When you are involved in product development in the toy business pay attention to some of the following suggestions. I recommend using computer aided drafting and design (or what most people refer as CAD). Combine all your development work to include sketching and Three-D prototyping. Use mockups to confirm that the configurations of the parts make sense. Look at all the options. This is how to improve costing and engineering of the final details.
Many designers have the opinion that once they get the CAD of the product, they think they are done. They figure that the tooling and manufacturing engineers will take over. They assume that the functional details can be resolved in the tooling process. I don’t like it when design teams surrender control of the part design documentation…opting to run with “what they have so far.” They don’t keep track of how accurately the dimensions and design were followed.
In my 30 years of designing, I have designed products for Parker Brothers, CBS Toys, Crayola, Tyco and Tucker Toys. One of my favorite projects: “CRUSH IT BAT” proved to me that mechanical involvement, CAD design and analysis of part design is required throughout the process. Part drawings that define dimensionality need to be reviewed at different stages through the process to track quality issues and improve variations in the tooling.
I have seen problems arise when the drawings are not reviewed after the product gets out of the prototype stage. There were stages when I deliberately designed mold cavities to be “adjusted by engraving” to improve fit versus taking a position that the tool can’t be altered. Following that route means you have to scrap the tooling and design and start over again.
“CRUSH IT BAT” was designed in 2014. It was a great project. Mark Adkins, a well-respected toy designer, and others at Tucker Toys, came up with a concept of a bat that consisted of strings. The bat’s surface that hit the ball would be covered with strings that could be tightened …By turning the END or HUB of the BAT we could change the dynamics of how the ball performed when it was hit - either flying shorter or further.
I came into the project to bring mechanical solutions and configure parts into moldable forms. In the first prototype, we utilized WEED WACKER cord that ran back and forth from the hub to the handle grip area of the bat. Sketches, that I did, and the prototype that Adkins did were exchanged with the factory. Both their work and my CAD efforts helped to create the mechanism and part design. I was so glad Mike Goldman, (President of Tucker Toys) had me help on this project and others like it.
Once the factory made the prototype tool, I was able to continue to improve the design by sketching and manipulating the CAD files. I was able to show what variations could improve the structure of the internal stem and tightening screw area.
Another product line we worked on is called “PHLAT BALL”. And through the process, “PHLAT BALL” required continuous computer modeling. Sketches and rough mockups helped gain product managers confidence in the mechanisms. Initial concepts can be mechanically complex. So the proper functionality can hang in limbo until correct structural integrity is achieved. In meeting cost constraints - there have to be compromises in size, color and aesthetics. Some people believe that CAD defines the product from day one.
I suggest that there has to be a lot of sketching and rough modeling to be done well before the CAD rendition is even started.
I use a lot of Two-d layouts that most product managers can understand. They know that the box size has to be a certain size…to fit on the shelf and fit into an appropriate master carton dictated by the price and product category. I know when I can get the product’s piece count to be low enough – it will fit into a costing formula.
When I do my sketches, I do major exploded views that incorporate the ideas that come out of my discussions in meetings. I incorporate images of a few housing components, a few moving parts, and as few fasteners as possible. I create the parts so that their parting lines allow them to be able to drop out of the tool. The Two-d drawings are usually converted pdf’s in Adobe Illustrator. They are translated to DXF files for Autocad. They are created so that I can manipulate them as top, side or front views in my Three-d versions for SOLID Works and or PRO E CREO programs. There are times when I trace photographs or rough layouts and convert them to profiles that I bring into CAD design. I did this on CRUSH IT BAT.
Being able to provide sketches after the first CAD is done helps everyone make decisions. Refining the design further, can reduce part count or improve appearance.
For those of you not familiar with PHLAT BALL, is one of those products that transforms from a flat disc to a ball. Utilizing methods in Three-d modeling I am able to project surfaces, curves and silhouettes of moving parts of the ball, (like faces) onto surfaces of stationary parts. This is how I got the “Leaf Like Petals” of one half to fit perfectly inside the recesses of the Leaf Like petals of the opposite Half of the ball. In my continuous work with transforming products I will use these methods to define form and improve the fit between parts.
My future plans will use computer aided drafting, sketching, and Three-d prototype building in plush (fabric related) product design and die cut pattern design. Once an idea is launched, I am really motivated in making it a reality. I want to follow through and make a model.
Capturing children’s imagination in role playing related products is my newest area of interest. I will continue to be involved in sports related product design.
A designer who can manipulate forms and mechanisms in CAD is not going to complete the job as well as one who has a more advanced skill set. Designers need to sketch, draw and create rough layouts, assemble mockups, whether it is made with Styrofoam or printed in Three-d.
A designer should be able to create cross sections of every critical area so there are no assembly issues, or molding problems. The attached pictures show areas where I applied these techniques. Dimensions and spacing are critical to whether a part will work or fail.
Jack Lovewell, Sketchall Concept & Design. Jack has a twin, Frank, so here is the other half of the picture!