The world of product design is changing fundamentally. Both product lifespans and time to market are getting shorter. As a result, product developers are moving away from mass production and instead move towards low volume manufacturing. In this article we discuss what low volume manufacturing is, what it’s benefits are and how to utilize this manufacturing method for optics production.

What is low volume manufacturing?

Low volume manufacturing involves the production of 50 to thousands of parts. Acting as a bridge between one-off prototyping and high volume production. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of low-volume manufacturing in general, while we end this article with some benefits specific for optics manufacturing.

Benefits of low volume manufacturing

With increased competition and emphasis on product innovation it is crucial that you utilize the full benefits of low volume manufacturing to get ahead of your competitors.

1.      Cost-effective manufacturing method

Manufacturing costs per unit go down as volumes go up. So if you want to have cheap parts, you should make more parts, right? This is not necessarily true. If you are going to mass produce parts a large upfront investment is required for the expensive tooling. The tooling will need to be able to withstand the strain of high volume production.

As such, low-volume manufacturing can be an excellent way to reduce costs and avoid large investments, while still being able to produce a large amount of high-quality parts. If the required tooling does not need to be so durable, then it will be more economical to purchase.

If we compare this with factories set up for large scale production we see that they carry massive inventory, raw materials and equipment. To cover their investment they will most likely as for a large minimum order quantity (MOQ). Luckily, a specialist in low-volume manufacturing does not carry the same amount of overhead. Orders can be produced faster and more cost-effective, without any need for an MOQ.

2.      Faster time to market

There is a constant pressure to innovate and to improve product designs. This puts a lot of pressure upon product developers and engineers. They are forced to create new designs (or modify existing ones) and get them distributed as quickly as possible.

Being the first to market can make the difference between increased market share or failure. As such, low volume manufacturing is a perfect way to produce enough volume to sell, without creating an unsustainable inventory. Also, supply chains are optimized for low volumes, so you won’t have to wait weeks or months for your parts, you can have your optical components shipped to you within days.

3.      Enables a more flexible design approach

Creating low volume product runs makes it way easier to validate the design, engineering and manufacturability before you invest in expensive tools and move towards high volume production.

Rapid design iterations after the first batch can help further optimize and improve the product, before it is being shipped to customers. This is one of the key strengths of rapid prototyping as well.

4.      Move beyond prototyping

With low-volume manufacturing you can bridge the gap between one-off prototyping and small scale production. With low volume manufacturing you can move beyond prototyping. This gives several benefits, like having a scalable, reliable process for low volume production, tangible design and product testing and risk reduction.

Low volume manufacturing applications

These are some of the applications for low volume production:

  • Production-grade engineering prototypes;
  • Creating functional prototypes that match the final product;
  • Pre-production components for verification tests;
  • High quality customized products;
  • Short runs of production parts.

Low volume manufacturing of optics

When you think about product development you might be inclined to think about mass production as the primary goal. But there are times when low volumes are the best choice. If you require a few tens to thousands of parts our manufacturing method is perfectly suited for your needs.

By using our smart manufacturing of optics as a service our customers are able to acquire the exact amount of optical parts they need, without any high upfront investments, MOQs or long lead times.

Another possibility is mass customization, where personalization of custom-made products and low unit costs are combined for mass production of customized parts. This process allows for a customer to personalize features of the optics, while still keeping costs at (or near) mass production prices.

Benefits of low volume manufacturing of optics

Are you curious how low volume production can help your optics design go from concept to final product? There are a number of advantages we shared in this article which are applicable for optical prototyping and low-volume manufacturing. You will gain access to emerging markets before your competitors do. You will reduce costs of tooling and there will be no need for minimum orders. With low volumes you will be able to shorten overall production lead times, saving both time, money and reducing risk while shortening time to market. This manufacturing method also enables quick turnaround times that allow for faster design iterations and enabling more design freedom.

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Ready to get started with low volume manufacturing or rapid prototyping of optics? Send in your optics design, we’d love to discuss your project!