From theory to practice - a journey along the product development process

The importance of mechanics, design & equipment construction in PDP

An idea as the basis for every product: it usually arises from everyday situations, is not yet defined initially and must be concretised for the product to be successful. The earlier the mechanical development departments are involved in the product development process, the better the project can be supported. André Bisig, mechanics developer at STEINEL Solutions AG, takes you on a journey through the product development process and classifies the importance of design and mechanics.

An idea gives rise to a product. In a first step, this idea must be specified in a requirements catalogue, i.e. use cases must be described and concrete indications of the area of application must be provided. This catalogue of requirements serves as the basis for the specifications, in which the customer defines the most important points and communicates time requirements.

Once the idea has been concretised and described, the project starts with the feasibility study.

Phase 1: Feasibility / Concept

In this phase of product development, it is checked whether the idea is feasible. The core task of mechanical development in this phase is to shed technical light on the customer's task and to look for and compare possible solutions for the requirements. It is about the housing, the interfaces, the tooling and later assembly in production, because these in turn have an influence on the required operating equipment.

Thanks to the complete package of electronics, mechanical and test equipment construction and tool manufacture that STEINEL Solutions offers in the field of product development, an optimum match is made at an early stage with in-house manufacturing expertise.

Once the feasibility phase is complete, there is an initial, production-optimised design proposal for the new product and a product concept that defines the parts required, mainly central system components, as well as interfaces. Now, operating resources and tools can be budgeted and the development effort can be estimated in a fairly accurate range.

Thanks to the many years of experience with implementations in a wide range of industries that our development specialists bring to the table, STEINEL sets down the general conditions in a requirements specification after the feasibility study. Once all the important information has been collected internally, a channelled exchange of knowledge and findings takes place with the customer.

Assessment | André Bisig:


«Ideas for new products usually come directly from the customers, they know the industry and the application of their products in practice. Once the idea has been concretised in a catalogue of requirements or specifications, the consultation starts as an important part of my work. We know which questions to ask, which points to clarify and which details are crucial for successful implementation. Ideas for optimising new and existing products often come from STEINEL


«The feasibility study is of central importance for the entire project. On the one hand, it is about creating a common understanding of the product, but also the market (area of application) and the business model (transport/logistics). On the other hand, a cost- and production-optimised realisation of the product is to be ensured - and this in as short a time-to-market as possible. Thanks to our agile setup and many years of experience, we can offer great added value here, because the smooth, interdisciplinary interaction between all the specialists involved from the fields of mechanics, electronics, technical office, project management to purchasing is extremely important. In addition to physical and technical requirements, the financial requirements, tasks to be performed, hourly estimates, necessary approvals, correct choice of materials and alternative parts are also determined

Phase 2: Development

The product concept created for the components reaches prototype status in the development phase. With the help of CAD, the individual components are designed with the inclusion of the process technologies and consideration of the corresponding standards, and the complete assembly is created. 

The core task of mechanical development is to optimally adapt the design to the subsequent production technology, as this differs depending on whether the component is a plastic housing produced by injection moulding or sheet metal parts. The overall goal is to optimise production, costs and interfaces. The development of a manufacturing concept that defines how the various parts are to be brought together, e.g. by clicking or screwing, is therefore also part of this project phase.


Mechanical development work (yin) is closely interwoven with electronics development (yang); the symbiosis ultimately leads to the product. Cooperation between the specialists involved in the project is essential for a successful project and an optimally implemented end product. 

For example, it is checked at regular intervals whether the designed enclosures also fit the planned electronic parts and which connection points are important. The mechanics department also supports the electronics development department with provisional test set-ups for carrying out measurements.

The communication channels at STEINEL between the departments and the project management are very short, which is an enormous advantage. Especially when it comes to clarifying details within the team.

In the next step, the manufactured parts are assembled into a prototype that is as close as possible to the final product. As the name suggests, the focus of these functional samples is on functionality. However, the assembly can also be used to visualise the design, the customer holds samples in 3D in his hand for the first time or cables can be inserted on a test basis, for example. 

Thanks to our in-house 3D printer with SLS process (selective laser sintering), a wide variety of functional samples can be printed out in a very short time. This enables rapid findings on individual functions and ensures agility and flexibility. 

If more stable materials are required, a wide variety of parts can be manufactured in STEINEL's in-house mechanics department using machining processes. For special cases, STEINEL has a large network of external partners who can be contacted if necessary. 

Once the product has been developed to this stage and is as far as possible ready, a mechanical and electronic design and process FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) is carried out with the aim of finding and evaluating potential sources of error early on in the product development process and taking appropriate action. 

As soon as the customer has accepted the prototype, the industrialisation phase begins.

Assessment | André Bisig:


«One of our added values is that, in addition to electronics, we also offer mechanical development, equipment and test equipment construction. At STEINEL, we work together in interdisciplinary teams of specialists who are all in one office. As a mechanics developer, my colleagues in electronics development are important contacts. A successful project team also includes our project manager as well as a technical contact at the customer. Because we work according to agile project management methods at STEINEL, we can react very quickly to changing requirements or framework conditions.»

André Bisig developing a mechanical component.


«The change from design (theory) to mechanics (practice) ensures great variety and sound knowledge in both areas in our department. Under real conditions, we can best test and check prototypes for their functions thanks to mechanical devices. Here, of course, we also like to go the extra mile. For example, we did an endurance test on buttons of a control unit with a pneumatic device or moved a latching hinge back and forth 10,000 times, to name two examples.»

André Bisig works on a sample from the 3D printer.

Phase 3: Industrialisation & test series

The industrialisation phase is of central importance for series production and another central task of design and mechanics. The fact that the services of mechanics and equipment construction are offered from a single specialist department while at the same time ensuring proximity to production is a speciality and a major advantage at STEINEL Solutions. 

While production equipment is built in Einsiedeln, STEINEL has other specialists in the Group who deal exclusively with tool procurement, including injection moulding tools, for example. The focus is on lean management, as the production flow is to be made as efficient as possible. 

The operating equipment, including assembly jigs, screwing jigs, punching jigs or soldering frames are evaluated, designed and later realised on the basis of the 3D data and the prototypes or first test series parts. Depending on the planned quantities and the customer's requirements, the equipment is automated, semi-automated or designed for manual use.


An example of a piece of equipment that was designed and built in Einsiedeln to meet customer-specific requirements is a plug-in tongue press. Six plug-in tongues each are pressed into two SMD assembled PCBs at the same time and twelve plugged-in tongues are tested in the same work step.

Another example is a UV exposure unit with automatic drawer opening for UV adhesive curing, in which the inserted parts are exposed evenly so that the UV adhesive is also cured evenly.

Small bending devices for PIR sensors, swivelling soldering devices, bending press devices or rubber spacers for e.g. SENSOTEC HB PIR Wire are also manufactured in-house.

If tools, operating and testing equipment are available, the test series follows, which is also carried out in Einsiedeln. The parts are compared with the drawing and checked for their mechanical function. In addition, the tool capability is checked for the last time by means of an initial sample test report.

Depending on the product, various tests are carried out on the end product either internally or externally at this stage, such as bonding tests or leak tests. Various measuring equipment is available in the STEINEL Group, including an IP test facility, a measuring machine or a 3D scanner. Tests under real conditions are thus part of the daily routine, for example standardised drop tests without packaging from various heights or impact tests on a linear luminaire using a pendulum with a large ball (500gr or 5kg) that smashes against the luminaire with momentum. STEINEL also has a rain chamber and a climatic chamber in which parts are tested for temperature and humidity under high demands and by running through or setting different cycles - warm cold, dry damp and time-dependent.

If the tests are successful, the parts are released. Process safety is ensured with operating and test equipment capability certificates and work instructions.

Assessment | André Bisig:


«The importance of industrialisation has increased greatly, the test concept is of central importance for market success and approval. Products are becoming smarter, more complex and smaller at the same time. For example, larger cable harnesses have to be fitted into smaller spaces. The proximity between development and production is decisive for success in pilot production. We can solve many issues hand in hand. This keeps the communication channels short and saves us valuable time!» 

André Bisig and Reto Schmid, Head of Assembly & Test, examine a testing device.


«In any case, the assembly of the equipment takes place at our premises. We assemble the ordered parts, test them and optimise them where necessary. It is therefore of great added value that the designers can access their own mechanical department with specialists as well as the internal mechanical workshop. We have a wide range of machinery at our disposal. This includes gluing robots, ultrasonic welding systems, painting robots, potting systems, and much more.»

One of several glueing robots at STEINEL.


«Before each commissioning of a test device, the device must be inspected, individually adjusted and, if necessary, adapted. It is crucial that a functioning test concept is created before series production. Safety is the top priority here, in addition to high product quality, above all the safety of the end user. We have many years of experience in creating successful test concepts, which is a great advantage for customers.»

André Bisig works on the inside of a testing device.


«Optimisation measures come from the customer or they are suggested by STEINEL. For example, we extended the housing of a ceiling sensor with an additional «slot» to make it easier to install and remove the sensor. For another product, we developed a "clamping point" to enable the slider to be held more firmly in the mould. The constant checking and optimisation of various fixtures and equipment in production also falls within the scope of design and mechanics, as does checking their functionality and handling.»

IPA by an apprentice; Universal test fixture for printed circuit boards.

Phase 4: Series start-up / pilot series

All documents, including parts lists, equipment, production times, work instructions or test specifications are updated again shortly before the series release with the so-called pilot series. 

In this phase, various mechanical tests are carried out in internal and external test laboratories as part of the approval process in accordance with standards. These include IP tests, IK, vibration, shock, transport tests and others. One of STEINEL Solutions' areas of expertise is monitoring the approval process. 

Internal approval by Quality Management is based on internal test reports, test reports from the approval bodies and all the necessary declarations of conformity. After internal approval, the samples are inspected and approved by the customer.

Phase 5: Series monitoring / CIP

The parts are now in series production. To ensure that the product remains successful, every employee is required from this point on, because only those who understand the product can recognise potential for improvement. If mechanical changes are required in series support, they can be implemented in an efficient time frame because all the necessary mechanical resources are available. Mechanical development is also involved in series support and assists in optimising processes with mechanical devices.

A product has emerged from an idea. Of central importance in the product development process Mechanical Development.

«For me, identification with STEINEL Solutions and the resulting products is very important. Working on the various projects from diverse industries is a daily challenge for me, but also a great pleasure. It's great fun for me to see how the products are created with the associated tools, operating and testing equipment and to help shape them. Because it takes a lot of courage and creativity!» 

André Bisig, Mechanics Development at STEINEL Solutions AG