Design & Technology
Systems and production methods
A system is a set of components arranged to carry out a
particular function. All systems have inputs, processes and
outputs; often they will have feedback as well.
Systems for manufacturing graphics products require planning;
system flowcharts are useful for this. They also need to be
controlled, and these system controls can be visual, mechanical
or electronic devices. Production systems also need to be
checked for quality - a procedure called quality control.
Graphics products manufacture can be either one-off, batch,
mass-produced or continuous-flow, depending on the scale of
production. Computer-aided manufacture (CAM) is widespread in
all kinds of graphics production.
A system is a set of components arranged to carry out a particular
function. Systems may include mechanical, electrical or electronic
components. The block diagram below represents a system for
producing a batch of leaflets.
Input is what goes into the system - the raw materials. In a music
system the input usually comes from a CD player or radio tuner.
Process is the shaping and forming of the materials, or the
exchange of information needed to effect the output. In a music
system it is the amplifier that does the processing.
Output is what comes out of the system - the finished product. In
a music system, the speakers take care of the output.
Most systems have a fourth element - feedback - which is simply a
way of changing the input or process as a result of what happens at
the output. In a music system, feedback is a human response to the
output from the speakers: if the music is too loud, or the radio tuned to
the wrong station, the user will reduce the volume or retune the radio.
In a system diagram feedback is shown like this:
An example of feedback in a production system is checking that the
product meets the specification, and adjusting the process to make
sure it does. Many systems have an automatic type of feedback,
where feedback from one part of the system switches another part of
the system on or off. This sort of system is called a closed system.
When planning a production system you need to work out how the
different elements of the system fit together, with each part in the right
order. A flow chart is a good way of doing this. The one below shows
how to organise the production of a school newsletter.
Any large-scale production system of the kind you would find in
manufacturing is likely to include the following processes:
Storage of raw materials, bought-in components, sub-assemblies
and part finished products.
Inspection of bought-in components to make sure they are of the
required quality; Inspection of part-finished products to ensure
they meet specifications; artwork. Inspection has to be done at all
the crucial points in the production process.
Operation is the processes of manufacturing.
Movement of raw materials, part-finished products and complete
Use these symbols when drawing a flowchart for large-scale
Systems need to be controlled if they are to continue functioning the
way they were designed to do.
Controls can be simple visual aids for the designer. Two examples are
registration [registration: correct aligning of colour blocks in a printed
product ] marks and colour bars.
Registration marks are used to make sure that colour printing lines
up, because the various colours must line up with each other.
Registration marks are usually shown in a cross shape. Sometimes
work that is to be printed has colour-separated artwork, where the
artwork for each colour is on a separate sheet.Colour bars are
standard bars of colour with blocks of each colour printed. This is
done to show the strength and evenness of the ink used and that the
registration of the colours is correct.
Mechanical / electronic controls
The table lists mechanical or electronic equipment used for control
and feedback in graphic production.
Equipment Type of Type of control Example of feedback
Rotary Mechanical Speed of movement of Paper cut is ragged: blade
paper cutting blade; cutting may need
trimmer fence can be set to sharpening/replacing; cut
required distance, which fewer sheets Wrong size:
allows repetition reset fence
Computer Electronic Number of copies; paper Number of copies wrong:
printer or type; quality of printout reset on computer Quality
mechanical Repetition through repeat of print poor: change paper
copies or ink cartridge
Photocopier Electronic Size of Size is wrong: reset size
or copy/enlarge/reduce; Number of copies wrong:
mechanical number of copies made; reset number required
type of paper or other Quality of print poor:
materials; quality of change paper or toner
printout; copy too cartridge Contrast wrong:
dark/light adjust contrast control
CAM 2D Electronic Speed/depth of cut; Cutting incorrect: adjust
card/vinyl or pressure on cutter; order speed/depth and/or
cutter mechanical of cutting Repetition pressure through software
though repeating process or hardware controls Order
wrong: reset though
CNC 3D Electronic Speed/depth of cut; Cutting incorrect: adjust
milling or rotational speed of cutter; speed/depth, through
machine mechanical type/size of cutting tool; software or hardware
order of cuttingRepetition controlsOrder wrong: reset
though repeating process though software controls
Quality control is a specialised type of system control designed to
check that a product meets the design specification and is of the
prescribed quality. Before making a product, the designer should
decide what quality checks need to be done, and at what stage in the
making process they should be carried out.
A high-quality product will:
meet the specification
do what it is supposed to do
be free of defects
satisfy customer requirements
Quality control checklist:
check against the specification: does the product meet all aspects
of the specification?
is the text accurate, spelt correctly, with correct grammar and
have the correct shades of colours been used?
are the registration marks correct and do they line up?
have correct desktop publishing (DTP) layout templates been
check measurements: are they within the tolerances specified?
for products such as pop-up books, check the cut and fit of
different parts: do they fit accurately and neatly without gaps?
for products such as pop-up books and cards, check to see if the
product works properly and as intended: do parts move as
There are four main types of production system used in manufacturing
graphic products, each one suitable for a different scale of production.
One-off production is when only one of the product is made. It is
labour-intensive, because every product is different. One-off
graphic products might include a presentation book as a souvenir
of a special event, or a model of a theatre set.
Batch production is when a set quantity of the product is made.
It may also use a lot of labour, but jigs and templates are used to
aid production. Often the machines can be easily changed to
produce a batch of a different product. Batch-produced graphic
products include programmes for a play or concert, or posters to
advertise a play or concert.
Mass production is when a very large number of the product is
made, usually on a production line - but the process cannot be
continuous because the product regularly changes. Examples of
mass-produced graphic products are newspapers and magazines.
Continuous-flow production is when many thousands of products
are made. The difference between this and mass production is
that the production line is kept running 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, to eliminate the expense of stopping and restarting
the production process. The process is often automated and few
workers are required. Continuous-flow production is used for
graphics products which sell very large numbers throughout the
year, and do not need to be frequently changed - such as cereal
ICT in industry
Information and communications technology is widely used in
manufacturing graphics products. Its benefits are that:
it makes it easy to produce accurate, complex, standardised
It allows complex shapes to be made with ease and precision
it enables changes to be made quickly and easily, and
it greatly simplifies batch or mass production
Computer aided manufacturing (CAM)
CAM machines are good for batch or mass production, and they are
also useful for one-off products that are complicated to make. There
are two types of CAM machine:
2D CAM machines
Plotter/cutters can be used either for cutting of card and vinyl, or (by
replacing the blade with a pen) to produce drawings and lettering prior
to cutting. Cutter/printers are more complex CAM machines which
allow full-colour printing before cutting is done.
3D CAM machines
These are mainly used for cutting plastics, hard wax, soft metals and
wood-based materials such as MDF. They are particularly useful for
making prototype models and moulds for vacuum-forming. Some of
these machines can have a scanner head fitted in place of the cutting
tool, allowing 3D scanning to be done.
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