What's the Difference Between DFM, DFA, and DFMA?

28 September 2022
What's the Difference Between DFM, DFA, and DFMA?

The different stages of manufacturing from product design to product assembly is a series of complex processes that requires meticulous planning. In today's competitive business landscape where any error in the design and manufacture of products can quickly spiral into massive consumer backlash and global recalls, companies must adopt the best manufacturing approaches as it helps ensure that processes are efficient and cost-effective. In addition, such an approach will also ensure that only the top-of-the-line products are launched to the market.

So, what are the processes that promise ease of manufacturing and the shortest go-to-market timeline? Let PCI explain more about these three design concepts, as we explore the interrelationships and differences between Design for Manufacturing (DfM), Design for Assembly (DfA), and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA).

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Design for Assembly

This design approach emphasises having as few parts or components as possible. Simply put, when there are lesser parts, it will be easier to assemble the product. Also, it will take up lesser time, and is also more sustainable as it does not cost as much since there are fewer materials.

These are the guiding principles when adopting DfA:

  • A product should be made of as few parts as possible.
  • The various parts must be easy to assemble.
  • Avoid smaller parts that are hard to manage and assemble.
  • Using parts or components that can be aligned in a certain orientation to increase the ease of assembly.
  • The final product should be durable and easy to disassemble.

When DfA is executed correctly, manufacturers can reap many benefits such as:

  • Reduced production time.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Reduction of material wastage.
  • Increase the chance of manufacturing reliable products.
  • Reduce the disassembly process.
  • Increase production efficiency through automation.


Design for Manufacturing

This design approach advocates the minimising of the manufacturing operations' complexities. It focuses on ways to simplify the product by making individual parts and components easy to get or cost-efficient to manufacture.

Some of the key guiding principles to consider when adopting DfM include:

  • Understanding the cost of fabricating every individual part rather than the whole product.
  • Looking for components that can reduce the overall production costs without compromising quality and reliability.
  • Focus on making the parts in such a way that DfA becomes an easier process to adopt.
  • Design products for efficient assembly, where possible, do it without screws, fasteners, and/or adhesives.

When DfM is executed correctly, manufacturers can reap many benefits such as:

  • Reduce the costs of having to redesign a product in the future.
  • Lowered costs for material, labour, setup, and tooling.
  • Better or more consistent quality control.
  • Simplifies and standardises designs.
  • Expedite to-go-market timelines to boost customer satisfaction.


Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

As the name suggests, DfMA is an amalgam of DfA and DfM. Simply put, DfMA is a set of guidelines used to ensure that a product is designed for easy assembly and manufacturing. To truly leverage DfMA, these are the guidelines that manufacturers should adhere to:

  • Develop a modular design before going into manufacturing the product.
  • The product should be multi-functional.
  • Eliminate parts that are unnecessary and too expensive to incorporate.
  • Focus on the individual components rather than the sum of all parts.
  • Ensure that each part is easy to fabricate or replace so that there is no need to replace the product, hence the need for a modular design.

For DfMA to be useful, it should be introduced at the early stages of product development. DfMA should be coupled with functional analysis to assess the relationship between product functions. Such analysis will offer valuable insights into the target audience, aid in the generation of ideas before the design is finalised and identify modular functions or features that can add value to the final product.


Difference Between DfM, DfA, and DfMA

As described in the earlier section, DfMA is a combination of both DfA and DfM. The objective of DfMA is to design products in such a way that the ease of assembly and component manufacturing are increased. Also, because it has a good overview of the entire manufacturing and assembly designs, DfMA can further streamline any unnecessary or overlapping functions, parts, or processes to make the product development process even more efficient.

As for DfA, it focuses on simplifying the product structure since the total number of components in a product is one of the key indicators of design quality. Fewer parts equate to a more efficiently assembled product. For example, the assembly of a product with 10 parts will take a shorter time as compared to one that has 15 parts. Fewer parts also imply more cost savings.

On the other hand, DfM is focused on minimising the complexity of one's manufacturing operations through the assessment of the cost of fabricating individual parts. The process attempts to reduce features on machined components for cost reduction or improvement of quality. Essentially, DfM aims to make DfA an easier process to achieve, as components are not always evaluated based on cost alone, hence the need to assess the ease of assembly.

To illustrate how DfMA, DfA, and DfM differ, let's assume a product has 21 parts. From DfA's point of view, the objective may be to reduce the number of parts to 14 so that assembly will be quicker and easier. Using DfM, the focus will be on how to fabricate each of the 14 parts at a lower cost. When it comes to DfMA, the design may require tweaking to accommodate fewer parts, such as reducing the total number to seven, then deriving cheaper alternatives to fabricating the seven parts so that the entire project will benefit from significant cost savings and ease of assembly.

Which design concept to adopt largely depends on business objectives and which stage of product development the project is at. Preferably, DfMA should be introduced at the ideation phase to reap maximum benefits.


Engage an Experienced Electronics Manufacturing Services Provider

In today's competitive landscape, partnering up with an experienced Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider that is well-versed in all the above design concepts (DfMA, DfA, and DfM) is essential for businesses to produce world-class product designs and manufacture them with efficient assembly.

For businesses that are unfamiliar with these design philosophies, reach out to us for a consultation. Here at PCI, we provide one-stop turnkey solutions to clients that are at their early stages of product development. From product design, firmware development, to PCB assembly, we have the expertise, facilities, and experience to support projects of any scale.

Email or call us to discuss a project, and we will outline what we can do for you, how much it will cost, and the timeline for completing it. Our dedicated customer service team will provide a comprehensive proposal customised to your requirements.

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Leveraging design concepts like DfMA, DfA, and DfM can be rewarding for any product development that needs cost optimisation, labour, and the simplifying of manufacturing assembly processes. Suffice to say that companies that embrace these efficient design-to-manufacturing approaches are more likely to reap the best possible outcomes and launch their products to the market at the shortest lead time with greater success. For businesses that have yet to integrate DfMA, DfA, and DfM in their processes, partnering an EMS provider that is well-versed with the various design concepts can fast-track your product development journey with unmatched productivity. Here at PCI, clients can gain access to PCI's strength in product design, firmware development, and PCB assembly to stay relevant in the ever-evolving market.