If there’s one finding that seems to be show up again and again in our research studies, it’s that engineers are seriously time constrained. There’s simply too much to do in too little time. That’s made me more aware of tools that can aid engineers do things at a higher quality in a short amount of time. Working to cost requirements is fairly common. So with that in mind, I reached out to aPriori to better understand their offering.

In this post, you’ll find information on the capabilities that aPrior delivers and my commentary and analysis on its impact. Read on.

Capabilities Provided by aPriori

First off, note that this is not a standalone desktop application. It is actually an enterprise application that consists of a centralized software system, which generates, stores, tracks overall costs. That means you’ll have a system that you log into, much like a PLM or ERP system, and you’ll have applications that might work alongside your MCAD application.

Second, the scope of this technology is focused on predicting costs for mechanical components and physical systems, like routed harnesses. This really doesn’t apply, yet, to electrical components, embedded systems or IoT networks. So keep that in mind.

With all that considered, let’s dig into how the technology works.

Working with 3D MCAD Models

Yes. It can estimate costs based on your 3D model. But furthermore, the process is pretty simple. You import your 3D model into aPriori and start specifying the design’s characteristics, such as if it is casted, molded or stamped, and where it will most likely be manufactured in the world. From there, it analyzes the model’s geometry. As part of that process, it understands that slots must be milled and that tapped holes must be drilled. Furthermore, it comprehends the implications of tolerances. There’s a cost model behind the whole thing, adding up the cost along the way. Now, because the cost estimate is based on the geometry of the 3D MCAD model, it can assess the impact of design changes. So as an engineer makes something thicker, wider or longer, the costs will update.

You Don’t Always Have a 3D MCAD Model

In some cases, you just have some parameters for how a part varies from the standard and no 3D model or drawing. In those cases, you still need to estimate costs. To address this, companies often have spreadsheets with complicated cost estimation formulas and equations.

The good news is that aPriori can support those cost estimating efforts as well. They call the solution here 2D User Guided Costing. Essentially, you move your model into aPriori, allowing more users to cost components by entering those parameters. The idea here is to include those cost estimates alongside the other ones that are generated so the company has the entire picture on costs.

Sometimes, You Have Tabular Data

The last approach that aPriori uses to estimates costs is the import of data tables. This is helpful when the definition of a system or product can be reduced to a table of data. Wire harnesses fall into this category, as those kinds of systems essentially can be reduced to wire lengths, from-to information and bundling. Pretty much any MCAD system that provides routed systems capabilities can output information in this format.

Commentary and Analysis

So what’s my take here? I’m walking away with a few different takeaways.

More Cost Information Powers Better Early Decisions

The farther you get down the product development process, the more constraints your designs become. Certain decisions lock limit later ones. So gaining accurate insight into costs positively impacts an engineer’s ability to make better choices early on, when it really counts.

More Cost Insight Enables Better Iterative Design

Engineers have to explore lots of alternatives. That’s how they come across better designs. Of course, you measure the success of designs by how well they meet requirements. That is the guide for the hundreds of decisions that engineers must make during the course of a development process. That certainly applies to product performance, where simulation can give insight. But it also applies to cost, where a tool like aPriori can give you insight. Engineers can use a tool like this to guide their iterative design process so they can take cost into consideration along other requirements.

Removing Costs from Existing Designs

Many organizations have initiatives where the goal is to reduce costs in existing products. Obviously, this type of tool and greatly aid those efforts.

Understanding Post Design Release Change

Part of a good change process is assessing the impact of a change. This should include implications for every organization in the enterprise, like service, manufacturing, procurement and more. A tool like aPriori can deliver that insight with respect to cost. Again, more information enables better decisions.

Expanding the Engineering Toolbox

Today’s engineering toolbox is sometimes occupied with CAD, sometimes filled with simulation and a whole lot of spreadsheets, documents and email. Frankly, those tools aren’t helping engineers do their job dramatically better. Our research from The 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Study shows that 49% of engineers are working nights and weekends to keep pace. Today’s engineers need far better tools to do their job. Product costing should be part of the solution.


  • aPriori is a platform, composed of a software system and software application, that allows users to estimate product cost.
  • aPriori can estimate costs based on 3D MCAD models, parameter inputs for pre-made designs and tabular data, such as those generated from routed systems.
  • In my opinion, product costing tools like aPriori benefit engineers in a number of ways, including:
    • Enabling better decisions early in design.
    • Making better choices during design iteration.
    • Removing costs from existing designs.
    • Understanding the impact of a design modification during the change process.

That’s my perspective folks. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.