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The Evolution of Sensor-Driven Technology

Sensors are electronic components and as their capabilities have advanced, these small components have completely redefined what physical products and devices can achieve. The evolution of sensor technology in recent years has radically increased the level of intelligence that can be built and engineered into products. This, in turn, has revolutionised numerous aspects of day-to-day life, making countless activities (from travel, to fitness, to turning on lights) not only easier but often safer and more efficient. Consumer and industrial audiences now readily await reports of the latest revelation in this field, eager to hear what new metric can be understood, monitored, quantified, and reported on. Beyond this, consumers are even more interested in what the product bringing this technology into their hands might look like. From detecting air quality to monitoring blood flow from outside the body, the variety of data that can be captured through products is constantly evolving. As sensor intelligence continues to develop, new product opportunities will arise.

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Technology Milestone: Say Hello to our Form 3L

The team at ITERATE have been incredibly excited in recent days due to the long-awaited arrival of our Form 3L, a large format resin 3D printer (Formlabs). We’re delighted to share that since returning to our Chepstow office, the Form 3L has made a welcome addition to our busy workspace. Restrictions may have made some things harder but we’ve seen first-hand that innovation has continued to thrive. The arrival of our Form 3L is timely for the design team who remain busy helping imaginative startups and bold businesses bring new products to life. This new investment into a large format 3D printer will open the door to even more 3D printing possibilities for both the design team here at ITERATE and our Clients. We’re ever more ambitious to push the boundaries of what we can achieve with our Clients using 3D printing techniques – the Form 3L is our latest step.

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INSIDE ITERATE: The Bigger Picture of Product Sustainability with Thomas Gray

Inside ITERATE sustainability is a subject that comes up a lot. From conversations with Clients to using sustainable design principles in the products we design. Thomas Gray is one the design engineers in the ITERATE team and this week’s article is inspired by a conversation with Tom about how product-based businesses have a responsibility to consider sustainability beyond just materials and marketing.

Sustainability is widely revered as a cornerstone of a responsible product and brand. This focus on sustainability has been driven by the voices of consumers who for years have pushed for more environmentally-conscious choices to be offered by brands. There’s no doubt that sustainability is and will continue to be a top priority for consumers. But, how can businesses live by this same value? The most successful product-based businesses are those that don’t just answer the demand with words, but who embed environmentally-considered processes into their business models and supply chains. Some go even further, recognising that sustainable systems have the power to enhance product experience.

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INSIDE ITERATE: Creating Innovative Concepts with Rhydian Dobbin

This “INSIDE ITERATE” thought comes from a conversation with Design Engineer Rhydian Dobbin and provides a window into how we develop concept designs and how in order to create outside-the-box concepts you, in fact, have to step away from the product itself.

Concept development can encompass a broad array of activities from market research to early technical validation. Nonetheless, from “where do you start?” at the beginning to “how do you know which direction to take” at the end, this phase can be perceived as a somewhat intangible. This stage of development is often thought of simply as the ideas stage, but as Rhydian explains, there’s a lot that can be considered and learnt within concept development about what is possible within a given design. There are numerous ways in the concept phase to both push the boundaries and explore the feasibility of an idea. This allows you to analyse options for a product and reach smart decisions through a blend of both blue sky thinking and technical consideration.

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Journey to Prototype: Bringing Technical Validation into Concept Development

To develop a product is to take an idea and turn it into something real and physical, something that can be seen, touched, and used. This ‘something’ could be tiny or large, simple or complex, it might even be lifesaving. Whatever the product, the process of transforming a thought into a tangible item is no easy feat. New product development is fundamentally challenging; this is why a product design consultancy develops a structured process to facilitate the development journey and reduce risk along the way. Each process may differ, but for the Client the pinnacle moment is reaching a prototype. Reaching a prototype is absolutely a key moment in the development journey. Nonetheless, the magnitude with which the prototype stage is revered can sometimes lead to opportunities in the earlier design stages being undervalued in a race to reach prototype. Often these are opportunities that can maximise the success of a prototype (and final product) and, in fact, can significantly save time and revisions in the later stages beyond the initial prototype.

The moment of reaching a prototype will always be a priority for the Client. Why are we so obsessed with the prototype stage? Why is this stage often afforded more value than any other? The answer is simple – it’s perceived as the first moment the Client gets to see their idea in reality. It offers validation; when with bated breath and healthy nervousness you unbox the prototype and get to see how your idea has translated into a real product. You can touch it. You can use it. You can interact with it. You can show it to people. The prototype gives a kind of ROI: you can now see in a physical form, the manifestation of all the ideas and conversations, the energy, time and investment. On a personal level, it’s a highly rewarding, even emotional moment. From a business perspective, reaching a prototype can be equally significant, it can be a key pre-requisite for further funding (potentially via crowdfunding or investment). It’s clear then that prototype is worth the hype.

But what is critical from a designer’s perspective, is that all of this validation can be seen in the earlier stages too. In reality, the prototype stage, the physical output, is an accumulation of all the design work that has come before it. Every idea, conversation, strategy, concept sketch, CAD detail, sourcing exercise, and in-house test contributes to the creation of a prototype (and obviously, the final product). It can be hard to see the value in these individual activities until you’re looking back over your journey with a prototype in your hands. However, recognising this value is essential. The work carried out in the early stages will determine the success of your product’s prototype. The quality and depth of design work carried out prior to prototyping is what will create that gasp of delight when you first unbox the prototype.

A key question evolves out of this, that question is, how can you ensure the prototype delivers on this expectation? By building technical feasibility into the early development phases.

Prototype may be the obvious moment when you are able to see and touch your idea, but there are numerous hands-on activities that come before this. As much as we love blue sky thinking, ideation and sketching, there’s more to concept development than visual exploration. There are strategic ways to bring technical validation into even the earliest stages of product development to make more evidence-based and informed design decisions that lead to a high-impact prototype and product.

Foresight 

The foresight stage includes the thorough research, sourcing, testing and evaluation of possible components to use within a product. This can be especially valuable when there are a number of technologies that could work withing your product. By sourcing and evaluating components for performance, price, size, power consumption, applicability given the intended use and more criteria, you are able to gain a solid understanding of the basis of your product right from the off.

Concept 

Different product concepts can be designed with particular manufacturing processes in view. This capacity requires a product design consultancy with strong manufacturing knowledge but can allow you to quickly get to grips with what may or may not be feasible. This can push you to consider your design priorities, whether it be achieving a very specific form, or realising the product through the lowest-cost manufacturing route.

Development & Detail 

Carrying out FEA (Finite Element Analysis) of 3D CAD models greatly informs the prototype creation. FEA gives an indication of where forces are going to be applied to the design, allowing a designer to assess the integrity and quality of a design before ever utilising (and potentially wasting) materials to create a prototype.

Our Thoughts

The process of realising an idea is broken down into stages precisely because product development is difficult, but it’s important to recognise just how interrelated these stages are. The purpose of stages is to de-risk development step by step, though the development process is still an interconnected one. Don’t wait for the prototype phase for confirmation that your idea will deliver as you expect. Fluidity, and new levels of forward-thinking can be built into every design stage in order to validate decisions and give you confidence in the product as it’s being developed. Reframing the way you see value throughout the product development journey could help deliver the excitement of prototype in every single stage.

Email: gethin@iterate-uk.com

Email: holly@iterate-uk.com

Contact: 01291 408283

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Inside ITERATE: Chris Tyler on Why You Should Design a Business, not a Product

This week’s insight from ITERATE comes from Chris Tyler; Chris is Senior Design Engineer at ITERATE Design and Innovation. Day-to-day Chris is closely involved in early-stage conversations about new ideas, whilst also working closely with every designer in the team to support the development of numerous products and designing new products himself. One thing Chris always does is ask our Clients to think of their projects as opportunities to design businesses not just products. Within this article, you’ll find out why Chris strongly believes this mindset leads to better results all-round.

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Inside ITERATE: Behind the Scenes of Our Company Video

Today marks the start of a new regular series on our blog; within this series “Inside ITERATE” you’ll find insights from the team, from what’s exciting us most in the design industry at the moment to what we’re thinking about as we develop new products every day. To kick off the series, we’re going behind the scenes of our recently released company video which you can watch here.

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Using Initial Conversations with Your Consultancy to Explore Market Opportunity

Your product design journey will start before any official kick-off. The very first call you have with your potential product design consultancy will be an exciting moment. It could be the first time you actually share your idea or explain the story of where that idea first began. Or, you may have an established business already and have started product development by the time you reach out to new partners. Your design project will technically start when the first phase begins (this could be foresight, concept or another). However, this formal kick-off often comes after several discussions, the creation of a proposal and possibly further conversation after that. By this point, your product design journey is well and truly under way already – or at least it could be … If you’ve seized your opportunity early on, you’ll have created extraordinary momentum with which all parties can begin development.

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ITERATE Welcomes Ross Johnson

Ross Johnson joins the team at ITERATE Design + Innovation on the Jobs Growth Wales (JGW) programme. The Welsh Government has recently secured £25m of European funding to enable 16-24 year olds to kick-start their career, which  is intended to support the creation of 8,955 new job opportunities over the next 3 years.

Ross joins the team after previously studying a BA in Industrial Product Design and an MA in Product Design and Innovation. Even though Ross is a recent graduate from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), he has expert knowledge of innovation management and creative thinking processes. Read more

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My Internship with ITERATE

In April, I started work as a Junior Design Engineer at ITERATE Design + Innovation in order to complete a 5 month industrial placement. This is part of the MSc in Advanced Product Design that I am currently studying at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

At the beginning of the internship, I attended a number of networking events where I had the opportunity to introduce myself and explain my role as a Product Designer. This helped me develop my confidence by talking in front of a large group of people in English, as French is my first language.

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