This article starts with general principles applicable to all industries
and then discusses special considerations for renewable energy, which needs major
This is one of
this site's unique methodologies necessary to introduce "disruptive"
(Figure and Section numbers refer to the author's
The featured article in the November 2013 in Mechanical Engineering
(the journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers), titled “Why
Manufacturing Matters,” concludes that scalability leads to the fastest market
leadership and highest profits:
“The companies that scale the latest technologies the fastest
will become the market leaders and reap most of the profit.”
The same article also says that scalability of innovation is the key to
“Firms that scale and deploy innovations rapidly
will remain market leaders.”
The Value of Scalability
Being able to design scalable products and scale up production quickly is the
• Rapid ramps to stable production, which most of the articles on
this site show how to do.
• Being able to easily deal with increases in product demand, which can
be caused by sudden sales surges from good publicity, advertising, or
• The need to quickly replace problem products because of bad publicity,
recalls, sudden appearance of rival products etc.
• Coping with supply chain shortages, which can be avoided by designing
for availability (Section 5.19.1) which is helped by
automatic resupply techniques
• Quickly producing emergency replacement demands from natural
• Rapidly scaling up new products for very large new markets such as
widespread solutions to energy and climate challenges
Importance of Designing Products for Manufacturability
On the opening slide of the author's classes for the last 15 years,
the third definition of DFM in the first paragraph says that good DFM will
“ensure that lack of manufacturability doesn't compromise functionality, ., . .
. . . and “make it difficult to respond to unexpected surges in product demand
or limit growth.” This wisdom has been on the opening slide of the author’s
lectures for the last 15 years. The DFM training agenda is posted the seminar
Scalability, like manufacturability itself, must be designed into the product or
a deficient product will be hard to manufacture and hard to scale rapidly.
Therefore, scalability must be a key design goal if companies are going to want
the ability to scale up product levels rapidly and grow fast. If very high
growth rates are possible, then scalability may need to be a primary design
Any product only designed for functionality will be hard to manufacture and be
hard to scale. For any industry that may have the possibility of rapid growth,
products must be well design for scalability.
Products not designed for scalability can not be “made scalable” any more then
unmanufacturable products can be “cost reduced” as shown in in the article
7 reasons why you can't reduce cost after design.
If any products have promising technology, but was not design for
manufacturability, they it be have to be commercialized as shown in Section
3.10. The commercialization approach identifies and preserve the “crown jewels”
and then redesigns everything around them for manufacturability and scalability.
Products that start with research will have to practice the principles of
What Products Not to Try to Scale
Companies should not try to scale up products that have not been well
design for scalability, as shown in the following sub-sections
Avoid the “economy of scale” fallacy that once
you raise the production volume, the cost automatically goes down.
Unfortunately, industrial legends have mislead small companies in to
thinking that this could benefit anyone. However, they need to realize that mass
production giants had enormous volumes with no variety, which meant they could
invest in massive hard tooling , no setup changes, and specialization of labor.
Today, variety is valuable, volumes are much less and mass production has
been replaces by Mass Customization (Section 4.3) and build-to-forecast has been
replaced by Build-to-Order (Section 4.2), all of which can be designed to be
scalable, which this section shows how to do.
This article strongly recommends that any products possibly in line for
large scale scaling up become ready for either of these scenarios:
1) Existing products must be thoroughly commercialized, which may
involve redesign for manufacturability and scalability, as specified in
2) New products must be designed for widespread scalability by following
all the manufacturable research principles presented in Section 3.9 and
then designed for manufacturability as presented in the rest of this
site while being design for scalability.
Similarly, If a company’s Sales force accepts a tempting large order that is not
scalable, the whole operation may struggle with:
• Availability problems like nowhere near enough parts and
materials available in time to fulfill the accepted order.
• Inadequate fixtures, tooling, and processing equipment, for the
increased demand that should have been concurrently engineered
• Unnecessarily tight tolerances that raise part cost, create too much
demand on precision machine tools, or require too much skilled labor.
• Inadequate Vendor/Partners that can not meet the increased demand
• Too much firefighting to solve manufacturability, quality, or ramping
Unfortunately, all these problems will drain valuable resources away from
designing products for manufacturability and scalability. So until all
products are designed well for manufacturability, those that are not should
Key Principles to Design Scalable Products.
Use Design for manufacturability during manufacturable research (Section
3.9) and the product design itself (covered in most of this site to ensure
that products will be able to be quickly and cost-effectively scaled up. Here
are the scalability principles:
Material and Part Availability
Proactively select parts and materials for assured availability for the
life of the product at the highest possible production volumes. This includes
:• Potentially scarce parts, including any that may have to
compete with other application that may also be scaling up, for
instance, for widespread conversion to renewable sources of energy,
electric battery production capacity would be best allocated to electric
cars and roof top Photo-Voltaic panels, instead of storing energy at
wind power and solar PV fields, both of which have better and cheaper
alternatives (pumping water up for hydraulic storage for wind and
Concentrated Solar Power (with heat storage).
• Rare Earth elements, which, when available, may provide the best
efficiencies, function, or compactness, for instance, the lightest and
smallest motor magnets.
However, scalable design principles would recommend generating "plan B"
contingencies, like providing enough space and weight allocation for
their non-rare-Earth-element magnets.
• Risky Parts should ample “plan B” replacement parts available and, if
the placement parts are bigger, there must be enough space for the
replacements. For instance, lithium-ion batteries are the most
space-efficient batteries, but to allow for space efficient
replacements, engineers must allow enough space for the large
• Performance premiums. Avoid excessively expensive components that may
cost a high premium for the last few percent of efficiency if this
results in a much higher part cost and be harder to find, just to try
for a slight increase in sales. Rather. the company can use the
principles of this site to substantially reduce the selling price
(Chapter 7) by lowering many categories of manufacturing and supply
Instead, scale products around standard proven off-the-shelf parts
(Section 5.18) and modules that are selected to be readily available
throughout the anticipated life-span of the product. Avoid dependence on
parts that are hard to get, have long lead-times, incur high inventory
carrying costs, or may become unavailable within the life-span of the
Scalable Labor Force and Partners
Here are DFM principles that can make labor more scalable:
• Skill demands. These can be greatly minimized in the
Research phase as discussed in Section 126.96.36.199) and the section
on “Skill& Judgement” in Section 3.3.7.
• Firedrills. Scalable products should be designed for quick and
easy manufacture without the need for firedrills, “tribal lore,”
scarce resources, and skill and judgement. all of which make
production hard to scale up production volumes because of the
difficulty finding and training these resources.
• Scalable Vendor/Partners. Scalable products have custom parts
built by vendor/partners (Section 4.2) who help the OEM to
design their parts for manufacturability, quality, and fast
ramps on widely available machine tools from widely available
materials on flexible tooling that avoids setup delays.
Equipment Availability and Expandability
• Scalable products should be built on concurrently engineered
production equipment and tooling suitable for initial demand and
easily scalable to the highest anticipated demand.
• Scarce production equipment. Avoid dependence on scarce
product equipment capacity for hard-to-build parts that can not
be build on ordinary machine tools, for instance, large
weldments that must be machined after welding on scarce
mega-machine tools. The scalable alternative would be to replace
large weldments with precision parts that can be made on
ordinary CNC machine tools and assembled rigidly and precisely
using DFM techniques at the
• Design to maximize existing machine shops. For massive
scalability projects utilize general purpose CNC machine tools
in the 21,200 machine shops in the United States alone!
• Hard-to-expand production equipment. Be cautious if your
supply chain depends on "fabs" that cost billions and take years
to build, which may be hard to scale quickly. At the individual
part level, do not base designs on parts whose availability is
limited by limited capacity production capabilities, like
electronic parts. semiconductor devises, and Photo-Voltaic
Utilizing Lean Production to Shift Production Lines
If equipment capacity shortages are confined to a few product line, then
Lean Production can provide a solution with production lines that are
versatile enough to shift production to more production lines whenever one
is overwhelmed by demand. If versatile production are concurrently
engineered, as taught in this section, the product line shifting can be done
quickly so as not to compromise any of the other products.
This is preferable to a Mass Production changeover which takes a great deal
of effort and time to remove the other product’s capacity and replaces them
with the product that is having a hard time scaling.
Build-to-Order (Section 4.2) takes this further by concurrently designing
versatile product lines that can build any variation in the family without
any setup changes or delays.
Platform Synergy for Scalability
Design product in synergistic product families
that are versatile enough to quickly adapt to volatile demand variations within
the platform family. Even if the foundation aspects of platform are somewhat
standard, those aspects will be easier to scale than many mass production
products. If the variations are built to-order, they could be built
on-demand without setup of inventory
Scalability Using Mass Customization Postponement
Postponement is a Mass Customization technique in which a versatile
flotation part could be built ahead of time with variety built ahead knowing it
will be used later one way of another. On to this foundation parts could be
bolted many different postponed Varity parts, which be built ahead of time, or,
preferable, built to-order on-demand.
Another version of postponement is ordering versatile semi-finished parts in
quantity and then doing specific operations on-demand, like hole drilling or
machining specific optional features.
Optimizing Production Machinery Capacity
Another form scalability is optimizing the size of a product, the capacity of
machinery, or scope of a project.
Often, these are arbitrary choices in the product definition. However, arbitrary
decisions should be avoided in product development as recommenced in Section1.8.
The size or capacity of a product should not be based on previous products,
competitive offerings, “bigger is better” thinking, or even round numbers.
Rather, ascertain what is your optimal size for the customer, keeping mind that,
if your product has a large size or output, it will sell only customers who need
a large product On the other hand, a smaller size could expand the market to
customers with smaller needs.
An example of a major product size opportunity would be steam
turbines, many of which were original designed for large fossil fuel
power plants However, that large turbine size forces Concentrated Solar
Plants to be larger than necessary. Scalability principles could scale
down proven turbine technology to fewer modules in less expensive frames
and enclosures for a smaller output to enable smaller solar fields that
would be easer to license and could be located closer to customers
Another expanded market opportunity for the same scaled down product
would be that smaller turbines could enable small “co-generation” plants
that could be two to three times more efficient by utilizing all the
‘waste” heat from electricity generation for space heating or factory
heat, if the smaller power plants could be located near enough. There
are many “heat plants” at university campuses, industrial parks, and
large apartment, stores, and factories. Such scaled down “co-gen” power
plants could produce both heat and electricity and near 100%
efficiencies, instead of the average of 37% efficiency when power plants
product only electricity.
Optimizing Scale Strategies
Companies that can sell more scaled down products for smaller needs can also
sell multiple small modules to markets with larger needs if they were designed
for versatile “stacking” scenarios.
Further ,for production equipment, Lean Production (Section 4,1) principles
encourage smaller batches (down to building on-demand) which would need machines
with smaller outputs used in multiple “right sized” lines that satiny customers
quickly with much less inventory. This is described in Section 4.11 on Flow
Scalable products are designed for manufacturability at the research stage using
the easy-to-apply techniques presented in Section 2.9 on Manufacturable
Research. If not, then the research will have to be commercialized to preserve
the "crown jewels" and essentially redesign everything around them for
manufacturability as presented in Section 3.10.
Scaling up Renewable Energy
The most challenging application of scalability will be to scale up renewable
Rising energy demands to deal with a
coupled with rapid needs to phase out energy sources that exacerbate the problem
means the world must be ready for extremely rapid scaling on a vast scale.
This means that new scalable designs must be ready to go and be:
If not, new designs will not be able to scale up and it will take a
lot of calendar time and resources to try until the design is
fully commercialized as specified in in the
commercialization article It can not be as common in this
industry, starting with a demonstration of technology and then
further scaling of technology before commercialization rollout can
Unlimited Production Capacity
Limited scalability products could be built in a single
factory with dedicated tooling, both of which could be expanded somewhat
or duplicated. Similarly, having to depend on two billion dollar “fabs”
that take two years to build will greatly limit scalability.
Unlimited scalability would need to be designed for fabrication on
general purpose CNC machine tools in the 21,200 machine shops in
the United States alone! These automated parts would then be bolted
Minimum Material Consumption
Products should be designed in structural efficient shapes, like
trusses assembled from CNC struts, as shown in the generic examples at:
Readily Available Parts and Materials
See the “Part Availability” section, half way down the page at
Minimize Skill Demands
Designing out skill demands will eliminate those scaling limits and
minimize costs, as discussed two points after the above point on
Manufacturable Research link.
Problems scaling up current solar energy
1) Some solar solutions, like Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) are inherently too expensive
for widespread deployment, as was pointed out in the first
section titled “What is keeping concentrated solar cost high now?” at
2) Other renewable energies may not be scalable enough. Even if
the motivation and funds are forthcoming, production of un-scalable
designs may bog down
right away with bottlenecks in production, years to build more
factories, part/material supply
chains challenges, skill shortages, and
This article will show how it
can be made ready to scale up quickly.
Rapid, widespread deployment of solar power
What is needed is rapid, concerted deployment of a portfolio
of emerging and mature energy technologies. Some of these solutions must be
and designed for scalability. All new solar products must be
designed for manufacturability at the research
stage in the new article on this site.
Example: making Concentrated Solar Power scalable
This was selected as a scalability example because
(a) CSP offers the best solution for energy storage to enable solar
plants to provide power day and night by storing heat
(with 98% remaining all night) instead of trying to store electricity,
which is much more expensive and will have to compete with more important
uses of batteries for electric cars and home PV panel storage, which have
(b) current CSP have a long way to go become scalable
The conclusion of the opening section of the article on Half Cost Solar.
http://www.halfcostproducts.com/half_cost_solar.html , is that “mature”
Concentrated Solar Power is simply not ready to be scaled up.
CSP first must be
to overcome those manufacturability and cost limitations to compete with
systems that are designed to be scalable for rapidly large-scale
Ensuring Research will be Manufacturable
The lesson here for new technology development is to conduct
Manufacturable Research and avoid having to “invent under pressure”
and then rush prototypes into production, which causes most of the problems
cited in the linked low-cost-solar article.
Fortunately, manufacturable research or even commercialization can be done right now within existing
budgets and resources and not have to wait for large-scale resources to try to
scale up non-scalable designs. The next section shows how to do that.
The conclusion is that commercialization of mature and emerging
technologies must be done now so scalable solutions will be ready for
Renewable energy technologies must be quickly
and (re)designed for manufacturability, low-cost, and scalability, This
preparatory design work could be done now within existing budgets to be
ready for widespread implementation whenever greater motivation and funding are
How to Make Solar Power Scalable
First Step: Minimize Cost to ultra-low-cost levels. Expanding
renewable power will require that equipment is affordable enough for
widespread implementation around the world, which may need to be done very
quickly if everyone waits too long until demand surges.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP, sometimes
called "power tower") has not been adequately
so its equipment design will need total cost reduction before widespread
deployment, as is addressed
in the companion article on Half Cost CSP Solar at:
That article opened with the section
“What is keeping Concentrated Solar Power cost high now?” and is followed by sections on
“General Participles for Designing Low-cost Products” and then a promising
example: “Heliostat Mirror Guidance at Half the Cost or Better,” which is
one of the biggest. opportunities to reduce half the cost for power generation
and eliminate hundreds of thousands of motors, sensors, and controllers
currently needed to track the sun, which also comprises the vast majority of the cost for heat production
for heat-intensive industrial processes.
The next steps: Follow the remaining steps after cost in the opening
Scaling up production volumes quickly by orders of magnitude
In order to scale up solar power:
- All the parts and raw materials must be readily available
in the quantities needed all over world. The biggest obstacle to this
availability is the very common practice of engineers saying "here is the
part I need - go buy it!" But "it" may not be scalable or not even
available now for any significant consumption. Rather, designers
should specify a minimum spec and purchasing agents should be look for the
most available selections above that spec. Ironically, such a search
will probably find higher performing parts at lower costs if they are in
greater widespread use.
- Fabrication will have to be designed to be done on widely
available machine tools, not specialized machines or large
mega-machines, which can be avoided by the techniques presented in the
Steel Reduction Workshop.
This workshop also shows how to avoid dependence on skilled labor, for
instance, replacing weldments with assemblies of CNC machined parts that are
assembled rigidly and precisely by various DFM techniques.
Conclusion: To scale up renewable energy, the equipment must be
commercialized and designed for manufacturability around widely
available parts and materials to be made without depending on skilled labor on
widely-available machine tools. This preparatory design work needs to
be started now so that when the need and demand appears, the world is ready
to scale up to any volumes.
SCALING DOWN PLANT SIZE
Scaling down boilers for
concentrated Solar Power
Boilers in the conventional energy business are sized for very large fossil
fuel or nuclear power plants
However basing solar CSP power plants on these can result in unnecessarily
large solar plants which can lead to unnecessarily:
- excess amount of money to raise
- excessively large sites to find, buy, license, and get environmental
clearance for, which may be even harder if the environmental strategy is
to find large plots of pre-distressed land.
- excess demands on the grid, possibly having to build or expand
transmission lines to large remote sites.
Boiler manufacturers may need to scale down to the boilers themselves by
using commercialization principles to maintain proven turbine blade part
design with fewer blade sets supported by scaled down framework structures
and plumbing. Thus the fluid dynamics and thermodynamics would remain the
same and not have to be re-designed or re-tested.
Scaling down Boilers to Double Fuel
Efficiency of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuel boilers are only 37% efficient in generating
However, if boilers were scaled down and coupled to small generators, they could
be small enough for many “co-generation” (“CCoGen”) facilities that could use
all the burner’s 63% heat that is normally wasted.
And half the fuel burned = half the greenhouse gases
CoGen facility opportunities for 100% fuel efficiency include:
An apartment or store “boiler rooms” which
could now be a “zero-energy” or a “Zero Net Energy” building,
with zero net energy consumption from the outside.
A college campus or office park hating plant that
could now generate electricity and heat at 100%combined efficiency and
immunity from power failures.
Mission-critical facilities, like hospitals,.
data centers, emergency service control, transportation hubs, and military
bases, that would always have electricity and heat available during all
forms of power outages.
Avoiding economics-of-scale fallacies
There are many people in this business that firmly believe the
Mass Production fallacy
that getting the production volume up automatically gets the cost down!
Therefore, renewable energy planners
should not resist all these advantages and keep projects big
just for the illusions of "economies of scale."
However, the proven cost-reduction metrologies of this site and
can lower cost much more than any perceived quantity discounts. And,
in fact, if such a large demand that exceeds the capacity of such a small
industry, could actually raise part costs.
Doubling Solar Plant Capacity
The 2015 MIT Future of Solar Energy report says:
“ A supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle is of particular interest
because of its higher efficiency (near 60%) and smaller volume relative
to current Rankine cycles. This is due to the fact that CO2 at
supercritical conditions. . . . . is almost twice as dense as steam,
which allows for the use of smaller generators with higher power densities.
Solar furnaces can generate more than this amount of heat, but at
the high cost or using two-stage collectors or single heliostat mirrors with
articulated facets, both of which are very expensive
So cost-effective generation of high temperatures would need
concepts like the examples in the article on
Manufacturable Research to continuously focus mirror facets onto a
single point without needing dozens of facet drivers for every
Scalability may require real innovation:
RENEWABLE ENERGY INNOVATION
Developing more effective renewable energy that will be commercialized
enough to scale it rapidly will require innovation.
But, in the opinion of the
author of the
leading book and
web site on Design for Manufacturability, the vast majority
are surprising inadequate at innovation,* except for the
especially his stand-out clients profiled at the Results paae. ion! Here is the web article that
tells why: Why Companies Can't Innovate,
and. and how to unleash innovation. which contains18 common
counter-productive practices that prevent companies from innovating, each
with web links to solutions.
Before any urgent needs require meaningful innovation, everyone
doing research needs to apply all the principles of
Manufacturable Research which are available now to all research groups at
http://www.design4manufacturability.com/research.htm who can apply all
these principles immediately.
And research should never be thrown over the wall "to industry" who just
"launches it" into their factories without concurrently engineering
products and scalable process, as described in the white paper:
* Fprbes says that "95% of patents are never licensed or commercialized."
Valley venture capitalists liken commercialization to "crossing the
valley of death."
These are the general principles plus an
around this article or URL to educate and stimulate interest.
customized seminars and webinars, these principles are presented in the context of your
company amongst designers implementers, and managers, who can all discuss
feasibility and, at least, explore possible implementation steps
customized workshops, brainstorming sessions
apply these methodologies to your most relevant products, operations, and supply
copyright © 2019 by
David M. Anderson
Book-length web-site on Half Cost Products:
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