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2.3 MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Micro manufacturing involves the production of parts or products with features on a micro scale. The technology is used to produce parts for several business sectors which have experienced dramatic growth in recent years and forecasts are that this growth will continue in the years ahead. With the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs to lower-cost locations many companies in Ireland see micro manufacturing as having significant potential to preserve and increase revenue. A move into micro manufacturing will present significant opportunities for those companies willing to take the risk of producing parts with micro dimensions. Such a transition is a risk because micro manufacturing is not simply about reducing the dimensions of existing products by scaling the manufacturing equipment. Whilst the manufacturing equipment might be smaller, significant problems can arise due to the scaling effects of materials and processes. Such effects can cause problems at all stages of product development from design right through to final assembly. This paper explains the concept of micro engineering and, focussing on the micro moulding process, details potential problems and challenges that can arise during each stage of the design and manufacturing process. Attention is given to what product and process designers can, and need to, do if they want to overcome such issues. Following the process outlined, and addressing these challenges at an early stage of product development, will help Irish engineers to minimise the associated risk and maximise the probability of a successful outcome when designing small parts for mass production.
Delaney, K., Kennedy, D.: Big Challenges in Designing Small Parts for Mass Production. IMC 25, Proceedings of the 25th International Manufacturing Conference,Institute of Technology, Dublin, 2008.