What’s the True Difference Between DFM, DFA, and DFMA?

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Difference DFM DFA DFMA

What’s the True Difference Between DFM, DFA, and DFMA?

Dec 17, 2020

DFMA engineering is a product design methodology that focuses on ease of manufacturing and fast assembly. This makes for a faster time to market 

DFM Meaning in Manufacturing- Design for Manufacturing

DFA Meaning in manufacturing- Design for Assembly


The difference between DFM and DFA is their particular focus. But keep in mind that both aim at making a product’s design easy to manufacture.


DFM focuses on creating guidelines that will make individual parts and components easy to get or cost-efficient to manufacture.


DFA focuses on creating guidelines to decrease the number of components and parts needed to create a product.



So, DFM intends to make components and parts easy to get or manufacture, and DFA aims at decreasing the number of parts and components needed.


The purpose of it all is to make manufacturing as easy as possible.


Imagine if all you needed to manufacture your product were 20 easy to get and assemble components and parts.


It would be relatively easy to set up a production line for such a product, and the labor force that would work on it would have relatively fewer chances to make mistakes throughout the manufacturing operation.


Difference between DFM and DFA- DFM vs DFA


Here’s an example of a DFM guideline


“Avoid significant variations in wall thicknesses to simplify flow patterns and minimize differences in shrinking that lead to bending.”


That DMF guideline above is referring to a product’s case, which is usually made out of plastic and will require the design and build of a custom mold.


If you design a product’s case with variations in its walls’ thickness, the mold will have to be built accordingly; this will most likely result in faulty cases coming out of the mold, which will lead to re-work and an increase in costs.


By following DFM guidelines, provided by experts in manufacturing, you’ll avoid those sorts of mistakes; you’ll make the cases easy to manufacture from the start.


A simple example of a DFA guideline


“Avoid parts/labels that are hard to grasp, pick up, hold or require a tool for assembly.”


So, you designed a product that has 10 tiny parts that require a special tool to pick them up and put them in place.


Well, now the plant needs to make sure they have such a tool; they need to train people to use it and know how to repair such a tool in case it breaks down.


Imagine if you had removed those hard to handle parts from your design and instead you had used parts that are easy to grab for an operator.


You would have reduced your assembly costs by a considerable amount.


We have many actionable DFM/DFA Guidelines. If implemented correctly, they’ll make the transition from design to manufacturing smooth.



Difference between DFM, DFA, and DFMA 


DFMA meaning (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly)


DFMA design for manufacturing and assembly is what you get when you combine DFM and DFA. 


DFMA engineering can be summarized as a methodology to design a product focusing on ease of manufacture and fast assembly.


As you can see now, the differences between these design approaches have to do with their focal point and the third one (DFMA) is just used to not having to refer to DFM and DFA separately.


Importance of  DFA/DFM, and DFMA


You might not find a lot of use when just discussing meanings and differences.


The real use of these methodologies is seen when a team of engineers defines DFMA guidelines that will ensure ease of manufacturing for your product.


On this page, you can see a full list of DFMA Guidelines 


But beware, there isn’t a list of DFMA guidelines that will fully apply to your product and its assembly process. The guidelines will vary from product to product.


The process of defining guidelines for your product begins with a clear understanding of the key functional requirements of your product.


You can do so throughout the whole product development process using a Requirements Traceability Matrix 

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Bob Moore
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