we dont do retro » Blog Archive » Consumer Adoption of Rapid Manufacturing Technologies – Part 3

we dont do retro » Blog Archive » Consumer Adoption of Rapid Manufacturing Technologies – Part 3: "Consumer Adoption of Rapid Manufacturing Technologies – Part 3
08Apr08 by Matt Sinclair"

So far I have looked at ways in which rapid manufacturing technologies might become available to consumers, and the reasons why product design for rapid manufacturing is easier than for mass manufacturing. In the final part of this extended post I want to address the only other remaining hurdle to consumers designing and manufacturing their own products: the tools they will use to design with.

Consumer co-design, sometimes called co-creation, is a topic that’s been written about at length by design researchers. At it’s purest it involves the end user, or typical representatives of end users, entering the design process and creating products or services as part of a design team. In practice though, co-design is often little more than an enhanced customer research exercise. End users might be asked about their needs and desires, encouraged to offer suggestions, and even invited to critique proposed solutions. But there is no doubt it is the designers who are expert, and who make the final decision.

As a designer myself, I confess I find it difficult to break free of this mindset – surely my training and experience mean I am able to understand what a market of consumers will want better than an individual consumer themself might? But the point is, what I think will end up being irrelevant if consumers are able to design their own products. Why should a consumer care that I think their product is crass or crude, if it’s exactly what they want, and they’ve made it? At the moment though, I have one trick up my sleeve – I can use CAD, to design a product and to communicate that design to the means of production, in a way that no non-designer can. All the time designers and design engineers can monopolise the expertise needed to create CAD data, consumer created products will not happen