Devices such as wireless routers, media hubs, and wireless home audio systems create what the Cisco Consumer Business Group calls the “connected life,” one that is more social and visual than ever. Drawing on the Danish influence of Scandinavian design, the company emphasizes function, minimalism, and affordability without comprising design aesthetics. Its designers use SolidWorks 3D CAD software.
A key design principle is that the designer must hold a prototype of his or her product in their hands, sense the proportions, heed what the object “tells” them, and ensure that the form ultimately follows the function. The designer may then modify the design, generate another prototype, and then examine the new design just like the first.
The problem is that traditional handcrafted prototypes are time-consuming and expensive to make. Some automated rapid prototyping methods are costly, and the prototypes must be outsourced, adding time and inconvenience to the process. And though many designers rely on screen images alone, they are simply insufficient to create the quality the Consumer Business Group demands. The challenge, then, was to uphold the highest aesthetic standards while meeting deadlines in the highly competitive consumer electronics business, where time to market is critical.
Cisco’s solution was to invest in an office-friendly 3D printer from Z Corporation that lets designers make their own physical prototypes. This printer helped Cisco engineers quickly and inexpensively generate the physical models needed from 3D CAD data. The Consumer Business Group applied its exacting design standards in a manner that kept the development cycle humming, and helped products go to market on schedule. Z Corporation printers pump out prototypes in hours instead of weeks and for one-fifth the cost.
“Proportions and ergonomics are paramount, yet too many designers rely on computer screens alone as their design medium,” said Eskild Hansen, head of Cisco’s European Design Centre in Denmark. “We depend on physical prototypes for each design review, both locally and globally in concert with our design partners in the United States. ZPrinting is an easy and effective way to conduct a productive global design review.”
The Consumer Business Group uses the 3D printer to create 10 models per week for design review. Models are printed directly from SolidWorks files submitted by designers around the world. Designers, executives, and marketers in the team’s North American office join Hansen’s team in Denmark in design reviews using the Cisco TelePresence teleconferencing system on 50-in. plasma screens. As many as 14 colleagues at a time review the models, as well as 3D PDFs, interactive eDrawings, and photorealistic renderings, all created in SolidWorks.
Designers pass around the ZPrinted models, mark them up with pencil, revise designs in SolidWorks, print out new models, and repeat the cycle as necessary. The hands-on step is an absolute must, according to Hansen. “We obtain prototypes quickly, refine them quickly, create new ones, and derive our elite designs,” he said.
The color capability of the printer is used as well. Color communicates the proposed look, feel, and style of engineering product designs. The printer works seamlessly with SolidWorks software. You can save SolidWorks 3D models as STL files for quick 3D printing on the 3D printer or any rapid prototyping device.