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Product platform design: method and application


In this paper we focus on scale-based product families derived from scalable product platforms that can be exploited from both a functional and a manufacturing standpoint to increase the potential benefits of having a common platform. While many companies have been successful with scalable product platforms, few, if any, have instituted a systematic approach to design (i) the product platform and (ii) the corresponding family of products which are scaled around the product platform. Accordingly, in this paper we address the following question: How can a scalable product platform and its resulting product family be efficiently and effectively modeled, analyzed, and designed?

After a comprehensive review of the literature we introduce the Product Platform Concept Exploration Method (PPCEM) which has been developed to facilitate the design of a family of products based on a scalable product platform. By way of illustration, we design a family of ten universal electric motors that are scaled around a common motor platform to realize a variety of torque requirements. Further, to mitigate the paucity of examples in this domain, we provide detailed information for the universal electric motor example to enable other researchers to benchmark their methods with this example. We evaluate the effectiveness of the PPCEM by comparing the family of motors obtained using the PPCEM to a group of individually optimized motors. We evaluate the efficiency of the PPCEM by comparing the computational expense of designing the family of motors using the PPCEM to that of optimizing each motor individually. We conclude that the PPCEM provides an efficient and effective means to design a scalable product platform and corresponding product family, promoting increased commonality within the product family with minimal performance tradeoff.

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Correspondence to Timothy W. Simpson.

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Revision received: 30 March 2001

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Simpson, T.W., Maier, J.R. & Mistree, F. Product platform design: method and application. Res Eng Design 13, 2–22 (2001).

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  • Product family Product platform Commonality Universal electric motor