Implementing DfMA: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

We continuously strive to innovate at Henderson Engineers. One way we’re doing so is by using Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) in our projects. (Check out this post I wrote for a brief overview of DfMA.)

Our first opportunity to implement DfMA presented itself at the end of 2020. A client approached us to explore modular design and construction, and we saw an opportunity to apply our duct module component to their HVAC airside system.

The owner was already exploring the use of modular systems for walls, lighting, and power. We wanted to extend this approach by utilizing modular ductwork for air distribution throughout the project. The owner’s goals were to reduce cost where possible and improve the schedule from design to project completion. Expected construction time was approximately seven weeks after approved plans.

Our first step was to engage our industry partner US Engineering Innovations to estimate pricing for delivering the ductwork as a system of duct modules. Concurrently, the project design team began designing the mechanical systems – supply air, return air, outside air, and exhaust air – with duct module specifications provided by our industry partner.

To improve our project team’s design time, Henderson’s VDC/BIM department, led by Adam Roth, developed an automated routine that laid out duct modules along the main distribution trunks (specified by the engineer) and automatically connected the main trunks to the air terminal devices with branch ducts.

Approaching the design with a modular mindset also impacted the size of the mechanical units. The original project approach had multiple mechanical unit sizes – each with their own specific duct sizing that followed traditional engineering methods. The new approach challenged us to normalize the unit sizing, which ultimately simplified the design while still meeting project requirements.

We believe that having fewer unique project components will aid in construction execution and limit challenges encountered during the installation. Theoretically, by designing the entire air distribution system with the same component, the chance of placing the wrong component in the wrong location is essentially eliminated. Henderson is excited to continue innovating with DfMA in future projects. Reach out to learn more.


Written By
Sean Turner

Innovation & Research Director | Associate


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