User Experience of Design for 3D Printing

2013 – This UX research project was about investigating two different design tools, one parametric and one that uses an evolutionary algorithm, and comparing those tools in a user study.

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A 3D printed model of a lampshade made with the evolutionary design tool.

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The project consisted of the development of two design tools, one parametric and one that used an evolutionary algorithm. Examples of possible design were 3D printed and a user study was performed were the participants used the software to design two lamp shades using both design tools resulting in a 3D rendering.

3D Printing enables the fabrication of intricate geometries, often inspired by nature, and generated by algorithms. The motivation for doing this project was to see if it is possible to consumers design these intricate forms by using a higher level interface.

Prototype of design tools

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The prototypes were made in Grasshopper, a visual programming language plug-in for Rhino 3D software. This allowed for a working prototype with a basic interface and 3D rendering capacity.

User study

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A user study was done with 10 participants who used both tools to design a lamp shade. Before using the tools, they were asked to do a small context analysis and write their own design brief with intentions, requirements, and ideas of how the lamp shade should work and look like.

Outcomes

One of the outcomes of this project is a description of qualities of each design tool which is summarised in four qualities of openness. These can be used when future design tools are developed to intentionally position a tool in a certain area.

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The full documentation of this project can be found in my PhD dissertation, chapter 8.