Product Development Process

The mechanical engineering program at South Dakota Mines has a project-based curriculum that is focused on product development. A formal product development process has been developed and infused throughout the four years of the curriculum.

Throughout their studies students will be assigned team projects to conceptualize, design, prototype and demonstrate a new product that solves a real-world problem and satiates a social need.

What is a product development process? It’s a sequence of steps or activities that are followed in order to conceive, design, and commercialize a product. Our focus is on market-pull product opportunities. Market opportunities are identified and then engineering and science are employed to satisfy that market need.

Below is a visualization of where the product development project-based learning takes place in the curriculum and a brief summary of the related activities in each course. 

Product Development Process Infographic

ME 110: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering: This course provides a general overview of the product development process, so that the concepts become familiar during the first year. Emphasis within the course is placed on fundamental engineering analysis that is needed within the product development process along with hands-on experimental lab/project team activities to better understand the engineering fundamental principles along with the benefits of working in a team.


ME 126L: Design for Manufacturing: ME 126L, Design for Manufacturing, focuses on concept development, detail design, and testing and refinement steps in the product development process. This course will teach students the use of design software, geometric dimensioning, and tolerancing and considerations for the manufacturability of a product. The class includes hands-on training and the use of machining, welding, 3D printing, woodworking, and plasma cutting equipment. Students gain experience with hands-on, manual equipment, as well as programming of computer numerically controlled equipment. With the final team project, the students get to learn through a student-driven design build project.

ME Student Group

ME 265/L: Product Design and Development: The course presents a typical development process for products of low to moderate complexity and introduces basic systems engineering concepts. Emphasis is placed on presenting structured methodologies to conduct each of the main activities of the conceptual design phase. Students work in teams on a semester-long project that allows them to apply what they learn in class to develop a concept for a simple product. At the end of the semester, the teams use a physical prototype to illustrate how their proposed product would look and work.

ME 351/L: Mechatronic Systems:
The course presents the design process for complex products whose operation requires the synergistic combination of multiple disciplines of engineering including mechanical, electrical, computer, and control systems engineering. During the semester students learn the basic concepts for each of the main components involved in the design of a mechatronic system including sensors, actuators, input/output signal conditioning and interfacing, digital control systems, and user communication. The final project includes student teams integrating their learning from the classroom and laboratory experiments and applying them toward the design and implementation of a mechatronic product. 

ME Students

ME 477 & 481L: Mechanical Engineering Design: This is the 1st semester of a two semester sequence focused on the entirety of the product development process up to prototype development and testing. During the 1st semester, teams focus on project definition, customer needs, and product requirements before diving into the preliminary design process where multiple alternatives are considered and a final conceptual design is created.  Initial prototype, proof of concept experiments can be conducted to support the preliminary design.

ME 479 & 482L: Advanced Product Development:
This is the 2nd semester of a two semester sequence focused on the entirety of the product development process up to prototype development and testing. During the 2nd semester, detailed design and analysis is completed to ensure the product will meet functional requirements and customer needs.  Manufacturing drawings and plans are developed in order to complete a functioning prototype that is tested and evaluated by the team.  These results are showcased in a design fair at the end of the semester.