Few things in life are as satisfying as the process of R&D, short for Research and Development. Not every project goes through exactly the same phases, but in general the process goes like this:
- Identify an existing opportunity in a market, or identify a need that can be created, or get forced to create a solution for a pressing problem, or get talked into a project by a friend, or get a design brief from a client.
- Conceptualize a solution. As a mechanical engineer, the type of projects that I get involved in typically calls for a product or a machine to create a product.
- Design what has been conceptualized. There is no set formula that drives this process. It can take the form of pencil sketches, CAD design, physical shaping/forming by hand, or a combination of these.
- Prototype testing tends to be the most fun part of R&D. No matter how good a designer you are, there are always glitches that need to be understood and fixed.
- Mould/tool making. This is a whole subject on its own, as there are many possibilities here, depending on the nature of the product, material and process to be used, etc.
- Sourcing of suppliers. Often a new product or machine will call for new materials or new components and even new packaging, and a supply chain needs to be set up.
- Commissioning. The project is not over until the new machine is working or the new product is being shipped to customers.