Teaching production technology – doing more with less



Product & Industrial Design


  • modelling, production

How does my design work?” and “How can it be produced?” are the two key technological questions that the industrial design engineer must be able to answer. Looking at the second question, we see that there is still a lot to be gained: 60% of all new products do not enter production as scheduled, with 25% of these products requiring major redesign. In part, this problem can be traced back to industrial design education.

Here, production processes are traditionally presented from a phenomenological perspective only, failing to communicate their inherent limitations and possibilities. Also, traditional education could stimulate students’ imagination more when it comes to production and needs to debunk the myth that the field is “something for experts only”. Education on production technology is clearly in need of a new approach.

The faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of the TU Delft is currently introducing a revised bachelor program, featuring a new approach towards the treatment of production technology. The three key elements of this approach are

(1) integration of design and technology,

(2) through physical modelling, letting students understand the trade-offs between design freedom, product quality and price; and

(3) in cooperation with industry, allowing students to explore unusual but promising new production methods.

In accordance with current instructional insights, this approach is also designed to activate the students as much as possible, e.g. by having them participate in workshops and design activities. To make all this feasible, the range of production processes being covered is greatly reduced; hence the designation “doing more with less”.

The bachelor revision is currently underway and at this point in time, it is therefore impossible to give hard results on its success. Still, on the basis of small-scale trials, it can be concluded that the new approach offers excellent potential. Not only do the students learn better to deal with production-related design questions; they also learn to base design decisions in general on the results of physical modelling, making design practice better-supported and less ad hoc.

Design education, and design in general, has a lot to gain from a more knowledge-driven approach, provided that this does not diminish creativity and originality. Shorter design processes and better products are merely the most visible benefits: making the field more professional will also be a consequence, as will its improved academic standing. The authors view the new approach as sketched above as a step towards realizing these benefits.

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