Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 18

In my last entry I touched upon how the opportunity to improve one’s social reputation would encourage some people to learn 3D modeling; especially as new, task-specific interfaces such as Spore‘s “Creature Creator” make traditionally difficult applications easier for novices. Social reputation – especially within the framework of the videogame community or popular online social networking sites – is one non-monetary incentive for learning 3D CAD. Personal empowerment – particularly within one’s “real” world community – is another.

The Future of CAD is Personal Empowerment

While everyone knows the Internet places a wealth of information at web-surfing fingertips, information in and of itself doesn’t mean much to a significant number of people. More often than not the average person surfing for information is just looking for an answer to a straightforward question; a solution to an immediate problem. Their endgame isn’t simply knowledge, but knowledge applied toward a practical application. And for most people – those effectively removed from the nitty-gritty of design and manufacturing activities – non-game 3D applications are often of little interest and no practical use. But just as the “Apple II offered the novel notion that technology could empower the individual“, increasingly accessible fabbing technology offers average people an opportunity to connect with the “real” world (and perhaps the future) in a way now mostly forgotten: through the creation of tangible goods.

While neither computer-aided design nor rapid-prototyping technology are new, the recent arrival of 3D printing services also providing simple, web-based design tools, offers even hesitant, inexperienced users an opportunity to participate; to experience some measure of personal empowerment.

Some individuals utilizing these consumer-friendly services will undoubtedly pursue more sophisticated 3D applications in their attempts to exert greater control over their designs (because after all, control is among the most desirable of things). Thus, not only should we continue to see the rapid-manufacturing market grow, but a portion of the 3D application market right along with it.

3 thoughts on “Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 18

  1. well I saw this guy in Whistler tuning parts of bikes with his PC/CAD and CNC machine .. but he’s a pro in mechanics ,, it wouldn’t be a great idea for non pro’s copying this activity – unless the machines have the power to make sure, that the generated parts are reliable – basically this would mean to embed the designers skills into the machine .. which will take some more time (.. if ever feasable)

    the applied knowledge must be in the machine.

    e.g. put your borken (or to be optimized) part in a scanner, which analysis shape and material .. and let the machine reporduce (an optimized) part .. may be you could give the machine some hints like what you think could be optimized, or hints regarding the issue that made the part break ..

    a long way to go .. and is it where we want to get to?

    I would rather trust the human expert .. and it was nice talking to the guy anyway :-)

  2. The point of this entry is to recognize that making pretty much anything is more than what most people are doing today. It’s not necessary for people to be CAD’ing and fabbing highly engineered parts for them to feel empowered.

    However, to respond to your point, I’d cite current examples such as hardware stores and automotive parts shops. There is an assumption that the average person buying engine replacement parts (oil filters, gaskets, wiper blades, aso) is sufficiently knowledgeable to ask for the correct part. If they’re responsible enough to install head gaskets, they’re certainly able to push a few buttons on a fabbing interface.

    Imagine being able to print gaskets on-demand; not having to wait in line at the parts counter or being told the gasket needed is out-of-stock. They’re not necessarily modeling their own 3D file, but it’s also empowering. It’s also what I expect to see happen at some point: automated auto parts fabbing C-stores.

    Now imagine someone wants to modify the part within a range of acceptable parameters ala Spore’s 3D modeler.

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