AM-enabled Consumer Design

Matt Sinclair, R. I. Campbell, Yudhi Ariadi, M. A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


As digital fabrication technologies, e.g. additive manufacturing (AM), laser cutting, etc., become cheaper and easier to access, consumers who are not engineers or designers will make more use of them. This trend will occur whether designers, and others, like it or not. Some consumers are already able to design and manufacture their own products. However, these tend to look rather amateurish and not like finished “industrial designs”. This is where professional designers will still have a role to play. In AM-enabled consumer design, the role of designers will be to design deliberately unfinished objects. This is already happening to a limited extent. In “mass customisation” consumers are presented with an unfinished product and invited to follow their wishes and opinions to create a unique object. When considering mass customisation as an example of consumer design, it could be said that this is configuration, not design. Choosing from a menu of existing options does not make someone a designer. What is not possible, within a mass customisation scenario, is the ability to actually change the shape of the product, to affect the size or geometry. Recent work at Loughborough University, and elsewhere, shows how consumer design can be taken beyond mass customisation. Consumers can be presented with one example of a product design and allowed to change its shape and dimensions. Alternatively, they can be provided with a basic shape and allowed to create additional features to complete the design. To achieve this, new types of CAD software are required, referred to here as “easy CAD”. A number of alternative strategies exist and are being evaluated. Results so far indicate that consumers are able to create unique designs if they are enabled and guided by the right tools. The key element is to remove the fear of creating a “bad” design. Consumers need to be given the confidence to know that a product they have designed themselves will not break or be dangerous, basically that it is going to work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventRapid Product Development Association of South Africa - Planesberg National Park, Kwa Maritane, South Africa
Duration: 31 Oct 20122 Nov 2012


ConferenceRapid Product Development Association of South Africa
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityKwa Maritane
Internet address


  • 3D printing
  • mass customisation
  • additive manufacturing
  • CAD
  • consumer decision-making


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