Not only does a prototype convey dimensions and a product’s finish, it also enables designers to gauge function and consumer reaction.
Technological innovation, including the development of rapid prototyping and other 3D printing methods, means that prototyping has shifted from a time-consuming, hand-sculpted endeavour to a faster, more immediate one.
The step of turning such processes into manufacturing systems is well under way. Not only does rapid manufacturing turn the old mantra of ‘design for manufacture’ on its head, with its ‘anything is possible’ approach, but designers are also starting to forge a new aesthetic
from the additive methods available, with materials and finishes
growing more sophisticated.
Such talk makes some designers jittery with fears of losing their autonomy and proximity to the physical process of design. But just as there’s still the need for manual craft skills in creating perfect finishes for prototypes, and for interpretative skills in creating a competition-winning architectural model, harnessing rapid manufacturing will always require the designer. In fact, with imagination the Only limit, it will demand more of designers in the future.