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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W024152/1
Title: 21st Century Prototyping: Improving product prototyping through the integration of physical and digital workflow
Principal Investigator: Snider, Dr C
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Autodesk Bristol Digital Futures Institute
The Product Partnership Ultraleap
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 July 2022 Ends: 30 June 2024 Value (£): 344,003
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Design Engineering
Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Apr 2022 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 April 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
To design the future of products we need the future of prototyping tools. Across the £30Bn+ consumer product markets, priorities such as demand for non-technical user voice vie against advanced products and tough time/cost targets. These pressures are acutely felt in the prototyping process, where models often number in the 100s for a single product, and are inflexible, technically advanced, and resource-intensive to create. To succeed and evolve prototyping needs to do more, quicker, cheaper, with higher accessibility.

This project aims to enhance learning, accessibility, and efficiency during prototyping. It will explore feasibility and value of seamlessly integrating physical and digital prototyping into a single workflow.

Recent and rapidly emerging technologies such as mixed reality, haptic interfaces, and gesture control have revolutionised the way we interact with the digital world. It's predicted that this tech will be ubiquitous by 2025, will be disruptive for the next decade, and will drive the way we work and interact across the future digital workplace, with engineering a top-5 sector to realise value. In prototyping, they will break down the physical-digital divide and create seamless experiences, where the strengths of each domain are realised simultaneously.

This new physical-digital integrated workflow brings profound opportunities for both engineers and users, supporting technical activities and simplifying communication. Amongst many possibilities users may physically create and feel digital changes to prototypes in real-time, dynamically overlay advanced analyses onto physical models, and support early-stage decision-making with physical-digital, tactile, interactive prototypes. These capabilities will allow more learning per prototype, widen accessibility to technical design and streamline the prototyping process. However, we don't yet know how this exciting vision may be fulfilled, exactly what benefits, value or costs there may be, feasibility of implementation, or effective workflow approaches.

The project will explore physical-digital workflow by creating and investigating several demonstrator platforms that combine and apply haptic, mixed reality, and gesture control technologies in targeted prototyping scenarios. Technologies will be explored to understand capability in isolated sprints, before prioritisation and development into focused demonstrator tools that allow us to explore integrated workflow across real prototyping cases, spanning activities, types, and stakeholders. Demonstrators will be evaluated and verified with end-users, industry partners, and the public to establish learning, speed, cost, and usage characteristics.

Project outcomes will comprise workflows for integrated prototyping with knowledge of value, effectiveness, feasibility, and future opportunities. A 'toolkit' of implementations will also provide exemplars for industrial partners and academia and lead the effective use of integrated physical-digital workflow in engineering. All software and hardware will be open-sourced via Github and the project webpage, letting global researchers and the public create their own systems and build upon the work. Future work will extend capabilities in line with outcomes of the work, leading to the next generation of engineering design and prototyping tools.

Industrial Partners The Product Partnership (Amalgam, Realise Design, and Cubik) and AMRC will bring prototyping, engineers, and end-user expertise and benefit from the workflows and technologies that are developed. OEMs Ultraleap and Autodesk will bring immersive technology expertise and access to cutting edge design systems, and will benefit from case study implementations and studies and future application opportunities. Bristol Digital Futures Institute will facilitate collaboration across 20+ partner businesses and the public, with outputs supporting their mission for digital solutions that tackle global problems.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk