Industrial Design and 3D Printing

The web search interest in ID is steadily declining. On the other hand and not surprisingly, the interest in 3D printing has steeply climbed in recent years.

Together with the fact that job prospects for industrial designers do not look very good at least here in the Netherlands, I wonder if this chart reflects only the search interest or if there is an actual shift where most products of the future will be 3d printed - with customizable shape and details rather than a static form to be mass produced in molds - and therefore will require a different type of product designer. I am leaning towards 3D printing being and staying suitable only for a few niches such as I posted here: But I am wondering, are we really all going to customize everything we buy and have it 3D printed?

Ralph: If you consider UX design, it doesn’t look as bad. I think that design is changing. Here in Montreal, I’ve seen a small rise in salaries and I can only assume it is because some designers are shifting to UX, which is much better paid.

I don’t think you can compare 3D Printing and Industrial Design web searches and conclude that one directly has an effect on the other.
I consider 3D printing a buzz term right now. There’s a lot of interest and misinformation in the general public. If you google May 2013 3D printing (the highest spike on the graph) it is because the first 3D printed gun was fired. Add to that 3D printing houses, to 3D printing food and body parts, to bringing 3D printing to the class rooms and you have a lot of interest. General public interest should not be compared to job prospects.

3d printing is a tool for industrial design.

What you are comparing would be like comparing searches for Microsoft Word to Novelists.

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Thanks for pointing out the steady uprise of UxD. Even though these are terms also searched for by the general public, they would mostly be used in professional contexts so I feel they do represent a shift. So it seems that interaction design, UI design and industrial/product design are now more and more used under the umbrella term UX design. Regards to 3D printing that is interesting since 3D printing is not only a tool, it also can change the customer experience of buying the product since it allows for deeper customization. I am now wondering what is the value of this customization.

For example there is Nervous system,, they sell these intricate pieces where you can customize shape but I don’t see that adding much value to the product as the general aesthetic and usability/functional properties do not change much. Then you have customizable jewelry where for example you can put your initials on a set of cufflinks and I think the fact that there is a step of personalization in the buying process adds a significant value, similarly to the added value you feel when the Starbucks employee puts your name on your cup (most often wrongly spelled). Or what if you would get your electric toothbrush with a shape that perfectly fits your hand - the fact, or even the idea, that it is tailored to you adds value, I am just wondering how much and if this would be significant enough for most products to become 3D printed. Then there’s also the value of craft - there are more and more fablabs and small concepts stores popping up where you can see products being made - and the fact that they are produced in house with this nifty small machine, designed by the person behind the counter or one of his/her friends, and that the designs can be altered almost on the fly, adds charm to the product.

I think the consumer 3D printing right now covers the accessories, personalization (names, initials, colors), and knick knacks markets. Other than that it becomes cost prohibitive. I don’t think people will want to customize every mundane product they buy.
As the objects get bigger and more complicated then you will need to incorporate some creativity not to mention software, hardware knowledge, etc. This creates either very cheap and small products or very expensive and highly customized products.
A great use of 3D printed consumer products is - 3D printed hands for children. The technology is perfect for it. Needs to be customized and is only printed one off.

For 100 euros, these personalized shavers are quite competitively priced. Too bad the coloring doesn’t resist water all that well.

Yes, but why would you like to personalize a shaver?
If the color doesn’t resist water then why are they using it? Also they don’t look too appealing. Again it seems more like a novelty than a useful use. Companies are trying to capitalize on the novelty of 3d printing but maybe a few more years before it becomes cohesive business model.

Currently the real value of custom 3D printing and product design is in the medical field.

I feel that for many consumer products, we will see a shift towards mass customization enabled by digital fabrication technologies, and that this is only the tip of the iceberg. 3D printers will always remain slow relative to mass production, on the other hand everything is made to order so supply meets the demand, no mold storage and maintenance is needed, multiple parts can be integrated, and I feel that if the cost can be kept down enough, even though it is only an additional ‘layer’ in the product experience, customization is what people want. The success of NikeID proved this - even though you can’t try on your shoes in an actual store and the price is higher, people are going to want to co-design their own products. And there are plenty of opportunities, also combined with virtual experiences such as AR, to develop new business models around 3D printed products, it will just take years before these innovations see the light of day. A lot needs to be done in terms of materials research as well - the material is still too expensive and the surface finish is not up to par - the colorants Shapeways uses are soaked into the nylon and afterwards can be rinsed out or rubbed off partially - I hope they fixed this by now.

The value of 3D printing is now definitely mostly in the medical field, as well as in lightweight multifunctional metal parts with intricate geometries, parts for small batches and in the near future multimaterial graded parts.

It will take an enormous shift in the way that people like to acquire things, a creation of an entire ecosystem, to make 3D printing a real ‘alternative’ to buying ‘stock’ stuff. Agree that its a tool for designers or wanna-be designers.
It has changed our workflows at Precor, and not always for the better. For instance its been easier to CAD something and send it to the printer than for the designers to go into the shop, carve up some wood or foam, and evaluate form instantly. We are working on the best balance of these two practices, both are useful.
NikeID is an interesting comparison - while not using 3D printing it hits on the same ‘co-creation’ issues as customization of product. NikeID made $100M USD in 2010 and is probably bigger now…but relative to the ‘stock’ offerings or the secondary resale market for Jordans, its probably just a blip on the revenue chart.
The only industries that will go away with the rise of more 3D printing are the industries that currently charge too much for printing or print services. In 20 years Apple Stores will try to sell 3D printers for $99 with the purchase of a laptop, and people will say “meh I already have one its collecting dust and the cartridges cost too much”.

Slippy, we still carve up the foam for just that reason. Our work flow tends to be research, insight, analog group sketch, digital sketch, foam model, CAD, 3d print, refine CAD, 3d print, final model. Sometimes we skip around. I remember talking to a BMW exec back in 2003 and he was saying they went all digital and then decided to go back to clay because people lost touch with the tactility of what they were making… and that was back in '02. Of course the tools will improve, and that is exciting. A DATO blade on a table saw is exciting… but it doesn’t take anything away from a hand cut dove tail.

RE Nike ID, $100m? In that year Jordan did about $1B and the company as a whole was at about $25B… just to put it in perspective. And keep in mind people are choosing from a limited palette of colors and materials that were specified by a designer. The funny think is that people will say “I designed these Nikes”… you basically pick one of a limited amount of iterations, but if all 1000 of those iterations were in a straight web catalogue it would be overwhelming.

I recently saw this booth at target. Wanted to make (design) one but I was in a hurry. I think this is a great use of 3D printing and consumer products.

I believe it takes a picture of your face and prints it on an action figure body.

Designers will always want to work with their hands as that also is a means of thinking about and evolving the design and keeps the designers more connected to the result which is an actual product. This was already seen in the Gothic period where builders started to design while building rather than separating the design from the craft. If there is a proper workshop, no 3D printer will take over the foam cutter.

So as for end products, there will be a marginal use for 3D printing to customize items or parts, the majority of a company’s revenue being determined by mass-manufactured products. I do see that growing because why not, if you can customize for a similar cost, why would you not do it. Lead times can be much shorter in the future and I believe we will see an upcoming of consumer-level SLA printers which can be made to work superfast (up to 1000 cc/hr) with great accuracy, little mess, cheap price, and in materials with PP or ABS-like properties as well as ceramics and beautiful transparent resins. Going into a store can become like a small design project, and at the end of the day you can pick up your creations. With the advantage that you can already start designing at home, store it in the cloud and evaluate and update your designs in the store after experiencing it through VR.

A professor here states that in 5 years, consumer 3D printing will start to overtake manufacturing:

The 3D awesome me reminds me of hearing about how US Civil War soldiers (1860-1864) would buy from a selction of soldier portraits to send back home to their family as pictures of themselves. True portraits were expensive and time consuming, and the quality of the photos was so blurry that close-enough was as good as a true portrait.

As for 3D printing, alot of this is marketing BS to get investment capital in shoddy startups. Sadly, there are many dumb rich people out there willing to pour their savings into it.

Slight diversion from the question, but I’m hoping someone can help.
I have always had my own product design firm and frankly, never learned the required computer skills.
I directed and designed the products with my team, but they executed all drawings.
Dinnerware, flatware, furniture, spirits and personal care in a variety of materials.
Silver, injection moulded plastic, glass etc.

I’d like to jump in myself and learn best program for 3D printing to experiment with concepts and shapes.
Will also get a printer.
What program should I learn to begin?


If you can afford it, step into solidworks. There’s a 30-day free evaluation period.
Otherwise I recommend Rhinoceros - it has a 90-day evaluation period and it’s an affordable package for most professionals.

Cura is great slicer software, and for starter 3D printers I recommend the Ultimaker.

I think it’s counter-intuitive to compare these two searches: 3D printing has been getting a lot ( a lot) of press in the past few years, but I doubt that the actual practical use even begins to measure up to the collective interest in the subject, particularly from people outside of the design community. While I do believe that 3D printing is going to produce some challenges for “traditional” (if that word means anything) designers, this isn’t really an actual representation of how printing is affecting the community.

I’m guessing the OP is trying to draw a correlation between the search result volumes? I dunno. I feel like it’s kind of a category error.

It is pretty interesting to me that tech which can aid a field of work whose market appears to receding can become popular on it’s own without bolstering the field of work that it aids.

I’ve long struggled with the common public conception that 3D printing is really a tool for consumers to replicate ready-to-use goods. Many seem to not care that the outcomes are not “perfect”. It seems to be the control of the manufacturing side of things that draws their excitement. A local software developer who got access to a 3D printer was very excited to show me the “really cool” glasses case he made… it was an extruded rectangle with one closed end. He was stoked that he was able to substantiate something on demand, regardless of the design.

I suppose I should stop thinking of this trend as a bad thing, but it certainly shakes up the status quo on the role of design.

Disrupting the status quo on the role of design? How so? People were able to make their own things themselves before in their garage, however well or poorly designed or made. This is just another tool in the garage… I have to go back to the Apple Garage Band example. Are you exclusively listening to music that you created and produced? Why not? You have the tools to do so. Are you exclusively reading books that you yourself have written in Microsoft Word?