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Day in the life of a tech designer

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What is a typical day like, for a technical designer?

Here at Displayplan, design runs through the heart of what we do. Every design studio has their own way of doing things, and we’re no different. Our way can be split into a tale of two halves; concept design, and technical design. Our concept team do a great job of dreaming up the ideas, narrating a project’s story and creating stunning visuals to share our ideas with our clients. It’s then my job as part of the technical team to bring the story to life, and develop an idea into a production ready solution. So what does a typical day look like for me?

A snapshot of my tools & workstation, including the all important vernier caliper & paper mate flair pen.

Mornings start with coffee, fuelling the brain in preparation for solving the technical challenges ahead. We’re proud coffee connoisseurs here, with fresh beans delivered regularly for use in our beloved De’Longhi machine. After a caffeine fix, it’s on with the day.

The majority of our work is done in SolidWorks but I still opt for the trusty pen and paper at the beginning of a project, taking the time to think through the best way of approaching a problem. After quickly sketching ideas, the process moves into CAD modelling, where we can get a real sense for the best way to mass-produce a design.

Sketching through ideas for joint construction methods; thinking through necessary shapes and snap-fits needed.

We use Solidworks CAD to model our designs in 3D. This 3D data can be used to create a technical drawing pack to convey to factories how we want something produced, as well as running technical simulations to test things such as stress points & draft analysis.

When a part has been developed in SolidWorks, it’s always beneficial to create quick prototypes and mock-ups for testing. We have a variety of processes at our disposal in-house for this, which the team put to good use daily. We have a 3D printer we use for rapid prototyping purposes; particularly useful for testing designs that involve injection moulding or other tooling processes such as extrusions. One of the great things about this is we can test a part prior to the expensive tooling stage to check performance and usability. We also have a fully stocked workshop with traditional machinery, as well as a flatbed CNC router and laser cutter.

Our Trotec Laser at work, cutting some acrylic ready to be heat bent for testing a concept.

Our workshop line bending facilities. The ability to test this in-house is invaluable when assessing how difficult something will be to mass-produce for a fabricator.

Taking time to further develop parts throughout the design process is an important stage to us in aiming to perfect a solution before it goes into a store. Above all else, we place importance on creating solutions that will perform well for the whole lifetime of a unit.

Test joints; a primary focus of this project was to develop a solution that required zero fixings, which took the shape of developing an array of snap-fit joints. The ability to test and advance these through learnings gained from creating physical mock-ups using our laser-cutter was invaluable in determining the appropriate tolerances to achieve a snug and durable join.

The process of testing physical prototypes prior to the manufacturing stage of a project is something we believe strongly in. We prototype every design we create, either through fabricators, or our workshop staff. We typically then use these prototypes to show our clients how a project has progressed through the technical design stage from the first visuals our concept team created. This will then spring-board a unit into mass production.

Fabricated and graphics applied; a finalised prototype of a design created for Mars Chocolate, who were looking at creating a flat-pack display box solution.

This overview of our technical process is a glimpse into our way of working and thinking, which we apply to all our projects. As a team, we have a shared passion for designing beautifully engineered customer experiences, and strive to keep pushing the boundaries of this.

Posted 28-02-17