The most important phrases and acronyms in product development

A list of useful terms for those who are new to industrial design, prototyping or manufacturing to help you better communicate with players in this field.

Concept design

The first visualizations of an idea. In many areas a ‘concept’ refers to just an idea, or vision, but in industrial design the concept shows what the product will look like. In the concept design phase we define how many parts the product is made of, what materials are used, and that is can house every internal part properly, and that it’s ergonomic for the user, and that it looks appealing. The concept design is usually presented as renderings, sketches, and early prototypes.


A mock-up is a scale or full-size model of a design, used for demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes. A mock-up may be a prototype if it provides at least part of the functionality. But it can also be made of cardboard, to represent the main dimensions of the product.

Industrial design

Unlike it may sound, it is not the design of industrial machinery, but the design of industrially-produced goods; anything that is produced in large quantities. It can be a spoon, a bag, a monitor, a phone, a machine, a light switch, and the list goes on. Some industrial designers have specialized, for example: furniture, car, medical device or toy designers. Others have a wide range of skills, which can be utilized to create almost any product. Industrial designers can use their expertise to design product that are made by hand or 3Dprinting as well.


Computer Aided Design. Computer-aided design is a way to digitally create 3Dmodels of real-world products—before they’re ever manufactured. With 3D CAD, you can share, review, simulate, and modify designs easily. There are several CAD software that can be used to develop products, the most popular being Rhinoceros, SolidWorks, and Fusion360.


An early sample, model of a product created to test a concept. Typically, a prototype is used to evaluate a new design to see if it’s ergonomic enough, if the dimensions are correct and to see if it looks as good as it did on the renderings. Functional prototypes can be used like the endproduct, although they are not as sturdy. Visual prototypes are only to be looked at, or just to be held in the hand, lacking the real functionality of moving components, buttons or electronics.


The computer generated image of a product. It may look like it’s a photo of areal existing product, but it only exist digitally. It is like CGI in the film industry: "it’s just pixels".


Colour, Material, Finish. You might come across CMFP which includes Pattern as well. Designers use this term to describe the last bit of product development; after the shape is defined, we choose the colours and finishes, for example “the front panel is made of black ABS-PC, with a grainy texture”.

PMS or Pantone Matching System

The Pantone identification number of a colour. For example PMS 415M is a greenish medium gray. Most of the manufacturers work with the PMS system. Using this chart ensures that if we pick a colour, the injection moulding company knows exactly how to product that shade.  


another color identification system, often used for wall paints, but it can be used in some mass production areas.


Verein Deutscher Ingenieure. The texture or surface finish applied in the mould. For example VDI27 is a little bit grainy texture, and VDI 45 is a lot more textured, which if often used on the dashboard of older cars.


Design For Manufacturing. It is the final stage of design: after every detail is decided, the design gets finalized and optimized for the chosen manufacturing processes. DFM makes sure that every bit of the product is ready for production, optimized for assembly processes and can be made with very little risk.


Bill of Materials. The list of every single item in a product. The list usually includes the characteristics of each part, the price and the source.


Contract manufacturer. The external company that produces parts or products to order.


Minimum Order Quantity. The smallest amount of units you can order. In massproduction, the MOQ is usually 1000 pieces.


Ex Works. The cost of manufacturing the product without delivery and import taxes. Factories prefer to specify their prices EXW, because they can’t control the cost of shipping and taxes. This means that the customer has to calculate the cost of these.


Delivered Duty Paid.  The cost of the goods including the delivery and duty charges. We could say it is the opposite of EXW. If you see a DDP price, that means your supplier will take care of shipping (usually delivering to one pre-specified address), insurance and taxes and it’s all included. You don’t have to deal with the logistics.

Injection moulding

Injection molding is the process for producing parts by injecting molten material into a mould. This process requires a larger financial investment in the beginning, but the production is very cheap. For example a mould can cost €5-10.000 (or more), but the price of one product can be as low as €0.1 (or even less). This makes injection moulding perfect for producing tens of thousands of units.

Mould or mold

A tool used to create plastic parts. These tools are usually made of metal, and consist of two or more parts.

Tool, tooling

Catch-all phrase for dedicated elements of manufacturing equipment used for the mass production of components. Tools shape the materials into products, they help reduce production times. Tooling is a general term which includes molds used for injection-molded plastic parts, dies used for cast metal parts, jigs and more.


Quality Control. Making sure that the produced items are up to standard. Quality control usually takes place in the factory, and is conducted by a neutral, reliable third party. Before production starts, the customer agrees on how many faulty items are acceptable (AQL, or Acceptable Quality Level). In most cases, it is not desirable to ask the producer to deliver 100% perfection as this would be too expensive. Instead they take a sample of product, for example 100 pieces. They thoroughly check this batch and report that there are 1 major and 3 minor defect items. If this is less than the agreed standard, then the order will be sent to the customer.

Lead time

The amount of time that passes from the start of a process until its conclusion. Companies review lead time in manufacturing, supply chain management, and project management during pre-processing, processing, and post-processing stages. For example, the lead time for injection mould tooling is 3-4 months. The lead time for producing a batch of 1000 pieces can be 1-2 months.


Intellectual Property. Characteristics of a design the owner may wish to protect from unauthorized use. Strategies include trade secrets and formal, legal IP protection such as utility patents & design registration.

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