The last couple of years I’ve been busy adopting and implementing new methods of designing furniture and products. By making use of Visual programming (a.k.a. Parametric design a.k.a. generative design). I’ve been able to extend my 3D-design capabilities by several orders of magnitude. What used to be static 3D models that could only be changed by manually adjusting the model itself have now become extensive algorithms that can be changed by simply adjusting a couple of parameters that define the model itself. What used to be a linear 1:1 ratio between the effort to produce a model and the end result of that modeling process has now become a non-linear ratio between the effort to program the model and the amount of models that can be produced with that program. For illustration purposes I’ve added this configurator of a wooden dovetail Joint. If you change the parameters in the configurator you can adjust the model to your liking. https://app.shapediver.com/m/dovetail-joint-configurator-v2
This model has been programmed in a plugin for Rhino called Grasshopper. In order to convert this to a online configurator I’ve used the free version of the Shapediver plugin. The paid version comes with heaps of extra functions like an export/download/email component. With that one could download the 3D file of the model and there is more, like an integrated shopping cart, updated pricing, production automation, etc. Usually this is being applied in the realm of online product configurators where the consumer can adjust the product to their liking before purchasing it. The manufacturer receives the details, produces the customized product, and sends it to the consumer. That’s some mass-customization made easy for you.
Now at the other end of the spectrum we’ve got the Precious plastic community that is working on a viable business model in order to recycle the plastic waste into mighty fine durable products which is not a frivolous task of itself. After all, converting garbage into something valuable is an act of alchemy if you ask me. Thanks to the latest upgrades with PPV4 the production capabilities of individual workshops have been expanded even to the point one could make pressed sheets ready for CNC milling. But I could deduct that one of the major bottlenecks for many workshops is the amount of time and effort that has to be put into the design and aesthetics of the products. Now designers usually don’t like to share their designs because the act of sharing usually jeopardizes their livelihood. So whenever they’ve developed a product that meets the 21st-century consumer needs they keep the design to themselves, produce it themselves and even apply for copyright and intellectual property rights. When asked to collaborate on an open-source project the first and foremost question of the designer is “what’s in it for me?” Which is understandable, but disappointing nevertheless.
Back in the day, if one wanted to record a song they would have needed access to a professional studio, with an engineer and a producer, lot’s of expensive equipment like microphones, equalizers, mixing boards, analog tape or top tier computers with expensive recording and editing software running. After that they would have to bring their demo to a record label in order to get it published, pressed and played on the radio or else no one would ever hear it. Nowadays any kid can download some software on his or her laptop start recording and editing their own music any way they want to. They post it online and their audience has access to it. That’s good times. I believe the same deal will happen with design and architecture through the help of Visual programming and Parametric design.
What if it is possible to give someone access to a vast library of 3D models, designs and parts. Which can easily be adjusted to ones preferences and needs. Downloaded for very little cost and produced without having to spend vast amounts of time and effort doing all of the design and 3D modeling? Now that someone is also able to let their clients choose from a massive catalogue of configurable designs and ideas and only has to focus on the materials and tools at hand. If someone want’s to make a design more unique, they can go disco with the parameters and change it to their liking, download the 3D file or technical drawings and start producing. This application of parametric design would be very efficient when combined with CNC milling or 3D printing but could also be used for the automated creation of cutlists and calculations of required materials.
In my opinion it is merely a matter of time before almost anything one could think of designing will be absorbed in online parametric libraries. Not only accounting or the initial design but also allowing for limitless variations thanks to the changeable parameters of the algorithms. One could argue that it will diminish the creative aspect of product design process. But for a visual programmer like myself it is creativity on steroids in which almost anyone (even a computer) could participate determining the end result. I would very much like to commence on building a such a parametric design database aimed at supporting all of the Precious Plastic community and expand on building a sustainable business model. An obvious way to generate income from such a platform would be to charge a small monthly fee for subscription or charge a small amount of money for each download of which X amount would go the designer and a percentage to the platform itself.
I have experience in product design, furniture design, 3D modeling, parametric design & visual programming. But my web development and programming skills are not sufficient enough yet to completely set up such a platform. Precious plastic has decentralized recycling and decentralized production. I guess there would be plenty of demand for decentralized design. Below I’ve added an example of a parametric shelf design that can be configured and CNC routed for illustration purposes.
Please feel free to post feedback, comments and suggestions below.