The World Can be Changed Through the Power of Design

By Vincent

Concept design of Smartwatch

My colleague Michel and I recently imagined and developed a new product concept related to connected objects. With this in mind, we had a conversation with Jean Hong, Product Designer at Dassault Systèmes, to talk about his perspective on industrial design in the consumer electronics domain.
We decided to share that conversation with you to get your reaction and comments. Feel free to let us know.

Question (Q): If you had just three days to design a new electronic connected device, how would you proceed?

Jean Hong (JH):

Well, it depends on the objectives I get. Re-styling an existing product is obviously faster than defining a fully new concept. A few years ago I would have asked for about seven days to produce a new concept proposal. I usually needed this time to deliver a pretty exhaustive mix of hand sketching, 3D modeling, and realistic rendering.

Today, with the design solution I adopted, I can overcome this challenge, and deliver a finalized concept within three to four days. By the way, this is the kind of time pressure many of my customers ask me to deal with.

Electronic connected device sketching

Q: So you are telling me that you are now delivering the same output in three to four days that required seven days few years ago? Are you really delivering the same output?

JH:

Good point–there is a big difference in the output. Today I am able to deliver a concept with higher quality, ready for manufacturing, and containing more details than before in less time.

Sketching on paper is very time-consuming. You need multiple viewpoints, details, and colors to make yourself understood by other project team members and customers.

Now I can directly and quickly sketch my idea in the 3D environment. Keeping my design intent, I rely on this 3D sketch directly to model the product with the clay modeling approach of “Imagine and Shape” application.

Ideally, sketching and modeling should be done at the same time in the same environment. It is now possible with this software solution. I can mix these two ideation steps, evaluate, and validate the volume of my product concept. Technically speaking, I save a lot of time because no data import /export between different tools is needed.

3D sketch of a SmartWatch 3D rendering of a SmartWatch

Q: You talked about “design intent.” Why is it so important for you?

JH:

Many times products lose their initial design intent because so many people are behind the project and there are many steps before production. The concept shape, proportions, materials, details, and finishes express the high-level message I want to communicate. If this message is misunderstood or not technically specified correctly, the mechanical engineers will have a different interpretation or no idea at all, which will impact market success.

Q: How are you dealing with this issue?

JH:

Now that the entire project team relies on the same cloud collaboration platform, I can iterate in real time with the mechanical engineering team. All the specifications I add either to sketches or 3D models are directly usable. Because we work on the same data, the risk of misunderstanding is minimized. In addition, because the engineering data is visible to me, I can detect any issue and find a solution with the engineering department before it gets critical.

Q: Is the product design validation 100% digital?

JH:

We now have an incredibly powerful digital definition. We take advantage of it to share, communicate, and finalize the design concept. Did you see how realistic product rendering can now be with advanced effects such as physical light and reflections applied to the accurate materials definition? This can be done even by people who are not expert in this domain.

One might think that digital is enough, but this is not the case. At some point in time I need to touch, feel, and place the object in its real physical context. Weight sensation, hand-grab, and materials touch cannot be fully evaluated digitally yet. Taking the example of a smart watch, how can we validate ergonomics without being able to wear it? For this, anytime I feel the need, I just press the 3D print button, and create a product prototype.

Rendering smartwatch

Q: Do you think that we could see the digital world merge with the physical one in the coming years?

JH:

This is already happening. 3D print is starting to be affordable for people like you and I. Virtual reality devices already propose an immersive approach, and prototypes start to address more human senses such as touch and taste. The boundary between digital and physical is getting ever blurrier. I am fine with this, provided that I can still access user-friendly applications. I am sure that in the very near future, thanks to all the new applications, I will be able to leverage my design intent for usages we just can’t imagine today.

3D print product prototype

We really think that we can change the world through the power of design!
What about you?  Share your comments below.

Want to know more ? Visit our Ideation & Concept Design website, or Watch our video about new Concept Design and read the Whitepaper “The power of Design Thinking” written by  Phil Gray MDesRCA, Managing Director, Quadro Design Limited, part of Sagentia Group.

Vincent Merlino and Michel Monsellier are passionate members of the Dassault Systèmes High Tech Industry Solution Experience Team.

3D Brings Mass Customization Closer

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar

Two opposing forces dominate industry: cutting costs versus satisfying customers. In the future, those forces may be less opposed.

Shoes in shop window display

Mass customization has been the big objective ever since Stan Davis coined the term in his 1987 book “Future Perfect.” Up to now, industry has fallen short of promises to really customize products. But digital technologies and the spread of manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing are making more products customizable without adding huge cost.

Everything that’s digital is, in the end, very easy to customize,” says Frank Piller, professor of management at Aachen University in Germany and co-director of the Smart Customization Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Digital printing, for example, allows for customization too complicated or too expensive for offset printing.

Now, technology is improving and costs are declining for the next generation of digital printing: 3D printing. “It can be used for a larger range of materials. What you can make with 3D printing is extraordinary,” Dr. Piller says. “Companies can ask, ‘Now that I have this really flexible manufacturing technology, what else can I do with it?’”

On the B2B side, customization always has been necessary. Machine-tool makers traditionally had a large collection of catalog items and also a high-end engineer-to-order business. In between came mass-customized solutions, which have a predefined base of solutions whose options can be refined, Dr. Piller adds.

Very few industrial players outfit an entire factory with new machinery. “They have legacy equipment, so they need customization to interface that with new equipment, as well as for adding abilities their competitors don’t have,” he says.

To make the process easier, equipment tends to be modular, which is a common feature of mass customization. Customers have a variety of choice for a number of modules, allowing them to get what most closely fits their needs without the cost of an individually tailored solution.

Modular designs may allow for easy upgrades and add-ons, but they also risk opening a door for competitors to barge through. With an integrated product, “you have to buy it all from me,” says B. Joseph Pine, co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP in Dellwood, Minnesota, and co-author of the book “Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition.” But forcing loyalty via integrated design is shortsighted. “The more modular the design is, the more you can deliver what’s best for the customer,” he says. “That’s going to be the winning play.”

3d printer printing white pieces

However, 3D printing and digitalization may change the need for modularity and allow truly unique solutions in the future, from machine tools to consumer goods, Dr. Piller says.

Rather than limit customer choice to the model, size and color of their shoes, a 3D printed shoe could be customized for fit as well. That might entail a one-time cost for a foot scan, Dr. Piller notes, but such a scan could then be used to make a collection of shoes.

While mass customization of consumer products hasn’t come as fast or as far as expected, one industry that’s coming around is apparel. “It’s for obvious reasons: every body is unique, so you can’t buy anything off the rack and get anything that fits anybody. It’s impossible,” Mr. Pine says.

There’s waste in the system,” he adds. Retailers discount, dump or recycle tons of unsold clothes. “They produced what people didn’t want. Mass customization allows you to produce on demand, so there’s less waste. It’s more environmentally sustainable. You eliminate shipping around the world stuff that you’re not selling.”

Rather than create a product in the hope that it will appeal to consumers, manufacturers using mass customization make a product they know a customer wants, because that customer has ordered it in the size and color the customer prefers.

“Instead of pushing what you have, the consumer pulls what he wants,” Mr. Pine says. Mass customization turns a good into a service. Goods are standardized but services are customized—delivered when, where and how a customer wants.

Businesses have to please a generation of individuals who are used to customizing everything—they don’t buy an entire CD of music, but just the songs they like, which they play in the order they like; they don’t watch broadcast television but stream the shows they want, when they want them. Facebook is a mass-customized platform—everybody has the same tools available on it, but each person makes his or her wall unique. Similarly, smart phones are a platform for mass customization because each person loads the apps he or she wants.

Technology is enabling customization to continue even after a thing is purchased. Sensors are being developed for all manner of products, from thermostats that adapt to how you use your home in order to help you reduce your heating bill, to lighting controls that allow you to create precisely the ambiance you want, to razors that adapt to the contours of your face.

This kind of customization is primarily in anything that can be digitized,” Mr. Pine says. “Sensors are going into everything.”

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Research Heralds 3D-Printed Organs and even Hearts

By Catherine

3D printing human organs

Written by Catherine Bolgar

Few would have guessed the trajectory from 1970s inkjet printers to 3D printed organs consisting of human cells, yet, that’s where we’re headed.

3D printers apply layers of melted plastic to create complex objects, from the silly to the serious, including personalized prostheses such as eyes, ears or knees. A patient at the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, recently was the first to receive a custom 3D printed plastic skull.

A step beyond plastic parts is a biological-synthetic combination. A personalized 3D printed scaffolding is made of synthetic material, on which living cells are placed that will grow around the structure. This technique, which prints the structure but not the cells, is being examined for bone and for skin.

Cells we isolate from fat will stimulate bone formation and blood vessel formation in these structures,” says Stuart K. Williams, director of the bioficial organs program at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. “That is on the cusp of becoming utilized in a more widespread manner.”

The next goal: to use 3D printing techniques with live cells. Tissue made artificially with real human cells is called “bioficial.”

A patch of bone tissue may one day help patients whose vertebrae are damaged by an injury or cancer. Cartilage, which doesn’t regenerate on its own, could be repaired with bioficial tissue created from patients’ own cells. And perhaps, someday, entire organs could be replaced.

3d printed head

Cells are trickier to work with than plastic. The printer itself has to be adjusted—rather than melting at high temperatures, it has to use low temperatures that won’t kill the cells. It has to be sterile. A robot-controlled syringe squeezes out the cells, which are suspended in a gel that can solidify and maintain the desired shape, similar to gelatin desserts. But those desserts melt when they get warm; for the 3D printed tissue not to melt in the heat of the body requires other chemical processes to ensure they retain the desired shape, says Jos Malda, deputy head of orthopedic research at University Medical Center Utrecht.

Not just that, but each cell needs nutrition. When a body part or organ loses its blood supply, it dies. “If you create a larger construct in the lab, keeping that piece alive is a big challenge,” Dr. Malda says.

Finally, “having cells in the right place doesn’t mean an organ will function,” Dr. Malda says. “But never say never.”

These challenges are why Dr. Williams decided to focus on a bioficial heart. “It doesn’t have complex metabolic activities like the liver or kidneys do. A heart is simply a pump. It pushes blood out and allows blood to come back in,” Dr. Williams says.

The artificial heart was one of the first implanted devices made of synthetic materials. Dr. Williams’s team is working to make a bioficial heart, starting by printing individual parts: the valves, the cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), the electrical conduction system, the large blood vessels and the small blood vessels.

We have made dramatic steps forward printing the individual parts of the heart,” he says. “We haven’t assembled it yet, but it’s likely to happen in the not too distant future. It won’t be ready for implantation, but we will be able to understand how the heart works in assembled form.”

The first step is to assemble blood vessels to ensure the blood supply. That would allow for building tissue two to four centimeters thick that has its own blood supply.

Back in 1988, Dr. Williams used fat-derived cells to build a blood vessel and put it into the body of a patient. “Fat has the capability of forming all the different cells found in the heart,” he says.

Some day, doctors might be able to take a patient’s own cells to build a replacement organ, thereby getting around the problems of rejection of a donor organ.

Perhaps we’ll find out it isn’t necessary for a bioficial heart to look exactly like a real heart, or a bioficial kidney to look exactly like a real kidney for them to work well. “Maybe we can make it more simplistic, using a slightly different blueprint,” Dr. Williams says.

Will the first use in a patient be the complete heart or parts of a heart?” he asks. “I think it will be parts: a patch of large and small blood vessels.”

Such a patch, which researchers are trying to make in the lab, could be used in a patient whose blood isn’t reaching part of the heart. Another possibility is pediatric applications, for children whose hearts haven’t formed properly because of a genetic defect.

We’re hoping that one day we’ll be able to treat the patient by repairing parts long before they are in such a condition that we have to replace the entire organ,” Dr. Williams says.

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.



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