New project creates better product design tools


Researchers at the University of Bristol’s Department of Engineering are improving how digital and physical product design tools can work together to make products faster, cheaper and by anyone.

The £425,000 funded Engineering and Physics Research Council project brings together expertise from the University of Bristol and the Bristol Digital Futures Institute with industry specialists Ultraleap, Autodesk, The Product Partnership, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in a new two-year project that aims to redefine the prototyping tool chain.

’21st Century Prototyping Technology’ will address the challenges product designers face when navigating between physical and digital prototypes simultaneously to save time and money

It will also look at how end users can be brought into the prototyping process, allowing them to take an active role in the design process, even when designing complex products, and ensuring that future products are exactly the right fit. to their own tailored needs.

Engineers will use a combination of immersive technologies including mixed reality, haptics, physical tracking, and more to develop a toolkit of cross-domain prototyping tools that simultaneously leverage the benefits of physical and digital work.

Example applications include the ability for designers to physically hold and manipulate digital designs without waiting for fabrication, augment physical objects with virtual styling or materials while performing user studies, and gather opinions without creating every prototype, or integrating advanced numerical analysis directly into prototyping, enabling designers to make the right decisions, from the start.

University of Bristol lead researcher Dr Chris Snider said:

“Despite its enormous potential and proven technical capabilities, the use and value of immersive technologies for product design has yet to be fully explored. We want to know if they can deliver on their promise to designers and If yes, how.

“I hope this project sets the tone for product design in the future. We want to reduce the vast complexity and cost that straddles the virtual and physical worlds to create a streamlined process that benefits both designers and users. »

Chris’ team will work with the Bristol Digital Futures Institute to access its network of community, industry and government collaborators for workshops and outreach. They could also use BDFI’s new facilities, such as the Reality Emulator – a large-scale multi-sector advanced digital twin at the heart of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

Hayley Shaw, Head of BDFI Institute and Partnerships, said:

“BDFI’s mission is to transform digital innovation for a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future. Involving the end user in the design process is an important part of the suite of methods that BDFI will deploy to accomplish this mission, and we are delighted to support Chris and his team in this pioneering project.


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