iCAT 2014 Invited lectures

Ian Campbell
Loughborough University (UK)
Facilitating Consumer Involvement in Design

This paper reports investigations into the potential for consumers to actively design their own desired products and thereafter to endorse them for manufacture. This idea emerged in anticipation of the rapid growth of low-cost fabrication technology, particularly 3D Printing.


Recent developments in 3D Printing have led to renewed interest in how to manufacture customised products, and specifically, in a way that will allow consumers to create bespoke products more easily. However, the entry point to 3D Printing is typically a 3D computer aided design (CAD) model, and most CAD systems are typically difficult for non-experts to use. Consequently, to make 3D Printing more accessible to consumers, design systems need to be developed that are as easy to operate as are the 3D Printers themselves.

This research reports on the development of a Computer-aided Consumer Design (CaCoDe) system that is designed to simplify the CAD process for non-designers. The analogy is giving the user a few blades to use rather than a whole Swiss Army Knife. The software, which has been developed using a Rhino and Grasshopper platform, is an easy-to-operate design system, where consumers interact with the dimensional parameters of pre-designed templates through on-screen slider-bars and pick-and-drag mouse movements. To determine the potential for consumer-led design, a range of product design templates were implemented using the software and then evaluated by non-designers. 

The evaluation was undertaken using 40 individuals from a range of backgrounds and with a wide spread of ages. They were asked to use the software to design their own customised version of a product and then to evaluate its ease-of-use, specific user-interface features and the likelihood of them wanting to use it in future. 

The results showed that the majority of the individuals found the system to be user-friendly and understandable. The results were used to define the final version of the software and to make recommendations for future developments in this area.

After graduating from Brunel University in 1985, Ian Campbell worked as a design engineer, first in Ford Motor Company, and later in the Rover Group.  In 1989, he was appointed as a Senior Teaching Fellow for CAD/CAM at the University of Warwick, where he undertook a part-time MSc degree by research.  In 1993, he obtained a lectureship at the University of Nottingham and gained his PhD, again through part-time study, in 1998.  His current position, since October 2000, is Reader in Computer Aided Product Design at Loughborough University in the Design School. Dr Campbell is editor of the Rapid Prototyping Journal.