Have you ever made the observation of how products get smaller? Have you ever looked at computers from the 70s and compared them to today’s computers, and asked, how did that happen?
As engineers and designers, we do that all the time. We do it in part because we’re curious about things and we do it because that’s our job. In fact, we do it so much, we even have a name for it, which is, Design for Cost.
The best example of our work doing this is the SwiftPaws pulley. The SwiftPaws pulley, as seen on Shark Tank, was designed by the team at Catania. That system was put together to serve as a toy for dogs. The first pulley was designed for size and strength. However, if you watch the episodes from Shark Tank, you will see that the challenge with the system is the cost to produce. While it was designed to withstand the challenges of wear and tear by our pets, the too-market cost was too high. So, we went to work, looking for ways to improve the product without compromising on quality or the end-user experience.
The process known as Design for Cost required our designers and engineers to look at the original design and ask, how can we get the same functionality and durability at half the size? Where can we cut back and make it more efficient? And what areas need to remain the same?
Within those questions, we decided to go with the easy target first. For us, that was downsizing the pulley. This was the most-simple reduction of the overall scale of the product and immediately bring down some costs. However, whenever you reduce a product in total scale you must always test it to maintain functionality. So, once the new pulley was designed we printed it out, using our in-house 3D printing system, to save us time and energy in making mistakes.
Second, once we knew the pulley would work we looked to cut back in other areas of scale. We made note that the original pulley housing was overdone and added a great deal of cost and process to produce. When looking at it critically, we noted that it was made from six separate design parts that needed to be assembled in production. To simplify, we designed a unique one-piece clasp that wrapped around the pulley and secured it, and the pulley line, in place. Wha-la!
In the end, the new SwiftPaws pulley should reduce the cost of each pulley by as much as 80%, allowing SwiftPaws to pass on savings to their customers. This change and a few others will bring the price point down and let our client service a broader market. We couldn’t be more proud.