Dean, Lionel Theodore, Unver, Ertu, Campbell, Ian and De Beer, Deon (2012) Making it real: virtual tools in 3D creative practice. In: Making: an International Conference on Materiality and Knowledge. Book of Abstracts . NordFo, Nordic Research Network, Notodden, Norway, p. 76.

FutureFactories is a design research project exploring the creative possibilities afforded by digital design and manufacturing technologies. A specific aim of the project is mass individualisation; the industrial scale production of one-off artefacts. Tangible products would ‘printed’ direct from virtual meta-designs using additive manufacturing (Atkinson 2003). Distinct from mass customisation,
where the product is configured to a specific consumer need or desire, individualisation involves introducing elements of random variance similar to the idiosyncrasy seen in natural forms.
In the initial research a computational design approach was adopted in which computer scripts
were used to ‘drive’ parametric CAD models (Unver 2003). A barrier to the adoption of such
systems however, is the level of programming involved. Methodologies were developed to simplify
the task such a Constructive Solid Geometry, CSG, building block approach (Dean 2009) whereby
complex geometries are ‘assembled’ from pre-defined primitives. In spite of this development
programming remained a significant burden. A commercial desire to simplify further had to be
balanced against an audience demand for ever more dramatic changes in geometry.
A potential solution came from looking outside of object centred product design to the virtual realm
and to digital visualisation and simulation tools developed for diverse industries such as cinema
and applied mechanics. This paper explores, through a series of case studies, the adoption and
adaption of virtual modelling tools in 3D creative practice. Functional product design outputs are examined along with the practicality of the methodologies used to create them. As the transition between the digital and the real becomes increasingly simple, the virtual realm is set to become an ever more fruitful creative playground for 3D design and craft practitioners.

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