Mass-produced consumer handset

The Alcatel Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) handset was mass-produced at four thousand units per day over a five to seven year period. Production on this scale requires exhaustive mechanical design and manufacturing considerations to avoid costly production stalls and product recall. Risk mitigation was largely achieved by ensuring that there was a close collaboration between team members. The client’s marketing departments continuously interacted with the design teams and, importantly, the toolmakers and manufacturers.

Perhaps what is surprising with handset development, is that design decisions are often constrained by technology windows, overarching ergonomics, and ongoing trends in product form-factor. The result is, that rather than looking for fundamental form permeations, focus is placed on design details and how brand values can be expressed through subtle lines, textures, component interactions and tactile responses. The Alcatel DECT handset made use of this methodology, and considerable effort was placed on ensuring that these factors could be measured, even if some were qualitative and subjective.

The handset brief was accompanied by an extensive Product Requirement Specification (PRS), which outlined a range of safety and quality standards/directives. For example, design integrity was measured by means of a drop test on to 1.2m hardboard, running Finite Element Analysis (FEM) cycle testing on the belt and battery mechanisms, reviewing plastic and coating scratch tests, testing to an Ingress Protection rating of IPX4, ensuring no mechanical spurious noises emanated when twisting the handset, controlling backlighting and illumination bleed, testing immunity to Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) of 8kV, and complying with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives.

The enclosure design was carried out by the design firm … XYZ Design with a team of 3 individuals. My role in the project covered: client management, concept development, industrial design, mechanical design, and prototype testing and evaluation. The acoustic design was provided by Emig Research and the electronics design by Xstreamflow.

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