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November 2020

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 nov 2020

Industrial designers earlier carved foam, machined wood, and molded clay to test ideas, refine designs, and get product concepts to clients. This process was slow and labor-intensive. Now 3D printing is preferred for this as it is simpler and faster. Nathan Pollock, founder of Katapult Design (Byron Bay, Australia), says, 'In my career, I've seen 3D printers go from being a bit of a novelty, to an expensive tool, to more of an essential part of design services. Greater reliability, better UX, and much better quality have all had a big impact on acceptance.' David Block, principal of Studio Redeye (New York, US), says, 'At this time, in product design, 3D printing has become a tool of the trade.' Jonathan Thai, co-founder and partner of HatchDuo (San Francisco, US), says, 'If you do not have a 3D printer, and you are in the product development space, you are behind.' 3D printing accelerates the product design process. Mr. Pollock says, 'The top advantage is primarily the speed. We can get quick, concept-level evaluations and adjust or refine our thinking immediately. Not just proofs of concepts, 3D printers can deliver functional mechanical parts and intricate multi-component prototypes. Oscar Daws, director of Tone Product Design (London, UK), says, 'We print everything from quick block models to test the form and proportions of a design, through to high-fidelity working prototypes that allow us to perfect a detail or a mechanism. 3D printing allows us to rapidly iterate complex shapes and accurate details, which means we don’t have to compromise on the design of a prototype in order to physically test it.' Lucas Lappe, partner at Doris Dev (New York, US), says, 'In-house 3D printers enable us to show clients physical representations of their future products and the design engineering work we have completed to date. 3D printers have kept us ahead of the competition, and without 3D printed prototypes, clients often do not understand where their products are in development.' Sanandan 'Sandy' Sudhir, CEO of Inventindia Innovations (India), 'We use 3D printed parts very early in our design process to make some quick proof of concept models, and, at a later stage, for more refined parts to assemble the first-level functional prototypes.' Industrial design firms don't have to own 3D printers and can outsource 3D printing services. Ian Peterman, CEO of Peterman Design (Los Angeles, US), says, 'In the longer term, in-house printing should save you some in print costs, and really save you shipping costs for all those parts, and lead times.' Designers may still outsource 3D printing due to complexity, but some experts believe it is no longer an issue. Mr. Lappe says, 'Every engineer at the company is trained to manage the 3D printers. This gives everyone who designs and is working with 3D printed prototypes and understanding of the process.' There are various 3D printing technologies and printer brands that offer different advantages and disadvantages in terms of available materials, the quality of the final printed parts, ease of use, printing speed, and cost. Mr. Daws says, 'Carefully consider what you will be using it for, as this will have a big impact on the technology you choose. For industrial designers, I'd suggest starting with a high quality FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer, which will allow you to do most things quickly and relatively cheaply.' Mr. Sudhir says, 'We prefer to use normal FDM printers for preliminary proof of concept models so that we can do quick and dirty prints and test our ideas.' Mr. Lappe says, 'Buy something that everyone on your team can use. Something that is easy and does not require a dedicated technician. That allows more people to use the printer and makes it a part of everyone's workflow.' SLA (Stereolithography), a raisin printer, is another type of printer popular with industrial designers. These produce finer details and smoother surfaces than FDM. Mr. Sudhir says, 'SLA printers are good for using transparent materials to understand fit and finish related issues as well as mechanical interference with the internal parts. But generally SLA parts are brittle, so they are not appropriate for simulating the exact material properties of plastic parts.' Experts expect further improvements in 3D printing technologies to suit the needs of industrial designers. Read on...

All3DP: How Industrial Designers Embrace 3D Printing
Author: Carolyn Schwaar



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