Traditionally, the complexities and costs associated with design conceptualization (e.g., 3D scanning) and design realization (e.g., 3D printing) have limited the diversity of individuals capable of participating in the process to individuals/entities with advanced technical backgrounds or substantial financial resources. The authors of this work propose a methodology that utilizes low cost hardware and open source software to make the capture, reuse and management of design knowledge more accessible to the general public.

3D scanners are digital tools that facilitate the conversion of physical object information into the digital space through multiple image capture techniques. 3D scanners have the potential to revolutionize design conceptualization in society by enabling individuals to seamlessly transform physical representations of objects into a digital 3D rendered version. The 3D rendered version can then be manipulated using existing 3D CAD tools (e.g., SolidWorks) and subsequently printed using a 3D printer.

Design realization via 3D printers (e.g., RepRaps) is becoming an integral aspect of the engineering design process. While the conceptualization of designs (e.g. CAD models) helps designers visually experience potential candidate designs, product prototypes that can actually be touched and manipulated add an important ‘feedback’ dimension to the engineering design process. This scan-edit-print approach to design conceptualization and realization will enable designers collaborating in online environments to work towards achieving a common design by providing them with tools and techniques.

A case study is presented that demonstrates the feasibility of the scan (knowledge capture), edit (knowledge reuse) and print (knowledge management) approach to design using low cost hardware and open source software.

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