At Leatherman, one of my first projects was an improvement to our pliers – the most used part of our tools. After studying returned tools and interviewing customers, I determined the method by which people were breaking them. I was able to replicate it in the lab, and gathered benchmark data on our current design.
My FEA analysis of the plier jaw showed several high stress-areas. By making some adjustments to the radii, I was able to decrease the stress. Lab testing showed that this small change increased the strength by about 25%. The FEA and method of lab testing that I developed are now the company standard for designing new products.
The final design was implemented, and is now estimated to save $44,000 per year in warranty returns.