Design, Manufacture, Test as Told by McLaren

It costs absolutely the same amount of money to make a car look ugly as it does to make it look beautiful.

Regarding the McLaren design language:

…it’s not coming from just aesthetics. It’s very easy to design a sexy car; a dramatic looking car. That’s not what design, for me, is all about. It’s more about doing efficient design that has a reason for being.

(emphasis mine)

Frank Stephenson, automotive designer and Director of Styling at McLaren Automotive

While it can be interesting to hear the designer wax poetic about design philosophy it’s even more interesting seeing how the design comes to life:

Even better to see the product perform as designed:

Fastener Innovation

I’m not even going to bother trying to explain how Rotite‘s helical dovetail works. Just watch the video.

Rotite Technologies from Rotite Technologies on Vimeo.

Licensing:
Rotite is a potentially diverse technology, with a multitude of applications, in a range of industries. Therein there are “Industry Specific” and “Application Specific” and “Geometrically Specific” Licenses available.We can assist you both in the right choice of license and the ideal geometric solution for your application.

Rotite Technologies offer a comprehensive support package to all our licensees , ensuring you stay up to date with all “Geometric, Technical and Intellectual Developments “.
We offer a range complimentary support services such as prototyping and detailed structural analysis.This ensures that together, we can optimise your intended application and get your products to market – quicker.

It isn’t often I see something so interesting applied to something as mundane as fasteners. If you’re using this technology in a specific application let me know at design (at) formlovesfunction.com

There are 433 Parts in your Telephone

We’re not talking about that Android phone, Windows phone, or iPhone in your pocket. This 1947 video from Bell Telephone Systems shows all the pieces of a 300 Series phone, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, coming together. If “Tommy Telephone” annoys you the way he annoyed me, skip ahead to about the 3:15 mark when the phone parts make their appearance.

It’s interesting to see not only the parts, their geometry and how they fit together, but also the materials used. Not surprising to see copper, nickel, and gold on the list. The lead surprised me for the moment before I realized the product was designed in the 1930’s. Wax, leather, linen, cotton? Yes.

Seeing all the pieces of such an iconic, ubiquitous product come together reinforces the great respect I have for early industrial designers.

Creature Design Enabled by 5-Axis CNC

Details on the product design and build process are rarely presented in the comprehensive, concise fashion of this video from John Cox’s Creature Workshop. Sure, he’s building limited run sculptures for the entertainment industry but the process of sculpting, scanning, processing, machining, and assembling is common to many design industries. Plus, I love seeing practical applications of 5-axis CNC machining.

Here are some photos of the process:

Sculpture Scanning
Scanning

Processing
Processing

Machining
Machining

Comment

Beautiful Deconstruction

Photographer Todd McLellan takes the product take-apart to a new level by artistically arranging the parts and photographing them, then photographing the parts, presumably, being tossed into the air.

The products he takes apart are a few technological generations old but it is still insightful to see how they look on the inside and marvel at the complexity. Younger engineers will be amazed at the level of detail achievable in the pre-CAD era.

More at http://www.toddmclellan.com/; click the “New Work” link on the left and have a look at the video of the deconstruction and photography process.

Comment

Creo – PTC’s New Take on Product Development Tools

Looks like PTC is serious about integrating their somewhat disparate technology holdings with their new “Creo” suite which includes renamed versions of Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate, and Product View. Using direct modeling tools on a history-based parametric model would be incredibly enabling for Pro/E users. I’m also digging their role-based approach to the offering and I’m looking forward to learning more about how they break out the apps and licensing for different user types.

The intro video:

Click here to watch the intro event.

Develop3D has a good summary of features.

Click here to tell us what you think in the discussion forum.

The Value of Physical Prototypes

I watched the first 4 installments of BBC’s Design for Life on a plane over the Pacific and found the last 2 episodes on Vimeo. The show is pretty much The Apprentice with Philippe at the helm. Plus I think the show illustrates how truly difficult it is to conceive and develop a product from a blank slate. Week after week young designers struggle to prove their design prowess to Philippe and usually fall short by under-delivering or missing the point completely. One week Philippe sent 4 designers packing.

The most profound moment of the show happened in episode 5. After weeks of failing to convince Starck that her new standing/walking aid for the elderly had merit, contestant Ilsa Parry presented the prototype. After merely looking at the proto Philippe’s attitude changed completely. After trying the product for himself he was sold.

Great that Ilsa persevered and continued to drive the vision of her product. Great that the rest of us can witness the power of the prototype in a real-world situation.

The entire series is available on Vimeo:

Design for Life Episode 1
Design for Life Episode 2
Design for Life Episode 3
Design for Life Episode 4
Design for Life Episode 5
Design for Life Episode 6

Design for Life | Episode 5 from designforlife on Vimeo.

Comment now in the Form Loves Function Forum.

Surface Continuity

@StudioClues and I had an interesting discussion over Twitter about the merits of curvature and surface continuity in product design. While we designers and CAD sculptors geek out on the technicalities of making G2 happen, it’s important to remember that curvature continuity is not a design goal in and of itself, merely a modeling problem for the capture of design intent.

Thomas’ main concern was valid, “can end users really tell the difference between a painstaking sculpted G2+ surface and a radial fillet?” Maybe. Maybe not. I certainly can. Always makes me wonder why the designers let it slip when I see bad curvature breaks. Low quality surfacing implies low quality product, IM(v)HO.

Here is a pretty good description of what we’re talking about:

I’m also happy to see that Autodesk Alias 2011 will have G3 continuity built in:

For some insight on why we actually care about curvature continuity, have a look at this: On Form, Curvature, and Emotion.

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

How Much Will That Cost Me?

When you’re designing high-volume products every penny counts. That’s what the finance guys tell me anyway. Although cost is always a concern, I find most industrial designers and product design engineers don’t have a good concept of what a $0.17 cost-adder means for a product with an annual volume of 20 million units (answer: add $3.4 million to your budget). The math is pretty simple but there’s something about seeing the number in front of you that brings home the reality. So I made this quick and dirty chart to give us a quick and easy reference.

And who doesn’t need another reason to open Excel? Click here to download the Excel spreadsheet.

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

On Form, Curvature, and Emotion

Gray Holland of Alchemy Labs has a great article up on Core77 about the relationships among form, surface curvature, and emotion. You can argue some of the technicalities around class-A surfacing and “C” versus “G” continuity definitions, but his insight into the fundamentals of form is quite enlightening.

He also has a great perspective on the now-decaying debate of “engineering” versus “design.”

When we speak of product development, we frequently look at the domains of Design and Engineering separately, evaluating them in different ways. Engineering, at its core, is a measurable process; Design, for the most part, is not. This gives the former an inherent advantage: engineering efforts are easily quantifiable, and this provides them with authority. Design is intuitive, working on the non-verbal levels of our experience, sometimes triggering our most subversive emotional states; this makes it difficult to evaluate empirically. Lacking an analytical vernacular, Design is labeled subjective, when it is actually the agent of universal truth through form.

Curvature Evolution

Tolerances

I’m writing this post to help those in the audience that aren’t familiar with detailed mechanical design. A basic understanding of tolerances is essential to follow subsequent discussions here.

First, a quick definition:

Engineering tolerance is the permissible limit of variation in

  1. a physical dimension,
  2. a measured value or physical property of a material, manufactured object, system, or service,
  3. other measured values (such as temperature, humidity, etc).
  4. in engineering and safety, a physical distance or space (tolerance), as in a truck (lorry), train or boat under a bridge as well as a train in a tunnel (see structure gauge and loading gauge).

Thanks Wikipedia.

Every manufacturing process has some variation on dimensional output and a sound mechanical design needs to account for these variations. If you ask a machinist to make you a block that’s 1″ by 1″ by 1″ you might get a block that’s 1.012″ by 0.923″ by 1.103″. Is that close enough?

Could the machinist have done a better job getting closer to the 1″ target? Probably, but since we didn’t specify a tolerance, technically it’s close enough. If we wanted something closer to 1″ per side we’d need to specify how close. That’s the tolerance. We’d say 1″ plus or minus 0.010″, for example. The 1″ dimension is called the nominal value and the 0.010″ is called the tolerance.

Later I’ll talk about tolerances associated with different manufacturing processes and environmental conditions and how mechanical engineers and product designers account for them in their designs.

Getting Started

Before getting into details I’m going to post a few quick notes on fundamentals. I will be referring back to these posts as the discussion goes deeper. Some of what I have to discuss may not be too interesting to those of you with degrees in engineering. I’m hoping to grab the interest of non-engineers/DIYers in the audience along with the product design professionals. I’m also hoping other seasoned professionals will comment with their thoughts.

What Do You Want to Know?

I have a few ideas for posts and topics of discussion and I’d like to know what would be most valuable to you. Most of my input will focused on practical applications in product design and development but I’m open to other ideas.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Tolerance analysis and datum selection
  • Design and evaluation of assembly constraints
  • Designing thermal systems
  • Stress analysis
  • CAD modeling techniques

Please post a comment with anything else you think might start an interesting discussion.

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

Edit 2010/03/15: posted link to the forum; comments closed on the thread.