Book of the Week: Prototyping and Modelmaking for Product Design
This week’s selection is “Prototyping and Modelmaking for Product Design” by Bjarki Hallgrimsson.
The process of developing a new product is a series of detailed steps that lead from a general idea to a finished item. Along that long path will be an experimental portion where prototypes are made and tested. How, exactly, is that step done properly? That’s the topic of this book from Bjarki Hallgrimsson, an Associate Professor at the School of Industrial Design at Carleton University in Ottawa.
One might suspect that the process of prototyping involves repeated iterations of a product, and that would be correct, but there is a lot more to the story than simply tweaking a design and rebuilding a prototype.
There are considerable efforts required to work with other people during these iterations to more deeply understand the real problems being solved through the implementation of the design. Typically this is done by exposing a prototype to actual users who can physically evaluate the nature of the product.
And as you might guess, a physical prototype is often built using 3D modeling and 3D printing technologies. That wasn’t always the case, as in the past prototypes were frequently made by hand, due to the cost of setting up manufacturing equipment to make only a single unit.
Hallgrimsson’s book explores the nature of the prototyping and modelmaking processes. Wait, you ask, aren’t those the same thing?
No, they are most definitely not. While Hallgrimsson describes the modelmaking process as the steps required to physically produce the prototype — and he explores a number of non-3D printing methods of doing so — the prototyping part is what he calls a “Design Method”. It’s a process used to study the uses of a proposed product among users by designers.
It’s that non-making process that is of interest to me, as executing that successfully will dramatically increase the probability of devising a successful product. The actual making process, as done by 3D printing, is best learned somewhere other than this book.
That said, Hallgrimsson’s modelmaking section does provide a wealth of advice for the modelmaking process beyond the technology of 3D printing, such as safety, hand tool operation, adhesives, and casting, all of which could be of benefit to Fabbaloo readers.
Hallgrimsson explains the process of prototyping through the exploration of a series of case studies. These case studies include a folding hairdryer, a tablet, an electric vehicle charger, a museum guide and several other seemingly-unrelated objects.
But that’s the point: design is design, regardless of what you’re making. It’s a process you must undertake to arrive at a successful design that provides utility for your users. And, ultimately, your wallet.
If you’re intrigued by the design process, you might check out this book. It’s eminently readable, and you will most definitely learn important things if you do read it.