My neighbor designs housewares. When I go to his house for dinner, he shows off his latest best-selling creations. One evening he showed me a wavy lampshade. Another time he passed around an interlocked set of salt and pepper shakers. Regardless of what he designed, once the evening’s show and tell began, I already knew where the evening’s conversation would end.
My neighbor liked to tell his dinner guests that the design phase was the fun, but just the beginning. The real challenge, he would say, the thing that separated the amateurs from the pros, was getting a design manufactured. Making the leap from a design prototype to mass-produced product was the equivalent of jumping over a gaping chasm.
My neighbor would explain that a good designer had to make sure a design idea could actually be made on a factory machine. A designer had to also be a salesperson and convince a manufacturer that his design would make money, enough to justify the manufacturer’s sizeable investment in setting up a factory production line.
I haven’t seen my neighbor in a while. But I can’t wait to tell him that his dark days are behind him. 3D printers are the output device that designers and artists have been waiting for. Complex, unique shapes may be a cause for concern for manufacturing engineers. Yet, for artists, fashion designers, jewelry makers and architects, complex shapes and novel geometries represent unexplored new opportunities.
Architects, industrial designers, ...