Traditional Product Design Process

The design process of products, especially for what concerns the shape and the aesthetic characteristics of a product, could be ideally divided into five different phases, as described in the following:

  • Concept ideation: this is the preliminary phase, where the designer creates the concept of the product with basic features. At this level, the concept of the product is represented by hand drawing and sketches, which show the main characteristics of the shape.
  • Shape modelling: after the conceptual design of the product, there is a modelling phase, where the shape of the product is modelled and represented by using IT tools. In this phase, the designer manages the shape and the aesthetic characteristics

© The Author(s) 2017

A. Mansutti et al., Tactile Display for Virtual 3D Shape Rendering, PoliMI SpringerBriefs, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-48986-5_3

thanks to different kinds of software tools, which allow him/her to obtain a 3D digital model of the product.

  • Visual evaluation: in this phase, the designer evaluates the shape and the aesthetic features of the 3D model. This evaluation is performed only through the visual channel. The digital model, actually, can be represented only by means of a visualisation system. This phase is performed simultaneously with the shape-modelling phase. Indeed, the user creates the digital model of the product through a loop of modelling, evaluation and modification until reaching the desired characteristics.
  • Physical Prototyping: thanks to this phase, it is possible for the designer to create a physical prototype starting from a digital model. In this way, it is possible for the designer to have a physical interaction with the model of the product. Nowadays, thanks to the rapid spreading of manufacturing techniques based on 3D printing technology, it is possible to obtain a physical prototype of a digital model in a few hours. However, the prototype that can be obtained could be expensive and it is typically made of a material that is not the one of the final product, and it is not flexible in case one desires to change the shape, color, material and texture.
  • Tactile evaluation: thanks to the development of physical prototypes, the designers can experience a physical interaction with the models of their in-progress products. The information provided by the tactile evaluation cannot be obtained by the sole visual evaluation. This phase is fundamental for the designers, because it allows them to analyse how the shape of the future product will be perceived by the user.

By using today’s IT tools, the visual evaluation and the tactile evaluation cannot be performed at the same time. In fact, the designer, after the concept design phase, creates the digital model of the product. In this way, he/she can evaluate the aesthetic characteristics of the product, according to the visual evaluation process. After that, he/she will need to develop a physical prototype in order to evaluate the product from a tactile point of view. As previously mentioned, this phase could be time and cost demanding.

Once the prototype is ready, the designer can perform the tactile evaluation. If some characteristics of the prototyped shape do not satisfy the designer, she/he has to return to the shape-modelling phase in order to modify the features, which are unsatisfactory, thus improving the digital model. During this phase, the designer can evaluate the changes only by evaluating the alteration of the digital model though vision. In other words, the designer has to visually estimate the modification needed in order to achieve a satisfactory tactile evaluation. Once the modification is performed, a new prototype will be created, thus allowing for a new tactile evaluation. This cyclical process will be performed by the designer as many times as needed in order to achieve the desired characteristics of the product. Therefore, the production process could be very expensive for what concerns both time and costs (Fig. 3.1).

Traditional product design process

Fig. 3.1 Traditional product design process

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