Design for mass customisation: a live project with Digital Forming Ltd

The 3D printing industry has been developing for many years and the opportunities for mass customisation of mainstream, manufactured products are beginning to emerge. SPD students have been investigating how this can be used in a sustainable way to produce products to meet a diverse range of needs for many users.

The second year students are currently working on a digital manufacturing project, with a range of design briefs to consider. They have been asked to design a product – or adaptation to an existing product – that will provide a personal enhancement to everyday tasks or lifestyle. The new design should be focused on one of the following themes:

  • For people where a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not effective.
  • For people with a physical or cognitive disability, mild to severe.
  • To encourage and support natural ecosystems (e.g. ‘Project Shellter’ 3D printed shells for hermit crabs) with specific needs.

The students are working with software developer Digital Forming Ltd (www.digitalforming.com), a company which has been developing design solutions for businesses using 3D printing processes. Their ‘ODO’ platform allows businesses to publish interactive digital products to the Digital Forming online shop, which links to a global network of 3D printers. At the beginning of the project, Victoria May from Digital Forming kindly travelled from the London office to visit the Penryn Campus and introduced the students to the software and the many opportunities it provides to both designers and customers.

Digital Forming 3

Before customers choose to buy an item they can change different aspects of the product. The designer chooses which parts of the product people can change and in what way. For example, this can include the size, shape and pattern of the product as well as the colour and material that it is printed in. Once it has been paid for, the unique design is sent to and translated by one of the connected 3D printers to print the customised item, which is dispatched and delivered to the customer. Where the product is printed depends on the material chosen and which printer is suitable for the job. Each student has now presented the research they have done around their chosen topic, and are now continuing along the design stage of their projects, using 3D models generated through CNC milling techniques and Rapid Prototyping technologies to develop their ideas further.

[story: Hannah Swann / stage 2 SPD]

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