Design for Assembly (DFA), Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA), Design for Supply Chain (DFSC) and so on. In DFX, a focus such as cost, quality or ease of manufacturing is chosen and the product’s design is improved in regards to that aspect.

This article will explore the role of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA or DFM/A) in product design. DFMA represents a harmonious combination of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) and Design for Assembly (DFA), both of which we have discussed in separate articles previously.

What Is Design for Manufacturing and Assembly?

DFMA stands for Design for Manufacturing and Assembly. It is an engineering methodology that focuses on optimising the manufacturing and assembly aspects of a product. Both of these aspects have a high impact on the final product’s quality and cost.

Factors such as raw materials, manufacturing processes, volume, machinery, tooling, precision, number of parts and their complexity, labour and skills, automation potential, etc, are all very influential in product development. By optimising these factors alone, companies can drop the initial cost estimates by over 50%. This is the main intention of implementing DFMA principles.

In DFMA, the product design is continuously modified while keeping certain end goals in mind to arrive at a product that requires less time, money and effort to produce.

The Need for DFMA Methodology

Why do we need DFMA when we already have DFM and DFA? Let us start by reviewing our understanding of each.

Design for Manufacturing is concerned with maximising the manufacturing ease of a product. It employs techniques that make manufacturing faster, cheaper, and easier by improving the design and the manufacturing process.

On the other hand, Design for Assembly works to simplify, shorten and mistake-proof the assembly process. Principles such as poka-yoke, combining and standardising parts are all examples of DFA application.

Both DFM and DFA have similar objectives. They both aim to reduce material requirements, cost and time-to-market. But there are times when the two may work against each other. A net gain from DFM could lead to a net loss in DFA, essentially making the gain worthless.

Let’s take the example of combining parts from DFA “guidebook”. If fewer individual parts lead to a part that is expensive or difficult to manufacture, we gain little benefit from this DFA technique as DFM is affected negatively. Similarly, many DFM guidelines can reduce the effectiveness of a DFA technique.

To avoid such occurrences, it was prudent to look at the two methodologies of DFM and DFA together. This is how DFMA came to be. It uses DFA and DFM in tandem to arrive at an optimum product design. DFMA can help us leverage the advantages of both these methodologies without the disadvantages of either.

Benefits of DFMA

A well-structured DFMA application provides both short-term and long-term advantages. These advantages are indispensable to the creation of a sound product that can beat modern-day competitors. Some of the amazing benefits of DFMA are:

Shorter time to market

Time to market is defined as the duration between the idea generation phase and the introduction of a product to the market. Ideally, you’d want this time to be as short as possible. DFMA significantly reduces the time to market by simplifying the manufacturing processes and the assembly steps.

Lower product development cost

An efficient DFMA at the initial phase reduces the development costs by thinking ahead of time and resolving possible issues that may crop up later.

One of the leading experts on concurrent engineering and Design for Manufacturing, Dr. David Anderson explains that in DFM there is a “Rule of 10” which states that it costs 10 times more to fix defects at every successive stage of assembly. Thus, if rectifying a part defect costs x prior to assembly, it will cost 10x at sub-assembly, 100x at final assembly, 1000x at the distributor stage and 10.000x if the part has reached the customer.

DFMA removes the need for downstream design changes. It also recommends adding provisions for features that the manufacturer may want to add to a product at a later point in time.

Reduced wastage

DFMA aims to eliminate waste from the product and assembly design. It reduces the wastage of materials, motion, inventory and overprocessing. It also minimises defect risks and wait time by eliminating redundant manufacturing and assembly steps and unnecessary features.

Greater product reliability

Due to the high focus on preventing defects and increasing the benefit-cost ratio (BCR), DFMA products naturally become highly reliable and durable. The fewer number of parts in a DFMA-conscious product also helps to reduce the failure rate.

Quality control

DFMA improves communication and teamwork between different teams in a manufacturing setup. A well-coordinated product development effort between designers and manufacturing engineers, for instance, informs both teams about the best practices of each department to reach a certain end goal. This ensures a higher quality product within the allotted budget.

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DFMA Principles

DFMA is a vast methodology and many books have been written on this subject. It consists of a variety of principles. The application at hand is evaluated in light of these principles to create a DFMA-conscious product.

It is crucial that DFMA starts at the concept creation phase. The design stage is the most influential in determining many aspects of the product such as the quality, reliability and final price. Any decisions taken at this stage have far-reaching effects. Some of the common principles in DFMA that can be applied to a wide variety of products are as follows:

Simple design

Keeping the design simple is one of the tenets of design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA). A designer must strive for a clear and efficient product design. Removal of unnecessary features and components must be a priority.

Such a design is usually easier to manufacture and assemble. It also requires lower investment costs and relatively less time to manufacture and repair, if the necessity arises.

A complicated product geometry is unattractive besides being uncomfortable to use. You will find that it is actually more complex to create a simple design than a complex one. Remember the adage “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Opt for a modular design

A modular design breaks a product down into various modules, each of which performs a certain function. Such modules reduce the number of parts present in a family of products. For instance, a single laptop battery may be used in a number of different laptops. Same goes for other components such as a smartphone camera module. This type of design process has a positive effect on time to market, inventory, cost, customisation, sustainability and the possibility of future upgrades.

Easy and efficient fasteners

Most products require the use of some kind of fasteners and there’s a variety of options available on the market. Many fasteners may appear cheap on paper but their installation can be expensive and time-consuming. Moreover, fasteners can create a bottleneck in a factory’s manufacturing setup, often restricting production volume.

DFMA optimises the fastening process by recommending affordable fasteners that are also easy and cheap to install. Wherever possible, it prefers the use of snap-fit fastening methods. For a stronger bond, rivets can be chosen over screws. Due consideration to fastening methods can reduce manufacturing costs, waste, product weight and space requirements.


Design for Manufacturing and Assembly | DFMA Principles Explained (4)

Poka-yoke refers to the use of mistake-proofing techniques to improve the accuracy rates of assembly and manufacturing operations. The intention is to correct errors and defects as close to the source as possible by installing automatic/manual interlocks that prevent incorrect manufacturing and assembly of product parts. These interlocks ensure that a component can only be assembled in the correct orientation. Using asymmetry in product structure is one of the ways to ensure this. However, it must be noted that symmetrical products are easier to manufacture and assemble.

Reduce the number of parts

Reducing the number of parts is one of the most popular techniques in DFMA as in DFM and DFA. There are many advantages to this.

Each part draws from your team’s bandwidth logistically and financially. It will require specific tooling and fixtures. More parts will require more prototypes, manufacturing, individual analysis and assembly steps. It is always a good practice to consolidate part functions wherever possible.

Fewer parts reduce the amount of time required in manufacturing and fastening processes. It also reduces the assembly time and the chances of incorrect assembly.

Use standard parts

Standard parts are readily available, they’re also cheaper and have greater reliability than custom-made parts. DFMA advises preferring the use of standardised components wherever possible.

Be aware of process limitations

Many designers are unaware of suitable manufacturing processes and their capabilities when designing a product. By improving communication between different teams, DFMA ensures that designers make decisions that suit more economical manufacturing methods.

Use suitable tolerances

Tight tolerances can be very difficult to achieve. They require expensive production and measurement methods. Furthermore, parts with tighter tolerances are difficult to assemble. This increases the assembly costs through increased labour costs and scrap rates.

Wherever possible, the tolerances should be as loose as possible to keep the price down while maintaining functionality.

Other DFMA techniques

In addition to the above principles, some other DFMA techniques that improve the manufacturing and assembly ease are:

  • Remove flexible parts

  • Implement automation into the production process or make provisions for future automation potential

  • Make modifications for an easy assembly

  • Give due consideration to how the part will be handled and oriented during assembly and manufacturing operations

  • Design multi-functional parts

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly | DFMA Principles Explained (2024)


What are the principles in design for manufacturing & assembly? ›

The main principles of DfMA are: Minimise the number of components, and in so doing, reducing assembly and ordering costs, reducing work-in-process, and simplifying automation.

What is the main principle of design for manufacture? ›

General principles of DFM include designing objects for efficient assembly, the standardisation of materials and components, reducing the number of parts, and minimising the amount of manufacturing operations required on parts during assembly.

What are DFM and DFA explain with examples on your own? ›

Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is a design method to reduce the complexity of manufacturing operations and the overall cost of production including the cost of raw materials. Design for Assembly (DFA) is a design method to facilitate or reduce the assembly operations of parts or components of a product.

What are the 5 basic principle of design explain each principle? ›

The principles of design are the rules a designer must follow to create an effective and attractive composition. The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.

What are the 5 principles of design for manufacturing? ›

Design for Manufacturing operates on five key principles that are critically considered during the design phase of any project. These principles are process, design, materials, environment, and compliance.

What is the importance of design for manufacturing? ›

Design for manufacturing (DFM) is important because it's about creating the process for the product as much as the product itself. The design impacts every single part of production, from costs to timing to eventual customer satisfaction.

What is design for manufacturing with example? ›

An example of a Design For Manufacturing principle is to design for vertical assembly where parts are assembled in a straight down motion. This means gravity can be taken advantage of to provide positive location rather than a fixture. This also future proofs the design for a move from manual to robotic assembly.

What are the 4 main aspects of good design? ›

Effective design centres on four basic principles: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. These appear in every design.

What are DFM tools? ›

One such technique is design for manufacturability (DFM). DFM is the engineering practice of designing products to optimize their manufacturing ease and cost given form, fit, and function requirements.

What are the 4 aspects of design? ›

Everything you can see has a design. When you describe something you see, you use words that tell about the lines, shapes, colors, textures, and spaces. Line, shape, color, texture, and space are the basic elements of design.

What is DFM and why is it needed? ›

Designing for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFM or DFMA) is a critical part of the product development cycle. It involves optimizing the design of your product for its manufacturing and assembly process, merging the design requirements of the product with its production method.

What is DFA DFM and DfT? ›

To do this, we take all facets of DfX (Design for Excellence) into account; including DfM (Design for Manufacturing), DfA (Design for Assembly), and DfT (Design for Test).

What's the difference between DFM DFA & DFMA? ›

DFMA is a combination of two methodologies, Design for Manufacturing (DFM) and Design for Assembly (DFA). This combination enables a product design to be efficiently manufactured and easily assembled with minimum labor cost.

What are the 5 elements of design and its meaning? ›

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture. Graphic designers use the elements of design to create an image that can convey a certain mood, draw the eye in a certain direction, or evoke a number of feelings.

What are the 12 principles of design? ›

Understanding the basics

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity.

Why is it important to understand the principles of design? ›

The principles of design are the most important part of any design process. Without these principles, it would be very difficult for the users to understand the type of message that the designer is trying communicate.

What are the 10 main principles of design? ›

There are 10 principles of design in total! They're also known as the elements of visual design, and are: movement, balance, contrast, proportion, repetition, rhythm, variety, emphasis, harmony, and unity.

What are the 5 stages of the design process? ›

The short form of the design thinking process can be articulated in five steps or phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

What are the 8 key principles of design? ›

The eight principles of design every designer should know
  • Alignment. Making sure the elements of any design are aligned is essential. ...
  • Hierarchy. Hierarchy means putting your design's most important message or purpose front and center. ...
  • Contrast. ...
  • Repetition. ...
  • Proximity. ...
  • Balance. ...
  • Color. ...
  • Space.

What is step 7 in basic steps of design process? ›

Step 7: Improve

Prototypes are built quickly for a reason. Chances are that you will create a few of them while you perfect the design. Step seven is not so much a step as it is backtracking to the planning phase and determining what should be changed in your design, building a new prototype, and testing again.

What are the 9 design principles? ›

The main principles of graphic design are balance, contrast, emphasis, repetition and pattern, proportion, movement, white space, unity, and variety.

What is the main purpose of the design process? ›

The purpose of a design-process is to shape and guide your work and thoughts to improve the outcome.

What is the manufacturing design process? ›

Design for manufacturing is the process of designing to account for manufacturing constraints. This design process considers the assembly process, testing, and potential factory constraints in early design stages which helps prevent mistakes and makes the overall manufacturing process more efficient.

What is the main purpose of design? ›

A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process or the result of that plan or specification in the form of a prototype, product, or process. The verb to design expresses the process of developing a design.

What is DFM approval? ›

DFM is an engineering review to evaluate the manufacturing feasibility of a product design along with addressing and highlighting any manufacturing concerns that might be evident from the design prior to proceeding with tooling.

What are golden 4 rules in design process? ›

The UI design principals are:

Place users in control of the interface. Make it comfortable to interact with a product. Reduce cognitive load. Make user interfaces consistent.

Are there 7 elements of design? ›

There are fundamental principles of design that operate in tandem with concrete elements of visual design. Seven of these essential elements of design are: line, color, shape, form, value, space, and texture.

What are the 7 elements and principles of design? ›

What Are the Seven Principles of Design? The seven principles of art and design are balance, rhythm, pattern, emphasis, contrast, unity, and movement. Use the elements of art and design—line, shape/form, space, value, color, and texture—to create a composition as a whole.

What is the importance of principles of design? ›

The principles of design are made up of various mixes of the elements of design all put together in one picture, making the picture look better. When more than one principle is used together an artist can create artwork that will amaze people and get good publicity, hopefully benefiting the artist who made them.

What are the six main principles of design? ›

Start with the six principles of design: balance, pattern, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, and unity. Just as instructional design models and methodologies shape your training strategy, so should these principles shape your basic visual strategy. By applying them, you can create high-impact visuals.

What are the 7 elements of design explain the importance of each? ›

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture. Graphic designers use the elements of design to create an image that can convey a certain mood, draw the eye in a certain direction, or evoke a number of feelings.

What are the principles of design explain with example? ›

The elements, or principles, of visual design include Contrast, Balance, Emphasis, Movement, White Space, Proportion, Hierarchy, Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern, Unity, and Variety. These principles of design work together to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and optimizes the user experience.

What is the most important principle in design? ›

Hierarchy. One of the most important principles in design, hierarchy is a way to visually rank your design elements. Hierarchy is not based on a design styles, but rather the order of importance. A good design leads the eye through each area in priority order.

How many principles are there in GMP? ›

Every GMP guideline follows the 10 basic principles of WHO version.

What are the 6 types of manufacturing processes? ›

Six types of manufacturing processes
  • Job shop manufacturing. ...
  • Repetitive manufacturing. ...
  • Discrete manufacturing. ...
  • Batch process manufacturing. ...
  • Continuous process manufacturing. ...
  • 3D printing. ...
  • Machining. ...
  • Joining.

What are the 4 classification of manufacturing process? ›

Manufacturing processes are classified into six broad categories: forming, casting, moulding, joining, machining, and additive manufacturing.

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