Specification of an additive manufacturing consumer design toolkit for consumer electronics products

Online toolkits, also known as product configurators, are a well established means of enabling consumer engagement in the mass customisation of products. Such toolkits typically require the consumer to select from pre-determined menus of modules in order to create products personalised to match their requirements, however in recent years a new class of toolkit, enabled by additive manufacturing, has begun to appear. Providing consumers the opportunity to change a product's appearance presents designers and brand managers with difficult decisions, yet to date little research has been conducted to understand how a brand might restrict consumer choice in order to protect its corporate design language. This paper reports on ongoing research which aims to understand the ways in which brands with mass-customisation offerings manage their identities across product portfolios, and the impact which AM might have on these management strategies. It begins by introducing the current state of AM technologies and how these are being used in MC systems. Drawing on a survey with senior design and brand managers, a specification of an AM-enabled toolkit aimed at consumer electronics products is presented, and future steps for the implementation of such a toolkit are discussed.