CAD Innovation in a Mass Customization World

Written by: Gavin Quinlan

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, products were created by craftsmen, usually by hand, and always on a one-by-one basis.  Making anything of quality was a laborious process, limiting their availability to the few who could afford it.  Mass production changed all that, and in the process created our modern world.

That revolution in product design worked by giving everyone more or less the same thing, and by making that same thing relatively inexpensive to produce.  However, with current and coming advances in 3D printing, CAD software and consumer communications, the core idea of the Industrial Revolution – minimizing variation – is giving way to something new: mass customization.

Before modern CAD innovations, choices were limited.

Early car buyers could choose from black, black, and black.

In the very near future, consumers will be able to order everything from cars to appliances to clothing via online customization tools, selecting exactly the features they want and how they want them.  Supply chains will have to be reconsidered, as production batches will steadily shrink from thousands of pieces to ultimately one piece at a time.  More and more, products will be delivered on demand rather than in mass supply.

How will tomorrow’s CAD designer work in a mass product customization world?

Automated reverse engineering.  One of the best ways to quickly customize an existing product design is to take it apart and see how it works.  Unfortunately, drawings can disappear and knowledge can be lost to time.  With new, advanced reverse engineering capabilities, CAD systems will be able to digitally model and analyze existing physical products, with an eye towards customizing them for new market demands.  By doing this on an automated basis, CAD product designers will be able to leverage existing intellectual property in ways never before possible.

Virtual prototype creation.  With new and advanced simulation technology, 3D CAD designers are now able to easily and quickly reverse engineer a replica of an existing product, as well as extensively simulate its operation.  This will enable future product designers to rapidly determine the best options for implementing custom features without prohibitive time or cost liabilities, and to develop new product prototypes efficiently in a virtual environment.

One design, endless variations.  As workflows simplify and existing product designs fully mature in a mass customization environment, core designs will standardize while options for variation will expand.  Next generation CAD environments (such as PTC Creo) not only facilitate this today, but in the future will be designed to further excel at it.  Existing, discontinued, and hard-to-find designs will find new and greater utility, with greatly enhanced value for your company’s entire intellectual property portfolio.

3D printed Local Motors car

The designer of this 3D -printed car, by Local Motors, says "The idea was you build that carbon-fiber tub [which would hold the batteries, motor, chassis and wheels] and put whatever body you want on it,’

So how long will you need to wait to enjoy these features in your CAD system?  Many are available today, in the current generation of reverse engineering and simulation extensions to the PTC Creo CAD suite.  Ask us today how your product development processes can be made ready for the mass customization product design world.

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Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices

About the Author

Gavin Quinlan