Form, fit and function: Just a balancing game?

Bringing a new product to market can be likened to that of a simple balancing game. There is a fine margin indeed between producing something that not only gives your customer everything they want but what a business can realistically and economically manufacture. This compromise of creating a product for you and I, namely the customer, is not something that is undertaken by one person or an isolated team, but by many knowledgeable stakeholders across the business.

So how do we determine just what is important to a customer and how do we feed those needs and wants into the product development process? Well after all the customer, competitor and industry marketplace research has been undertaken and a basic concept drawn up, engineers are asked to provide detailed CAD data. The form, fit and function, or F3 Framework, is used to determine a characteristic of each part or single component, and therefore aids this scoping out process.

To cover this in slightly more detail, the ‘form’ naturally describes the shape, dimensions, mass and weight characteristics. The ‘fit’ sets out how it should physically interface with other parts and the ‘function’ conveys the action which the part is designed to perform. These set of rules, originating from the market research, essentially delineate how each part should look and operate and are used by engineers to create a bill of materials (BOM) and keep track of the overall cost.

Each and every time the physical properties of a prototype require adapting then a new part or parts will need to be recreated in CAD and indexed until the product has been signed off and given final approval. This circular process can sometimes take a long time to perfect, in terms of getting the balance right between producing an assembled product that a customer can or can’t use, and at the same time, that doesn’t break the bank, or the climate, to manufacture.