By Kathrine Snabe
As an architect student at KADK, I have realized the importance of not only creating design that contribute to today’s society, but more importantly taking responsibility for shaping the future for next generations. In order to deliver on this vision, I experience an increasing need to experiment and explore various ideas and designs to better understand their characteristics and consequences. One of the central aspects of the expiring with new designs has been within prototyping. Prototyping has always been an integrated part of the design process at KADK. Even if the traditional approach of creating prototypes using cardboard has its qualities, it is becoming insufficient and too time consuming in order to live up to today’s rapid innovation cycles and deliver on the demand for modern organic shapes. So therefore, it would be central to use 3D printing to embrace the newest technology in the design industry.
First of all, the design process has become much more rapid and interactive and 3D printing has opened up new possibilities to design complex shapes and forms with a more sustainable approach on how to use and re-use materials. In addition, 3D printing offers very flexible production process, whereby products and even houses can be 3D printed at a very low cost. One of the key advantages of 3D printing is the opportunity of presenting ideas and concepts through a very accurate model. This allows us to visualize the architect’s and designer’s vision of the design like never before with extreme enriched detailing in the models. Furthermore, 3D printing is very time efficient and thus allows us to rapidly test different designs by simply printing new prototypes. As a consequence, we are able to move from a design process based on “learning by thinking” to a process that allows continuous learning and improvement through “learning by doing”.
While 3D printing has clear advantages, the technology also has some limitations. The biggest risk is associated with the tendency that the designer loses control of the design process and feels limited by the technology. It is vital that the designer maintains a free, spontaneous and honest expression, which often is achieved through the use of simple tools like paper and pen. Even if technology can enhance the design process a simple hand drawing allows the designer to maintain control and not be restricted by the technology. At the same time, it is the modern technologies that allow us to go beyond the traditional limitations of materials and construction techniques and reach new and more sustainable designs and solutions. To take full advantage of the new digital technologies we need to dramatically enhance the current education on how to best leverage the technology.
“Methodologies like Design Thinking combined with 3D printing could be a way to unite and build bridges between different universities and faculties. A method for students who wants to be part of shaping the future. “
Throughout the industrialization we have optimized mass production through specialization. This has led to lower costs for consumers but resulted in massive waste of resources. 3D printing is challenging the fundamentals of mass production by offering customized detailed design at the same price point as mass production. In order for us to create more sustainable value chains, we need product and process design based on circular economy principles. Thus, we need to rethink not just the design process itself, but the entire value chain including the business models. In other words, we need a more holistic approach. As a consequence, we may need to challenge the current level of specialization and instead bring together all the key players to be able to create the future circular value chains. Methodologies like Design Thinking combined with 3D printing could be a way to unite and build bridge between all different universities and faculties for students who want to take part in shaping the future. One source from where we could seek inspiration is the d-School at Stanford University. The d-School brings together students from all faculties around the Design Thinking methodology. Another great example is the Skylab at DTU offering entrepreneurs opportunities to prototype new ideas. Unfortunately, Skylab, like many university specific efforts, is mainly used by students at DTU. Ideally a Design Academy with tools and education around Design Thinking and 3D printing would bring together students from all universities and unite engineering, economics, art, design etc. and combine the competencies of each individual student around a common understanding and mission to develop sustainable solutions for a better future.