‘Earning your scars’: an exploratory interview study of design for manufacturing at hardware startups

Hannah D. Budinoff, Julia Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although many design for manufacturing tools and methods have been developed, it is unclear if engineers at startups widely use these design support techniques. We interviewed twelve engineers employed at startups to better identify common practices related to design for manufacturing. Specifically, we sought to learn the design for manufacturing strategies and tools used, and the timing of considering manufacturing constraints—such as process cost and geometry restrictions—in startups’ new product development processes. Interviews were analyzed using an inductive coding approach. All interviewees viewed design for manufacturing as being necessary for a successful product launch, but the implementation of considering manufacturing constraints varied. Interviewees mainly learned of the importance of design for manufacturing through negative personal design experiences where they did not emphasize the consideration of manufacturing constraints, a process which was described as “earning scars.” Formal education was viewed by interviewees as having limited practical utility, and startups’ staffing and funding constraints contributed to informal new product development processes and design practices. We identified ten emergent informal design for manufacturing strategies employed at startups, with most strategies relying heavily on consulting external manufacturing experts. We noted only a limited use of design for manufacturing tools, such as manufacturing simulation software and cost modeling. Insights from this paper can lead to better educational practices, contribute to more contextualized advising of startups, and guide other resource-constrained design teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-411
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Engineering Design - Theory, Applications, and Concurrent Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Design for manufacturing
  • Design methods
  • Industry studies
  • Product development
  • Startup companies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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