Tradename: Mercury - Concept
Company: Anonymous
  • This rendition of the final design for a new printer was fully engineered and prototyped for our client. The design conveyed an intuitive user interface, ease of use, elegance and a distinctive look which established a new brand image for the company. Creative application of materials, such as extruded aluminum panels for the rear section, structural foam for the main covers and bonded bent tempered glass for the windows, resulted in a winning design. Our objective was to develop a complete product design which addressed product branding, user interface, and all the engineering parameters associated with this 3D printer. Complete product design requires a command of manufacturing methods, materials as well as a comprehensive understanding of product function. The complete story is described in the following pages.

  • Phase 1 – Research and Product Specifications

    This project, referred to as Mercury, represented the next generation 3D printers for our client. Our objective was to develop a new product brand while maintaining a family resemblance to the existing products. The scope of work included all phases of design starting with market research and concept development to first article acceptance from production tooling for all external cosmetic panels. Our initial research included reviewing competitive products, design trends and color studies.

  • Phase 2  – Concept Development – Concept 1

    Our initial project research also included a comprehensive understanding of product function, analysis of sub-system functionalities, product use, operational sequence and ergonomic requirements. This concept represented a possible design alternative which satisfied all the design requirements. The overall form was segmented into three intersecting elements which were visually related with similar curved surfaces and design details.

  • Concept 2

    This concept expressed the printer as two adjacent architectural elements which were foreshortened with a bright yellow accent color, separating the rear from the front. A reflective surface applied to one of the front panels was suggested to reduce size.

  • Concept 3

    Applying a bold yellow band along two edges of the rear wall provided a distinctive identifying design element for this concept by framing the rear form with a bright accent color. Two curved modules were intentionally designed to appear as intersecting elements which visually related to one another while serving different purposes. This concept also utilized aluminum to offset the rear wall from the front work area.

  • Concept 4

    Our firm explores numerous concepts during the initial phase of development. This integrated form more closely resembled some of the previous products in our client’s product line but conveyed an advanced technology by integrating the overall appearance with cohesive forms. New accent colors and design details eliminating framed borders around doors provided a refreshing design alternative.

  • Concept 5

    Restrained rectilinear shapes, simple cuts and radii were applied to this robust industrial expression of this printer concept. Use of an orange-red accent color on the rear compartment visually separated the rear portion of the printer from the front, thus reducing overall bulk and size. Specifying a slightly darker grey color to the top covers suggested subtle separation of the hinged covers from the fixed base, further reducing size.

  • Concept 6

    We offered a hybrid transitional style of the printer with this attractive integrated design concept. The equal use of deep red and cool grey split the large volume of the product into two smaller but visually related forms which also enhanced product branding. Use of two circular arced surfaces on each of the critical user areas balanced ergonomic requirements with visual appeal.

  • Concept 7

    During the concept phase we not only experimented with forms and colors but also experimented with textures based on different materials. This concept is an example of a design which was applied a granite finish to the front covers and brushed aluminum for the rear portion of the printer. The forms were deliberately limited to simple architectural elements to enhance the materials and textures applied to selective surfaces.

  • Concept 8

    Although this concept was not very attractive due to the poor use of color and fragmented forms, it did provide an inspiration for a much more successful design solution shown in the next image. Many of the design elements in this concept were excellent but the execution of the overall design was too awkward.

  • Phase 3 – Concept Refinement & Preliminary Cost Analysis  –  Part Costs 1

    Selected concepts were chosen for a preliminary cost analysis during which time parts were individually extracted from the overall design as shown in this image.

  • Preliminary Part Costs 2

    The preliminary CAD model concept was segmented into individual parts which were assigned estimated weights based on a wall thickness and surface area. Part sizes and weights provided us with enough information to estimate tooling and part costs.

  • Preliminary Part Costs 3

    The same process of identifying parts, weights and sizes for alternative concepts give the product development team additional parameters for selecting a concept which was optimized for the application.

  • Selected Concept Color Scheme 1

    Shortly after we selected this concept for the next generation 3D printer, we investigated various color treatments and their impact on product perception. This restrained color pallet utilized some of the company’s existing colors combined with brushed anodized aluminum, silvered paint and dark gray.

  • Selected Concept Color Scheme 2

    This second color alternative was identical to the previous concept except for the introduction of a blue highlight color in the handle recess.

  • Selected Concept Color Scheme 3

    Our last alternative color palette consisted of a darker gray front section which was complimented with a lighter colored brushed anodized aluminum rear section. Product line continuity and branding was maintained with application of corporate orange accents in key user areas.

  • Phase 4 – Full Scale Foam Core Models for Human Factors Studies

    We have found full scale foam core models to be invaluable as a means of assessing human interaction with a proposed design concept. This model enabled our team to pinpoint potential problem areas and refine design details to optimize man-machine interface. Use of foam core provided cost effective, quick and efficient evaluation well in advance of detailed engineering.

  • Phase 5 – Fully Functional Pre-production Prototype 1

    After we completed production ready CAD files for all the external covers, a fully functional prototype was fabricated, assembled and evaluated. This photo shows the pre-production unit assembled to a chassis. The rear section was assembled from a sample run of custom extruded aluminum and all the front covers were 3D printed. Special thermoformed tempered glass windows were bonded to the covers with special high strength double sided tape.

  • Fully Functional Pre-production Prototype 1

    This detail photo of the upper left hand corner of the printer shows a critical area where all the covers meet. Designing large covers to align without adjustments and comply with normal production tolerances requires comprehensive knowledge of manufacturing practices.

  • Prototype Detail 1

    Our suggestion of bonding curved glass to the structurally foam molded doors proved to work remarkably well. This proposed design detail was originally strongly opposed by our client, but proved to look and function exactly as we intended. Our continued push for design excellence is typical for all our work.

  • Prototype Detail 2

    This last photo shows another detail of the left side, where the side panel and covers meet. The splits between covers and panels were carefully proportioned to integrate the form and function of the product into a sophisticated, elegant state of the art product.

Award & recognitions


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From the Blog – Insights Into Our Design Process and Philosophy