Thoughts on innovative product design

Dave Jenkins is enjoying a fascinating career in product design. He started by working in a large design team for Dowty Aerospace in the UK, working on the landing gear for the Airbus A320. Dave has since worked on diverse design challenges including textile folding machinery in Switzerland, bicycle accessories in Italy, and a more recent commission for a dispensing system for The Body Shop back in the UK. Dave is also an enthusiastic participant in the Solid Edge Startup Program that offers free software to startup companies for a period of one year. I spoke with Dave recently to find out more about his insights on innovative product design.

One of Dave’s jobs in his varied career was running a bicycle shop and designing cycling accessories in Sicily

Exploring different design solutions using synchronous technology

Dave has built up significant experience working with multiple CAD systems but was intrigued by some discussion he saw about “synchronous technology” in Solid Edge.  Could this be a better solution to support the diverse design challenges he encounters as a contract designer? The importance of exploring different solutions was clear to Dave from early on in his career. “When I studied product design it didn’t matter if I came out with a good idea, I had to present 10 ideas. You wouldn’t get a good grade for just one idea even if it was brilliant! You had to have 10 ideas.”

Dave’s experience with Solid Edge, specifically with synchronous technology, is that it gives him the flexibility to rapidly explore different design possibilities. “I don’t often like my first idea, I like to keep experimenting. Synchronous technology allows you to draw something up and add things quickly. There are no sketches behind it that might constrain you to follow a specific design path. You can see what you are doing, you can morph it and stretch it.”

Designing a refill station for personal care products

Dave has recently been using Solid Edge to design a refill station for personal care products for a leading retailer in the UK, The Body Shop. “The interaction between the customer and the retail assistant is an important part of their shopping experience. I designed a dispenser with a hand pump action like what you see when you are served a craft beer. This strengthens the customer’s perception of a quality product and gives them a custom experience.”  The refill station is now installed in the Body Shop’s store on Oxford Street in London. Dave says, “To design something and install it in the flagship store of a multinational retailer was a fulfilling experience.”

Dispensing system for The Body Shop as designed in Solid Edge, and as assembled on the kitchen table

Even small scale projects benefit from a digital transformation

In our conversation, Dave commented on the digital nature of this project. He sourced the custom components from local manufacturers and the catalog components using online searches. The dispensing system is designed for easy assembly, so he can assemble the products himself on his kitchen table. This digital transformation approach to design and manufacturing eliminates expensive overheads for workshop space, tooling, and machinery. “With the digital possibilities of first designing something, then creating a bill of materials, then going online and sourcing all the components, and being able to pay for them on the telephone, I cut out a massive amount of overhead.”

Dave’s dispensing system design is installed in The Body Shop’s flagship store on Oxford Street in London

One of the newer capabilities in Solid Edge that Dave is interested in exploring further is Model Based Definition. “As a designer I always hated doing 2D drawings. I prefer a model based definition approach where you add dimensions and product manufacturing information directly to 3D models.  For the refill station project, the drawings were not important. I just transferred the data directly to the manufacturer.”

“I can’t design something without thinking there must be a better idea”

In summary, Dave says, “I can never design something without thinking there must be a better idea, or at least one I haven’t explored. With older CAD software it is almost like your first idea is your last one! Using Solid Edge with synchronous technology I have the ability to rapidly explore multiple design ideas.”

You can contact Dave at dj.eng.des@gmail.com

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