The integration of rapid prototyping within industrial design practice
Three-dimensional appearance models represent an essential outcome of industrial design practice, facilitating the origination, evaluation and specification of exterior form. As manufacturers face increasing pressure to reduce time scales for new product development, the production of such models using conventional fabrication techniques must be appraised. As a means of economically translating digital geometry into one-off components, rapid prototyping has the potential to contribute towards a reduction in lead times for the production of appearance models. The objective of this research is to propose a methodological approach for the effective integration of rapid prototyping within industrial design practice. The field and practice of industrial design is defined, the technology of rapid prototyping discussed, and their integration proposed through a draft computer-aided industrial design/rapid prototyping (CAID/RP) methodological approach. This is exposed to practitioner feedback, modified, and employed as a revised CAID/RP methodological approach during the industrial design of a nylon line trimmer. The product outcome is used to compare and contrast the production of an appearance model via rapid prototyping, an appearance prototype via rapid prototyping, and an appearance model via conventional fabrication techniques. Two issues arise from the use of the revised CAID/RP methodological approach: the production of stl files and the lack of physical interaction with product form. In addition, the emergence of rapid prototype sketch modelling systems following the line trimmer case study provides an opportunity for further enhancement. A strategy for the resolution of these issues is proposed, and their effectiveness evaluated through additional case studies. The resulting CAID/RP methodological approach is subject to validation through practitioner interviews and a normalised rating/weighting method. The positive feedback acknowledges the significance of the CAID/RP methodological approach through a reduction in product development lead times and enhancement of professional practice. The project makes a contribution to new knowledge and understanding in the area of professional practice through the definition and validation of operational paradigmatic change.