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Words, sometimes, fail me…

Published 13 May 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, research

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“Eye tracking technology to revolutionise the design process” says research team… we think.

Published 06 May 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

It took me a couple of goes to read this through and understand it, so I’m going to pretty much replicate the complete press release verbatim:

Researchers from The Open University and the University of Leeds have been awarded 195,000 GBP from the Leverhulme Trust to develop an intuitive computer aided design (CAD) system that could revolutionise the design process. They will examine how eye tracking technology could recognise which parts of design sketches the designer is interested in, and automatically suggest developments of that element.

Dr Steve Garner, Principal Investigator and Senior Lecturer in Design at The Open University, said: “Our starting point was thinking about what type of computer systems designers will be using in 15 or 20 years’ time. We believe that in the future, CAD systems will work alongside designers to stimulate and enhance their creativity by offering suggestions and highlighting alternative options right from the earliest point in the design process, when they’re sketching out their ideas.”

The research builds on a prototype CAD system funded through the Designing for the 21st Century programme, a joint initiative between the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The Design Synthesis and Shape Generation project (DSSG) produced the world’s first 3D shape grammar-based design system, which succeeded in overcoming a major limitation in current shape grammar-based systems – that of recognising ’sub-shapes’ in early design sketches.

Alison McKay, Professor of Design Systems at the University of Leeds, explains: “Sub-shapes or emergent shapes are those created when two or more shapes intersect. For example, if two squares overlap diagonally, we see a third square created in the middle. But in conventional CAD terms, this middle square doesn’t exist, because it has not been previously defined in the programming and is therefore ignored by the CAD system for design purposes. But in real life, designers use such ambiguities within their sketches to inspire further design developments using their creativity and experience and we succeeded in developing a system that could assist that process from the start.

The new project takes the DSSG software a radical step further by adding eye tracking capability into the mix. It’s a step that could ultimately see the designer and software working in complete creative harmony.

When we’re interested in something or when part of a picture catches our eye, our eyes are naturally drawn back to that part several times over. The eye tracking device could detect this interest and intuitively make suggestions to inspire the design development without the designer having to interrupt his or her train of thought to instruct the computer to work on a certain part,” Professor McKay continued.

The designer wouldn’t have to physically interact with the software – the software would already be in tune, ready to support the creative process by suggesting new ways of seeing the possibilities a shape can offer.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I’ve read it again now, I’ve got a nagging feeling in the back of my head that there’s an application for this screaming out at me. but I’m buggered if I can think of what it might be. Anybody got any ideas?

Exploring the DSSG web-site further, I stumbled across this:

Now that makes much more sense. I think. Help?

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Coming up: Live Events

Published 28 April 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: prototype, rapid prototyping, live events, productpoint, live reports, rapid2009

So, I don’t know if you heard, but there’s supposed to be some sort of global economic apocalypse happening. Would someone please tell my travel agent, because it seems that whilst the world is in financial freefall, I’m travelling more than ever, both within the UK and to the US. and its not just me, its the rest of the DEVELOP3D team too.

I’ve been in the US for a month of 2009 already this year and just got back from a trip to Portland and Arizona and I’m headed out to RAPID2009 in Chiacgo early next month. I’ve not been to RAPID before, so I’m pretty excited to see what’s on show. There’s pretty much three events that make my calender for a year on the rapid prototyping front. Euromold in Frankfurt at the tail end of the year and TCT Live just a few months before it in October in the UK.

RAPID is a new addition, organised by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and its on in Schaumburg, just outside of Chicago, 12 May to the 14th. A quick gander at the exhibitor list and all the big boys are there, Objet, Stratasys, EOS, Z Corp, all the reverse engineering guys as well as a some of the bigger service providers. It’ll be interesting to speak to the latter to see how things are going. I discovered a long while ago that talking to those that ’service’ the product development industry is a fantastic gauge for seeing how the industry is doing as a whole.

After that, next US trip is out to Orlando again for PTC/User 2009 – always an intriguing event. One thing I found interesting is that rather than, as they have in previous years, segregated the press/media from the users for all but a few select occasions, this year, we seem to have a lot more freedom to wander and to explore. Of course, with Wildfire 5 on its way very soon, I’ll be trying to find out a little more about what’s coming up and let you guys know. PTC also have another event on I’m going to try and make, that’s looking at Windchill ProductPoint, something I looked at in the last issue of DEVEVLOP3D. It’s running in the UK on the 7th of May at the Warwick Manufacturing Group International Centre. Details are here.

Which brings me to the point of my post. Are live events something you’re interested in? With staff reductions, greater work load and more pressure than ever, is a live event something you’d consider stepping foot out of the office for? I’m curious to know. I suspect the answer is a no, but if its a yes, I’d love to know the reason why.

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Proto Labs add the fourth axis to its plans for domination

Published 27 April 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: prototype, proto labs, protomold, first cut prototype

Ever heard of Proto Labs? What about Protomold or First Cut? Well, if you have, you probably know all about their service, if you don’t let me explain. Proto Labs, in both their US and European operation, have managed to build up a very interesting business – starting out with injection moulding, the company focussed on squeezing out the inefficiencies in the whole process and have squeezed things down until they’ve got it absolutely nailed. You load up the web-site, upload your 3D CAD data and get a quote back.

The quote is hyper-interactive, lets you see any potential problems and gives you a huge amount of Design for Manufacturing advice (its worth using it for that reason alone, as a sanity check). You get a price that’s an amalgamation of the cost of the Aluminium tool, batch size, material selection and time. If it meets your needs, the machine kicks into gear. The factory set-up in the UK (I’ve not seen the US operation) is super slick. Aluminium tools are produce, plastic is shot and parts are shipped. That’s pretty standard right? no. These guys can turn it around in 24 hours. Yup. Part uploaded, paid for, tool machined, loaded onto a moulder, parts produced, packed and shipped – in 24 hours. Now tell me that’s not impressive.

In the last few years, the company has been expanding its services, mostly notably with the creation of First Cut Prototype, where you can order prototype components, machined directly from production intent material (rather than moulded – and it just does plastic.. at the moment). Why would you want to do that when there’s a wealth of rapid prototyping technology avialable that claim the same? The answer is firstly, production intent means production intent, rather than a resin or powder-based simulacrum. The second is again, speed. They can get your order, give you the same ProtoQuote, then once accepted, you can get those parts, to your door, in the same time frame – 24 hours. Something that makes a mockery of the Rapid tag often attributed to some prototyping techniques.

Well, the interesting news is that the company has just added a 4th axis to its First Cut service – this means that they can rotate the around the z axis and can produce more complex components. Oh and John Tumelty, the MD of Proto Labs Europe, is also a columnist in DEVELOP3D, where he gets his hair off over manfuacturing issues every month. Why did we ask John to write for us? Because when it comes to design for manufacturing, these guys have got it nailed.

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