Resonance - New Waves in Product Distribution

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resonance new waves in product distribution

Juan Carlos Noguera Cardoza 1

Nuke electric Ukulele - Fused PLA filament print (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se… I don’t believe in this ‘gifted few’ concept, just in people doing things they are really interested in doing. They have a way of getting good at whatever it is. - Charles Eames


Dedicated to those who believe in me and support me every day. To my family in Guatemala, that stays at an arm’s length even if we are thousands of miles apart, calling me and writing to me every day, wanting to help, and telling me how proud they are of what I can achieve. I miss you dearly every day and thank God for placing me in the center of such a wonderful group of people. I love you. To my beautiful Carla, who with enthusiasm, love and dedication helps me believe in my crazy ideas and projects. Your smile and your laugh inspires me to strive for more, and without your support things would never be the same. You are my sunshine. To my classmates, colleagues and friends, that shared a cup of coffee with me as we tried to understand just a tiny bit of the beautiful and confusing world of design. The best part about my grad school adventure here at RISD was being able to share space with your interesting and strange minds. Keep being strange, this world needs it. To my thesis committee friends and guides, Andy, Emily and Matt and Cas. Thank you for your time, dedication and guidance. My perspective on design and making has been further shaped by our conversations and exchanges. To my friends at Voxel8, inc. for their great insights and experience in the world of 3d printing. Our interactions and experiences are the backbone behind this idea.


resonance | new waves in product distribution

resonance | new waves in product distribution Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Industrial Design in the Department of Industrial Design By Juan Carlos Noguera Cardoza Rhode Island School of Design - 2015 All Illustrations and figures in this book produced by author unless otherwise stated. Approved by Master’s Examination Committee:

Andrew Law | Professor, Department of Industrial Design, Thesis committee chair

Emily Cornell Du Houx | Adjunct Faculty, Department of Furniture Design, Thesis Advisor

Matthew Fowles | Independent Thesis Advisor

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Abstract The author attempts to emphasize the importance of a branded, packaged and meticulously designed unit of information for distributing do-it-yourself products and its possible relevance in present day with additive manufacturing.

came to be, and how their introduction did not equal instant success. Through a series of experiments, the author gains insight into the current image and perceived purpose of 3D printing, and then creates several objects using existing digital distribution channels.

This project aims to first establish historic precedent, and draw parallels between the emergence of innovative technologies during the industrial revolution, and the appearance of additive manufacturing (3D Printing) in the late 1980s. It also aims to establish the importance of the appearance of pre-packaged information as the precursor of world-wide acceptance of new manufacturing methods, and how it plays a role in both helping the public understand and digest their proper use and potential, and making the technology commonplace and useful.

Finally, the author presents “Nuke�, a product exclusively designed with additive manufacturing (3D Printing) in mind, from economical, technical, practical and aesthetic points of view. This fully 3D Printed ukulele is coupled with a simple and easy to follow information set that is appealing to those wanting to get into the world of 3D Printing.

Through personal experience, anecdotal narrative and personal thoughts, the author establishes his initial point of view on innovation, invention and design, and then introduces the reader to historical narratives that come together in understanding how commonplace manufacturing technologies like mechanized sewing


As such, Nuke is the 3D printed product for its present day. It is adequate from a mechanical and aesthetic point of view, it is attractive and aspirational, and is fully functional with minimal assembly, establishing a standard of usability, design language and simplicity that 3D printed products must have in order to function with the technology available in present day.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Table of contents Introduction 8

Experiments: Polix 34

Technology and me 10

How my vision on design, technology and innovation was shaped by life in my hometown, Guatemala City.

The little clip 14

What do we consider a “typical” path of creation and evolution? is there a magical formula that has worked in the past, and is it bound to change?

The big box 16

A short history of additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3d printing) as a non-typical production medium that strives to find a place in mainstream society.

Testing the boundaries of electronic object distribution in 2014. What does it look like now and what possibilities does it afford me as a designer?

Experiments: Blob 38

Experimenting with objects that require assembly, and simple ways to create instructional / graphical assemblies for 3D Printed parts.

3D Printed product vs. object 42

Differentiating objects that are part of a large, generic library through proven concepts like branding, packaging and unique distribution

Nuke 44

A fully 3D printed, 4 string soprano ukulele that is fully functional and highly accessible for 3D Printing enthusiasts in 2014.

Object design 50

Possibility as product 18

The sewing machine, as a historical case study in the creation of unusual and difficult to absorb technology, that perhaps appeared a few decades ahead of its time.

What are the features that make Nuke unique and appropriate for 3D Printing enthusiasts in its present day? Design requirements and features.

Construction and distribution 52

Information as product 22

The sewing pattern as an information “unit” and its path from custommade to mass commercialization, sparking DIY culture at several points in history.

How Nuke gets to the public as a unitary, packaged and branded product that is attractive and useful.

Conclusion 58

Gained insights and recommendations for future development.

Experiments: The hook 26

What do people think of an emerging technology like 3D Printing? Do they even know what it is? And does it have space in their lives?

Annexes / Bibliography 59

Experiments: Voxel8 3D Printer 30

How interacting with a company that is at the verge of creating novel manufacture methods changed my view of Additive manufacturing.

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Introduction Collective progress is an increasingly complex notion. Studying history, it is easy to see events linearly, one after the other. This leads to that. Generation after generation, we build upon the knowledge of others, adding our grain of sand to the pile, reaching higher and higher. Rarely knowledge is lost, and even though some knowledge may be proven wrong, without its place in time things will not progress. If looked at through this single lens, Mankind may seem much like a harmonic anthill, where every individual plays a role, some more remarkable than others. We may think otherwise. We may think that chaos, conflict and entropy play a big role in our story. We may choose to live our lives in an extremely unremarkable way, blending into the background. But I strongly believe that not being impactful is a concept that is fast approaching obsolescence. We have achieved a level of connectedness never before seen in history. And by connected, I refer to everything, not just interpersonally, where communication has now become instant and multileveled. We are geographically concentrated, and our lifestyle affects our neighbors and our community.


We are globally connected, and from a product designer’s perspective, interdependent. With something as mundane as a purchase, we inadvertently change the course of things. We tend to follow others, and as such follow trends. Our need of constant change and selfrenewal is not only part of our complex self-image, but is an important driving factor in technological progress. We strive to live a better life, and (in an idealistic way) to give our children a better world than the one handed to us. As such, we possess a collective responsibility of a scale never seen before. In a system of our own design. And we might have shot ourselves in the foot on this one. As Oscar Wilde once put it, “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.� We seem to have lost sight of a once-clear horizon that defined our ideal standard of living. From a socially responsible point of view, the need to satisfy our basic needs in an effortless way seemed like an achievable goal. One that creative minds like designers, engineers and inventors seemed fit to tackle.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Knowledge on human behavior is fractal, and designing new things entails understanding certain levels of our psyche. We have built upon this understanding for generations, creating concepts like branding and brand identity, economic value versus perceived value, and selfidealization. It seems paradoxical then, that emerging technologies are often riddled with complete incoherence regarding these needs, often trying to find a place in that simple, linear view of history. Attempting to be iconic and relevant. This document aims to draw a parallel between history and the state-of-the-art with the aid of product design. To study the slow and painful insertion of an emerging technology into our lives, and to utilize a contemporary emerging technology in the application of this newly gained knowledge. It aims to seek design opportunities in a severely constrained environment and to propose the use of contemporary design practice in a new and unexpected way. By providing this small and specific example application, I seek to sketch a working model of “design adaptation” of emerging or disruptive technologies such as 3d printing, one that helps accelerate its acceptance in our lives or that may help tip the balance towards its potential success.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: Author´s archive 9 (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Technology and me My name is Juan Carlos Noguera. I was born in Guatemala City during the last half of the 1980s, the first child of a small household in the American-built projects of Zone 6. It was a curiously designed outfit, as throughout the neighborhood, all the houses were physically the same. However, to add in a little variety, they were all built into lots with varying sizes and configurations, and they were not accessible by streets, but by small pedestrian alleyways that sinuously weaved through the houses. As I grew, I saw things change in my environment. The low-rise chain-link fences that through the 1950s had overseen so many friendly (and not-so-friendly) encounters and conversations, disappeared in favor of tall brick walls, Barbed wire and even electrified razor wire. Guatemala seemed quite distant from the western world back in the 1950s. Brief glimpses of Hollywood seen in the Sunday cinema, trickle-down fashion and two-year old radio hits were the only connection to this distant, "Ideal" culture. The country had not yet shed its "banana republic" status and it imported few things. What I saw happen


through this relationship of the idealized western culture and the lack of proper resources, was truly amazing. I saw construction workers, who now built houses out of brick and reinforced steel (as opposed to the adobe and tile roofs of the past) work with trowels, spatulas and sieves made from rough cuts of wood, nails and mesh. Clothing shops and seamstresses crafted the latest fashion, sold to everyone, from hobbyist catalogs and magazines intended for the American housewife. Whenever I see pictures of my parents back then, they were always sharply dressed. Transfer of new technologies, ideas and fashion to developing countries, had always seemed to me a secondary step, one that occurred only when large markets like the United States had thoroughly accepted the new idea, brought it to market and saturated the market with it. It seemed then, a natural step to take this idea and try to make it "international". The concept of going international

resonance | new waves in product distribution

is one that I find rather humorous now that I have had a glimpse of living in the United States. The world resides within the United States, and in itself seems to constitute this conceptual bubble that designers seem hard pressed to escape. Designers, for the longest time created objects and systems apparently thinking exclusively of the needs of a large western market. And it was not something dumb. This area represented where the purchasing power resided (at least seemingly) and therefore it was a logical choice. The result of this Industry standard has been a constant flow of ideas that only function in this environment. I find it extremely interesting, then, to see how these products fair in a country like Guatemala. Being geographically so close to the US, The standard of life is just worlds apart. So is the environment, culture, weather and language. US products though, are easily found in stores. Small details let you know that things are not the same. People are often found using small adaptors that neutralize every single grounded prong on electrical connections, as physical grounding is never wired into buildings.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


Outdoor garden products that are weatherproof are usually in need of additional weatherproofing (e.g., paint) to withstand the torrential rains of summer and intense sunlight.

And through time, these modifications and adaptations have become so normal, that in today's more globalized market, the public doesn't even demand changes and adaptations in the product. Its specification is part of the status quo.

of those neglected by mainstream industry and "traditional" entrepreneurism. An increasingly populated field, "Social Entrepreneurship" has gained traction under the war call of designing for the other 90%. This powerful statement not only implies that the sheer number of people being underserved by industry is valuable, but it implies that the purchasing power of the majority of population might actually play a large role in establishing channels, techniques and systems that make vital goods available to people at large.

This narrative was interesting to me to a point where I became interested in innovation as a tool for progress. I saw that even with (and sometimes because of) stringent limitations and a lack of resources, ideas could be novel, appropriate and reproducible. On or around 2009, I was first exposed of the notion that even in hostile, problematic and complex scenarios like those found in the developing world, there was massive need for products and services that catered to the needs


resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: based on photograph, retrieved from (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Throughout my childhood, my world was one of impenetrable barriers. A grid designed to keep us safe, also managed to desensitize us from all that was wrong and all that could be different. In our isolation and in the midst of our fright, we imagine and create. Through little windows we peek into the outside world and build change from the immaterial.

resonance | new waves in product distribution


The little clip There is a generalized notion within the realm of technology (and others), that every once in a while, big waves are made. The status quo seems to be interrupted (As if we were referring to the space time continuum itself) by ideas so revolutionary or different, that it challenges notions that we came to view as laws. Whole new games are created, that while seemingly different and new, are sometimes more connected to the present and to the everchanging needs of humanity. They just make sense, and that is exciting. They fulfill our needs and aspirations in ways that seemed impossible just days before. And that just seems so futuristic. The future becomes now, and we realize how big of a leap humanity has made. But is it really a leap? Or did at that moment in history, we realize the existence of something that could be years or decades in the making? Something that the now globalized media didn’t think was interesting enough to show the world? True futuristic thoughts can only be born in the realm of impossibility, and exist in the mind of forward thinkers. We view them as passionate and driven individuals with a relentless dream and pursue of success, but this is not always true. With the increased existence of improved


roadways and access to petrol in the late 19th century, many entrepreneurs decided to build motorized vehicles across the world, patents being awarded left and right. They consistently built upon the work of others, selfishly trying to gain a competitive edge. It was a true race (and at that, a true exercise in irony). Only a few ideas survived and through persistence (sometimes the persistence of others) made it to the “light of day”, the public’s eye. Before we can bestow the adjective “popular” onto an idea, it is often qualified as crazy or out of touch. It could also be said it has potential, but we do not truly believe in the realization of this potential until others do so. As a general rule, an idea needs to nest within a carefully crafted environment to flourish. However, it is a possibility that it enters our collective psyche elsewhere in time. More often, it enters our life after critical success factors have aligned and it has all it needs to grow. It is only then that an idea is picked up by the media, early adopters, and gains traction (and whatever that might mean to that specific idea), scale and notoriety.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

And its big story

Originally invented in 1867 by Samuel B. Fay, the paper clip was intended to attach tickets or price tags to fabric, and only later on saw use within the office. The paper clip is peculiar because it was constantly reinvented and improved upon, primarily fueled by avoiding the use of existing patents and paying of royalties in what already is a very low profit margin product. For over almost a century, it was constantly iterated and improved on. Each model was advertised for different reasons, either its ability to not mar the paper, its firm grip, its ease of insertion, low weight or price. Only the “Gem� model (1892) appeared to have a larger subset of these characteristics, and over time became what we now picture when we shop for a paper clip at the office supply store, or the funky character

that used to help us use a word processor (for those readers who are old enough). The paper clip is the textbook example of organic, incremental and linear product evolution. It was never explosive, revolutionary or shocking. And over time, it became imprinted in our lives in an imperceptible and natural way. Linear evolution is rarely textbook, and is rarely linear. It often involves many players and dramatic stories of struggle. But the need is always obvious, and the solution ends up making sense.

resonance | new waves in product distribution


The big box Additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3D Printing, although 3D Printing refers specifically to an inkjet-based process developed in the 1980s) came to be around 1981, where new technologies for creating three-dimensional objects through the use of photopolymers and curing lasers, layer by layer were created. This stereolithography process became commonplace as a prototyping and visualization tool in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years. It has evolved in quality, and has become somewhat more accessible, but essentially didn’t change its mission and target audience of design and engineering professionals. In the early 2010s, the growing interest in DIY, strength of online communities of developers and makers, coupled with the expiry of many patents related to one type of 3D Printing process (Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM, which consists of extruding plastic filament in a specified pattern, creating individual layers of an object.) led to the creation of open-source printer designs like the RepRap, as well as commercial printer designs like the MakerBot1 and Ultimaker2. These commercial offerings claimed to bring this once inaccessible technology to the home and within reach of the average hobbyist, opening up a universe of possibilities related to home product manufacturing and customization. 1. MakerBot Industries is a New York City-based company founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer and Zach "Hoeken" Smith to engineer and produce 3D printers.


resonance | new waves in product distribution

But what did this really mean for the average user? these machines began being available online and in trade shows, with price tags well into the thousands of dollars. What type of usage really justifies the purchase of such an unproven piece of equipment? First of all, we must examine what happens when the purchase decision has been made and the machine sits at our desktop. After the excitement has worn off, and the user has worked out a few kinks, a few sample parts that are preloaded into the machine are printed. The possibilities at this point seem endless, and the user logs onto one of the several online 3D files library, in search for useful objects. What the user finds though, is hundreds of hard-tonavigate parts, with unproven designs, half of which will fail mid-print. Most of these were one-off designs made by uncommitted users who decided to share their work. One could assume that 3D Printer manufacturers got it wrong in many different ways. Perhaps the machine is too complicated to use, or its learning curve is difficult. Or maybe the market segment that these manufacturers are trying to reach is completely wrong. Do people really

aspire to fabricate their own objects at home? It could be that we need to understand the motivation behind the purchase of household items and apply the same logic to the “consumption� (printing) of these objects. We can begin to see how 3D Printing presents itself as a particularly disruptive piece of technology, bringing an entirely new fabrication technology to our homes and offices, without there really being a market need for these instantly printed objects. And even if the market for these machines has grown exponentially in the past 5 years, the way actual 3D Printed parts are distributed and consumed has not seen much innovation, and has not garnered interest from traditional manufacturers and designers. The channel has preceded the content, and has created an interesting problematic and design space to try things. But is this case unique? maybe there has been a precedent for a novel and extremely useful manufacturing method that preceded a perceived market need, and that was sparked to life by the creation of well thought-through content. 2. Ultimaker BV is a Dutch based 3D printer company which was founded in 2011 by Martijn Elserman, Erik de Bruijn, and Siert Wijnia.

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Possibility as product When we come to think of a revolutionary technology, we might visualize its timeline of success as a "hockey stick" line. The invention first comes to maturity in the inventor's head, and even if all his friends and relatives think the inventor is crazy, he persists, bringing the idea to an initial fruition, a first prototype, model or experiment. (This is the one we now go and find at a museum.). After a period of maturing, this idea is shown to the world, and this crucial moment in time marks the meteoric rise of the product. People want it, need it, see themselves using it. It seems now so obvious. How did we not come up with this before? The inventor is then showered with offers, investment, and his only struggle now becomes having control of this newly created monster. The inventor becomes a millionaire, and chills out by the pool with his buddy Henry Ford. This sounds like the American dream, personified. A snowballing success that can only have a single outcome: the improvement of people's quality of life. And particularly during the 1800s and 1900s, there are dozens of


inventions that did. Dozens of fortunes created and of household names stamped into history books. The sewing machine, however, does not follow this particular model. Yes, it fundamentally revolutionized not only the way we manufacture clothing industrially, it also brought this now inaccessible world into our homes. It did not however, have an immediate, explosive success. It was also "invented" by many people, most of them contemporaneous, and most likely feeding from each other's ideas. One could compare them to the modern, open source "maker movement", except these inventors would openly copy each other and then sue each other to no end. Let's go through the story of one of these inventors. Elias Howe, who some accredit with the invention of the sewing machine, was born in Massachusetts in 1819. The son of a farmer and miller, he grew up around farm machinery, and was somewhat mechanically inclined. Never particularly brilliant or dedicated, he moved to the Boston area in his adulthood, where he sought after apprenticeships and eventually worked as a journeyman machinist.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: Author´s archive 19 (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Here, he worked in a shop that repaired nautical instruments, under inventor Ari Davis. As it turns out, Elias Howe overheard his boss have a conversation with one of this customers, who prompted Davis to help him improve a knitting machine he was working on. Without further remark, Davis said "What are you bothering yourselves with a knitting machine for?" "Why don't you make a sewing machine?". The customer then insured Davis an independent fortune if he could achieve the feat. Neither did this customer follow up on this request, or Ari Davis ever attempt making a sewing machine during his lifetime. But the eavesdropper, Mr. Elias Howe, was now bit by the mania that became his lifelong endeavor. Even under straining financial conditions, with some help from his father, Howe began to slowly create prototypes and models out of wood. None of them had the required precision to create a stitch that equaled one his wife could do by hand. It was not until he gave up on reproducing this exact stitch, and explored the idea of creating a stitch from two different threads, spooled independently, that he realized it was possible to make his dream machine.


In the fall of 1844, he approached his friend George Fisher with what sounded like a golden investment opportunity. Fisher took in Howe's starving family, gave Howe a shed to work from, and there he feverishly constructed the first sewing machine prototype. Unlike the majority of first prototypes constructed, Howe's first sewing machine stitched to perfection the first time around. Howe took to showing his machine, at fairs and exhibitions. People gazed in wonder at the machine that could create a pair of pants in under 40 minutes. Races between expert seamstresses and the machine were public events. But it might just be that this exposure was dangerous for its future. Tailors grouped and boycotted Howe's demonstrations and product in fear of being replaced by their machines, rather than being helped by them. Howe encountered nothing but disappointment. He traveled the world, one failed investment after the other, being copied and aped wherever he went.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

For the next 30 years, he would find himself mostly fighting his intellectual property instead of improving on his invention. He eventually became rich, and the sewing machine saw the light of day (mostly in the industrial field, aided by the savvy manufacturing and marketing prowess

of one Isaac Singer) but it would take many years for these machines to permeate into our homes and transcend being a trade show gimmick. The technology was quite there, yet the market might have been misunderstood or overestimated. Our homes were not ready.


Information as product Sewing is obviously non-trivial, and for centuries commanded the absolute respect and the mysteriousness that we now furnish arts like jewelry making, metal smithing and fine carpentry (arts still exclusively practiced by expert artisans). The making of clothes was an interpersonal relationship not unlike a doctor and his patient, completely customized, measured onto the body, fit and modified to perfection. The concept of ready-to-wear clothes was rare. "How-to" literature was produced as early as the late eighteenth century, but their contents were aimed at those already trained in the art of dressmaking, and merely served as a guide to the latest fashions and trends. In the United States, during the 1800s, the expansion of frontiers generated a unique necessity, as new brides often traveled to distant and secluded areas. They were entrusted with the dressmaking for the family, and mailorder patterns from companies like Demorest patterns began to appear. They contained however, little information, and were not sized to fit. Custom patterns had to be produced from a measurement list and then sent to the end-user.


Companies like Butterick and McCall Patterns brought tailoring expertise, allowing for easy sizing, and offering a range of products in the form of fashion magazines, that contained supplementary overlay patterns (patterns layered on top of each other and printed onto a single piece of paper). in the 1870s, Cut-paper patterns followed, easily understandable and reproducible pieces that were accompanied by instructions. These cut-paper patterns were the first to offer a holistic solution of information towards the creation of clothing. They truly enabled the uninitiated to try their hand at sewing. These patterns were still accompanied by publications, but they began to be offered as stand-alone, self-contained packets. The act of packaging these patterns and organizing them into browsable collections is a practice that came with the advent of new purchasing outlets such as sewing supply stores and supermarkets during the early 20th century.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

In the early 1870’s, a Scottish immigrant called James McCall started a business where he would design and print his own line of sewing patterns. He was knowledgeable in tailoring and as such created the first truly scalable and customizable pattern offered in different sizes. He first advertised himself by creating a short fashion journal called “The Queen: Illustrating McCall’s Bazaar Glovefitting patterns”. Later on he offered individual, prepackaged, pre-printed patterns that were available for immediate purchase.

Photograph: Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 23 2015)

Things remained unchanged for the most part, even through the great depression in 1929, where sewing became a way to be thrifty and to recycle materials that would otherwise be wasted. The event that truly transformed sewing in the United States, was world war II. The scarcity of materials, the slowdown in the production of ready-to-wear clothing in the shadow of the war effort, and the professionalization of large numbers of people in the manufacture of sewn goods, saw an explosion in the number of electric sewing machines in households in the post-war period. It also transformed the image of the handsewn item from one born out of necessity, into one born of desire, and product of an activity that was pleasurable and leisurely. Pre-packaged, well thought through and carefully instructed sewing patterns saw a rise in sales that was unprecedented. In 1955 alone, people bought over 90 million patterns, which were available at 25,000 outlets across the United states. Patterns remain mostly unchanged, and companies like Simplicity patterns use the same model in stores to this day.


A big component of the success of patterns is their branding. Contained in a simple envelope, they offer a set of information simple in nature, yet they are surrounded by a world of glamour and perfection in their packaging and promotional material. The customer aspires to be part of this world, and doing so is completely within reach, with only the labor to create the piece being the price of entry. With the advent of the “Do It Yourself (DIY)� culture in the second part of the 21st century, the necessity to create new methods of packaging information and instructions for complex tasks such as sewing and carpentry became apparent and helped boost economies of scale in the manufacture of tools and new, advanced and easy to use construction materials.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustration: Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

But exactly what elements are vital when creating prepackaged information in any format, when it is intended to help the user recreate and fabricate complex things? Sewing patterns did a great job at making apparel construction seem like a simple task, even though the technique and level of experience required to make a garment was still high.

Downplaying the underlying requirements and emphasizing their true accessibility in packaging and marketing material was key to their success. Let’s try and establish such guidelines in a different format like 3D Printing by a succession of experiments


Experiments: the hook When I first started looking at 3D Printing, I had a very skewed perspective. I saw it as a prototyping tool for engineers and designers, and I found it hard to believe that it had a place in the home, especially considering the type of fragile materials that can be printed today (2015) such as ABS or PLA plastic, and through my previous experience I knew that the time investment and maintenance required to keep a printer running was much more involved then what a consumer usually expects from an electronic device. However, I set out to have a conversation with the public, not only design professionals but also potential printer users who may see these machines as the future of manufacturing. I acquired a simple, inexpensive 3D Printer that I built from a kit, and with my limited experience printed a carabiner design that I found and downloaded from the internet. I attached this carabiner to a small flyer, prompting people to use the carabiner, and by utilizing social media and email, feed some information back to me about their thoughts on printing, its present and future.


I walked around the streets of Manhattan and approached people, trying to gift them a carabiner. Even if some people were less receptive and didn’t want to take the piece with them, a lot of these small encounters resulted in conversations about printing, or even surprise at the fact that such technology existed. Response to actually feeding images and information back to me was small, but I did get a few notes on the actual carabiner´s practicality (or lack of it) and my wife Carla went as far as destroying a few units to create artful compositions, which she posted on Instagram. My impression from these conversations was very striking. Most people were very aware of 3D printing and thought of it as something futuristic and amazing, but very few had any idea of now only how it exactly worked, but of how it would actually fit into their lives. I decided to further explore this by turning my experiment into an online survey / interview.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

27 Photographs: Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

I created a short online survey with 5 very simple questions about 3D Printing. I sent it out to pretty much everybody I knew, and through word of mouth I managed to get about 250 complete responses. The logical progression was first finding out if the user knew about the existence of the technology, and if so letting me know what best explained it. Most of the users claimed to know what it was, but its

Do you know what 3D Printing is?


definition was much less unanimous. A surprising 43% of responses indicated that 3D Printing was easy (in all honestly, I don’t think it is). A whopping 84% of responders indicated that they saw themselves printing in the future, and I allowed them to choose from several popular and wild ideas of what they saw themselves printing (as well as letting them freely comment on their choices).

Is 3D Printing easy?

What best explains it?



25% 47%

43% 49%



Yes Not completed No



A prototyping tool for designers / engineers The future! A fad that will go away This is how we will make all our things soon No answer

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Yes Not completed No

As a result, I realized that 3D Printing not only had historical counterparts that may guide me as a designer in content creation, but that people’s opinion on the technology was not yet fully formed. I believe that this is a golden opportunity and design space to help shape the future of 3D Printing through user research and by experimenting with both existing and new channels, online

or otherwise. Can I as a designer, help influence what people *want* to print, as opposed to trying to figure out what people *can* print? In my opinion, this makes a complete difference, as there is an understated, yet massive lack of motivation from the public to actually access, use and acquire this technology, and to place it in their homes and workplaces.

See yourself printing in the future?

If so, what kind of things will you print? (Select all that apply)

90 82



84 76



45 43 34





resonance | new waves in product distribution


Bionic limbs

Replacement organs

My brand new car

Structural elements for my house

Replacements for things that break

Gadgets & electronics

Yes Not completed No

Personal accesories


Household items



Illustration: Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


resonance | new waves in product distribution

Experiments: Voxel8 3D Printer In collaboration with Whitney Bai

In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet a very excited, motivated and capable group of scientists and engineers, at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Researchers at Jennifer Lewis’ 3D Printing group, they sprung out of the lab and founded Voxel8, a hardware startup aimed at injecting function and purpose into 3D Printing. They proposed to do this by creating functional electrical circuits inside the plastic objects.

the creation of a graphical identity, printer aesthetic and primary user research for the introduction of this revolutionary product.

By designing a 3d printer with a dual printhead, one that laid down the traditional plastic substrate through a fused filament fabrication (FFF) method, and one that dispensed a specially formulated conductive ink, they effectively created printed circuits (which normally are bound to 2 dimensions in the traditional printed circuit board format) that sprung into the 3d world for the first time since their standardization many decades ago.

It also allowed me to talk to current and future users at trade shows and gatherings, getting a sense of what both design and engineering professionals seek in a machine, and what casual users and consumers want. The voxel8 first generation printer and user interface we designed was a compromise between the aesthetic of equipment that would be at home in a high-end research facility, yet was approachable, simple, friendly and intuitive for less committed or knowledgeable hobby users. The machine was priced at a point where we would see both professionals and hobbyists accessing it.

As a designer, the prospect of breaking this design barrier was very attractive, and I Immediately accepted their offer to join them during the summer and fall in an internship position. I had the chance to collaborate with another Rhode Island School of Design student, Whitney Bai, in

This design project is very “traditional� (if such thing exists) in the world of design, in the sense that it is linear and cyclical. However, it had a much more attractive prospect for me. It allowed me to become immersed in a company that truly resided at the state-of-the art.


Illustration:32 Voxel8 3D Printer conceptual rendering - Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Illustrations: Voxel8 3D Printer conceptual rendering - Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

The cantilevered design we landed on not only appeared futuristic and airy, it also improved overall visibility and ease of access (The user is required to remove the print bed mid-print to insert electronic components, then re-inserts it to resume the print). After creating a life-size looks-like model of this design, we took this design to the 2015 Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES is the largest stage for the launch of electronics products, and it proved to be a platform for invaluable feedback not only on the design, look and feel of the product, but also for initiating conversations about the future of printing and methods of

manufacture with leading industry experts, designers, engineers and the public in general. Reviews of the design were positive, with appearances in technology publications such as Fast Company (named one of the 9 best ideas at CES 2015), Gizmodo, Wired Magazine, Popular mechanics and the Herald Online. Interest in active and functional 3d printed objects of easy assemble and manufacture are of definite interest of the public, and offer a piece of the future that may just be within grasp. This insight drove some of my process following CES.

resonance | new waves in product distribution




Photograph: Polix 3D Printable necklace - Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Experiments: Polix After the excitement of CES wore off, I still had the certainty that people expected to consume 3D Printed objects in the future, but the print samples that I saw at the show (hammers, tools and reproductions of everyday items) were just for show and did not offer a realistic view of what is possible and appropriate in the context of today’s technical and market capabilities. Is there such thing as a type of object that is appropriate for 3D Printing? if we look back once again at sewing patterns for a reference, we notice that the most popular and easy to find patterns are those of coats, dresses and accessories not worn every day. The element of *want* comes once more into play, not focusing in undergarments or basic items that can be easily obtained at a store. Instead, the patterns focus on occasion wear, high fashion and other aspirational objects of low demand and high apparent reward for the maker. I set to create an object that emphasized the obvious advantages of 3D printing, such as a perfectly balanced supply and demand, instant gratification, and a futuristic feel. I chose fast fashion, specifically throw-away seasonal jewelry as a perfect example. I wanted to explore the

avenues of distribution that currently exist, the biggest platform currently being Makerbot’s Thingiverse, an online library of objects that are free to download. I created Polix, a 3D Printable necklace with a polygonbased design that was easy to print and assemble. It was designed to be printed in the simplest, smallest printers available (with a 6”x6” print area) with little or no support material. A branding identity, logo and color scheme was devised, attempting to exploit the customization capabilities of the Thingiverse platform. But this customization was very limited, only allowing me to insert a small textual description, and some basic printing instructions. I could also insert a set of pictures, in the order that I desired, only featuring one of them in the gallery listings (my only shot at attracting attention to the necklace). I chose to color the pictures brightly and to create an understated aesthetic for the branding, in hopes of creating a more digestible and attractive item in a cluttered website interface.


This experiment was extremely productive and successful for my process, as the design was picked up and featured by Thingiverse in their home page. The necklace quickly amassed over 17,000 views and over 1,000 downloads, as well as several users sharing their finished objects (something rather uncommon in Thingiverse, as users have little motivation to share back what they actually produced in their printer).

brand into the object, that I created a personal relationship with the end user even though our relationship was indirect, anonymous and impersonal.

The service also shared the design in their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Reception was mostly positive (along with a few complaints on the printability of some sections of the necklace) with users getting the impression that they were receiving a “high end” piece of information from me. Perhaps it was that I tried to imprint my design identity and

And even though most of the people who will print this out will not use this plastic, did this small detail contribute to the *want* factor I seek to understand?

Had the color and material choices played a part in the overall perception of the product? I chose to print the photographed sample with an expensive carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and I stated so in the description.

Photograph: Polix 3D Printable necklace - Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


resonance | new waves in product distribution

Screenshots: Thingiverse online model database (Retrieved March 2015)

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Experiments: Blob In collaboration with Carla Garcia

When assembling Polix, some assembly was required, and I left that completely up to the user. you could choose to link it together with a chain, with some braided rope, or whatever you could think of. But what if I went ahead and became a bit more specific? I could also add a little bit of function into the object. The value of the connection created by investing some time in assembling one of these objects is invaluable. It turns cheap plastic into a valuable keepsake. Blob is a short design exercise by my wife Carla and I. We wanted to create a small objects case that was easy to assemble, with an inexpensive off the shelf 10� zipper as an additional ingredient. We would also skip over the textual description of the instructions (The Thingiverse instructions field does little at creating a linear description of assembly) in favor of a graphical description that was easy to follow and understand. This small series of images would then be posted consecutively in the picture gallery of the entry. Could this perhaps be a way to take advantage of the


natural advantages of 3D printing (like being able to print stitch holes, something difficult to do in a traditional injection-molding process) while still admitting and embracing the fact that not all can be printed? Or maybe that not all *should* be printed. Blob was also my first attempt at designing an object that was *meant* exclusively for the 3D printing process, utilizing safe printing angles (ones that would eliminate the need for support material) and thicknesses, as well as supports that improved adhesion to the print bed, regardless of the surface the user decided to print onto. I strongly felt that reducing the chances of failure during the print process would greatly increase the likeliness of the user going through the entire construction process. It was also an exercise at creating simple instructions through photography, rather than diagrams or illustrations. These make the object have a complete relation to what the user has in hand. Users found the instructions to be clear and infallible, and this experiment was very motivating when pursuing the creation of a truly 3D printable *product*.


Photograph: Blob 3D Printable zipper pouch - Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Photograph: Blob 3D Printable zipper pouch - Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


resonance | new waves in product distribution

Photograph: Blob 3D Printable zipper pouch - Author´s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Product Vs. Object People don't simply want to print out an object. Doing so requires the user to be self motivated in a way that is uncommon and not rewarding enough. The user must first identify his or her need, be it in the home or workplace. Seeking out a solution in the 3D library requires an extensive search, most options being unproven and not guaranteed to work. The user then has to risk time and money printing out something that might, in all likelihood, fail either in the printing process or the assembly and use. 3D Printing is, however, never without risks and guaranteeing a fail-proof print is impossible. It is possible however, to guarantee a certain rate of success by reassuring the user about a careful, meticulous and tested design process, thus minimizing the risk of failure. Having this invisible support system, surrounded by a visual and brand identity, creates the space for a designer to imagine a consumption experience where previously there was no interaction other than a download. And this experience can prove valuable and something that the user is willing to spend time, and maybe even money, having. As such we finally cross the barrier between the user *needing* an object, which might be very occasional and hard to satisfy with current 3D Printing technology (let’s face it, we are yet to manufacture precise, durable and quickly printable objects and materials), and *wanting* an product, not only for its function, but for its aesthetic appeal, brand image and the lifestyle projection associated with owning a copy of this product.


Another important insight gained from this experience was that the type of product to be designed could be better or worse suited for 3D printing, that is, it can take advantage or not of the unique aspects of printing. For example, objects with no highly structural requirements, decorative items, and things that are usually handled with care are ideal. Instead of attempting to replace commonplace items such as tools, utility hooks and organizers, we might try to manufacture nonvital items such as decoration, personal accessories and fashion ondemand. (The desire for these objects is very much on-demand and instant gratification is a plus.) My objective going forward, is creating a distributable, reproducible unit of information that contains a 3D printable *product* as opposed to just a 3D model file. What this entails is careful consideration not only in design and manufacturability, but having a deep understanding of motivations, aspirations and the *want* factor that the public may have. What I propose is creating simple design spaces that consider the unique environment of 3D printing, while forgetting outside factors such as the availability of inexpensive mass production and traditional manufacture, and ceases to compare the two, opting instead for innovating within these constraints.

Photograph: Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera43 2015)



Logo design - Nuke 3D Printable Ukulele (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)



Photograph - Nuke 3D Printable Ukulele - Author’s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


Mary Burke playing Nuke - Author’s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


Nuke: 3D Printable ukulele “The original ukuleles were a combination of several instruments from the Iberian Peninsula of Europe brought to Hawaii along with sailors and plantation workers in the 1880s. The ukulele combined elements from the Cavaquinho from Portugal and the Braguinha and Rajão from Madeira near the Canary Islands.

It also tries to forget about the history of additive manufacturing as a prototyping method, and proposes the fabrication of an object perfectly structured to take advantage of the material’s inherent resonance at a 20% infill density, playing it as an advantage in its approximation to the sound of a traditional wooden instrument.

The word "ukulele" is Hawaiian for "jumping flea". The story goes that a Portuguese immigrant jumped off a ship into the water while playing one, and the Hawaiians watching dubbed him - and the instrument - the ukulele!”

It also addresses the element of *want*, creating not only a visually pleasant and friendly proposition, but appealing to the aspirations of those who could see themselves playing a musical instrument. And through the use of simple, clear and attractive marketing strategies, translates it into *need* at a more profound level, by bringing into play elements of branding, look and feel and lifestyle.

Nuke is a fully 3D Printable electric ukulele with a modern and unusual aesthetic. It is designed to take advantage of all the unique characteristics inherent to the process, in its fabrication method, distribution method, physical design and functionality. It tries to completely forget what a traditional stringed instrument formally represents, apart from its basic sonic geometry. It retains certain features solely for an ergonomic purpose or to facilitate its printing and assembly.

Nuke also makes an appeal for designers to create printable objects that are truly universal, by addressing current problems such as processing power needed during slicing (breaking a 3d model apart into printable layers), limited print bed sizes, material deformation during cooling and simplified assembly of all the components by utilizing simple mechanical joints and common household adhesives.


A piezo-electric pickup is held in a circular chamber. The pickup is assembled from a common piezo buzzer element that can be found online for a couple of dollars, and a 1/8� headphone jack, with a single soldering operation. Electrification of the instrument is optional as the volume produced by the plastic is sufficient to practice in a quiet room.

A configuration with reversed tuners, placed in the rear end of the instrument body, instead of the head of the instrument, increases playability, portability and durability of the object (less protruding parts). It also reduces the amount of parts that would require difficult and costly overhangs which often require support material.

Single piece tapered tuners, printable without any kind of support material, provide a firm and simple way to wind and tune nylon strings, and borrow their design from traditional violins.


All of the assemblies are done with extremely sturdy dovetail joints, designed with a clearance that leaves room for error in case the printer is over or under extruding. The user just needs to add cyanoacrylate (super glue) adhesive to complete the joint.

Nuke’s fretboard is completely 3d printed, not requiring the measurement or installation of metallic frets, as long as Nylon strings are used (they will not abrade the PLA plastic)

The corners radiuses and thicknesses of all pieces were carefully chosen to minimize warpage of the plastic as it cools down, keeping the pieces straight.

All angles chosen for the design are 42 degrees or lower, considered “safe” angles that will print smoothly without support material required. By sticking to this design guideline the pieces will fail less and yield a better, smoother result.

All of Nuke’s pieces are designed to fit comfortably on a 6” x 6” area print bed, ensuring compatibility with even the simplest and inexpensive printers in the market.

Illustration: Nuke 3D Printable Ukulele feature breakdown - Author’s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


Keeping a connection Nuke is delivered to the user through a simple online interface (hosted at where they will find detailed step by step instructions indicating how to build the instrument from prep work to assembly. Tips and tricks that review basic 3D printer usage are available for novice users, and as such Nuke can be a perfect beginner’s project. Unique codes are generated for each purchase, acting as a license number. This license number also transmits the impression of uniqueness and exclusivity even in an impersonal online environment.

Website mockup for Nuke - Author´s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Photographic samples / takeouts from assembly tutorial photo session - Author’s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)


resonance | new waves in product distribution

Photographic samples / takeouts from assembly tutorial photo session - Author’s archive (Š Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Photographs: Author’s archive (© Juan Carlos Noguera 2015)

Some things I learned This process of understanding both information and production channels as product has been a very rewarding and intriguing one. I learned that disruptive technologies have emerged all throughout history and are not something new. Historical precedent will sometimes not be obvious, but the way markets shift, change and evolve is constant and gains speed with time.

A logical next step in the development of this idea is to field test the design, improve and reiterate. The sheer variety of machinery, skill levels and even materials available may very likely affect the design itself, and by generating a shift in printing habits, a product like Nuke can create space for additional products that share the same vision and approach.

This process made me want to go back to some of my root interests as a designer: branding, product image and basic user research and experimentation. They are powerful tools, proven over and over again to generate cohesive proposals and appealing products and designs.

It would then make sense to create a larger, umbrella product identity that serves as a liaison between the consumer and designer, creating meaningful, informative connections between the public and the creator, one that breaks the barrier of the impersonal and generic, and starts building an ethos of value and good design in the world of 3D printing, as these same values have permeated into other, successful industries.

I also learned to differentiate simply creating an object for the sake of giving form, to generating an idea that fits into a market need, a niche, and takes advantage of its context in unexpected ways, and how a simple product can become part of a complex environment and may just propose a novel way to think about design in the advent of digital, distributed manufacture in the coming century.


Or just maybe, this product is a wishful attempt at injecting traditional design values and responsibility into a world where impersonal, massive distribution of information becomes the norm, and crafting well thought-out solutions can become irrelevant under the weight of sheer numbers.

resonance | new waves in product distribution

Bibliography Burman, Barbara (Ed.) (1999) The Culture of Sewing - Gender, Consumption and Home Dressmaking. Oxford, UK. Oxford International Publishers, Ltd.

Ken Cameron for Hilo Guitars. (2008). History of the Ukulele. retrieved from http://

Parton, James (1867) (Reprinted 2008) History of the Sewing Machine. Middletown, Conn. Merchant Books. Ketteler, Judi (2010) Sew Retro - A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution. Minneapolis, MN. Voyageur Press. Lukic, Branko and Katz, Barry M. (2011). NONOBJECT. Cambridge, Mass The MIT Press. Mirande, Yves and Henchoz, Nicolas Design for Innovative Technology - From Disruption to Acceptance (2014). Switzerland. EPFL Press

resonance | new waves in product distribution


Copyright Š2015 Juan Carlos Noguera Cardoza -

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