|Abstract or Summary
- Field biologists are in need of more specialized and technical equipment than they are able to produce on their own in order to collect data more efficiently or gather data that is not currently available. This presents a challenge for design engineers because these products are typically highly specialized and are only needed in limited numbers. Thus, identifying customer requirements and minimizing design and production costs for low production devices are critical components of the design process. When identifying customer needs at the early design stage, many of the needs may be unspoken, especially when the design problem spans multiple disciplines. I compared the ability of a written survey and focus group to discover unspoken requirements for specialized products. Customer requirements for a new larval collector were generated in collaboration with biologists using both methods. The basic methodology includes: 1) select questions, 2) select subjects, 3) interview techniques, 4) extract useful information from the survey, 5) analysis, and 6) verification and validation. With extensive biological experience, I evaluated the requirements gathered and determined if there were any unspoken ones that were missed. Compared to focus groups, written surveys identified basic requirements better but were not as good at identifying attractive requirements. Both methods performed equally in identifying performance requirements. However, both methods failed to identify all the basic or
attractive requirements even if the results for both methods were combined. Thus, having a deep customer understanding is critical in identifying unspoken customer requirements. Field biologists desire specialized, low production volume products at moderate to low cost. For high production volume products, modularity has been shown to increase diversity, flexibility, and customer satisfaction and decrease assembly, repair, subsequent product design time, but modularity may also limit performance and innovation and requires more initial design time. There is little information regarding the implementation of modularity for specialized, low production volume products. This thesis presents a method for incorporating modularity into the design of specialized products with low production volume. I tested this method by designing a device to collect marine larvae as they arrive on the shore. My first-generation prototype performed much better than other existing devices, decreasing sample processing time by more than half, but it was expensive. To reduce the production costs, I utilized the modularity of the new design, identified the functional modules where off-the-shelf components could be used to fulfill each module's functional requirements, yielding a more economic second-generation prototype, the design project is on-going, without compromising the performances. Another benefit from this modularity-based design is that several variations of the larvae collectors can be easily evolved from this collector because of the flexibility offered by introducing the modularity into the new design. This experience has led us to conjecture that modularity-based design may offer a promising approach for producing high-quality products with affordable price in the design of specialized, low production volume products.