The Marshmallow Challenge and what product designers can learn from it

The Marshmallow Challenge is classic design game that is attempted by people of all ages. If you haven’t heard of it before, here’s a quick rundown: In 18 minutes use 20 sticks of spaghetti, a meter of tape, and a meter of string to create a tower that can hold a marshmallow at the greatest height.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, in theory it is. Most people are able to create some sort of a tower that is strong enough to hold a marshmallow. However, when it comes to creating a tower that is both strong and tall, many struggle. In fact, studies actually indicate that business school graduates tend to build shorter structures than toddlers in kindergarden. 

Why is this the case?

Well, the answer lies in the design process. Business school graduates are taught to plan before taking action. As such, they tend to spend the majority of the 18 minutes planning a structure. Once they are happy with their plan, they then create their tower and are forced to stick with their first design as they quickly run out of time.

Toddlers, however, take a different approach.

From the first second of the challenge, toddlers tend to start building. They build, then they test, make improvements, test again, make improvements, and so on until time runs out. Without realising it, toddlers are using what is known as an iterative design process.

The iterative design process is not unique to the marshmallow challenge. It can be utilised in by all new product designers. It has two major advantages that allow it to be one of the most favourable and successful design processes:

  1. High quality product
    That’s always the goal, right? In the competitive world in which we live, any design fault or inefficiency can become incredibly costly and detrimental. Using the iterative design process, designers are able to test and improve the product multiple times before its release. This means that (hopefully!) the majority of problems are already fixed and the most efficient design has already been found, way before the market get their hands on it.
  2. Increased innovation
    With the option to test a product numerous times before its release, designers are more likely to take greater risks. The benefit of this is obvious: innovative and unique products.

So, iterative design is awesome when it comes to innovation and product quality. However, the reality is that unlike in the marshmallow challenge, iterative design tends to involve mammoth time investments and compounding costs. Each time a new prototype is developed, tested, and refined, thousands of dollars are added and the launch date is pushed back. With the race to market being so fierce, design firms are forced to make tough decisions around budget and time restrictions, which ultimately affects the quality of their final design.

So, the question is, how can product designers integrate iterative design, just like the toddlers in the Marshmallow Challenge, whilst hitting deadlines and minimising costs?

The answer is SOLIDWORKS® Simulation. 

SOLIDWORKS® Simulation allows for multiple tests of a product without a single physical prototype. As such, a process that can take months and thousands of dollars can be completed within a day by a single designer. Designers are able create their 3D model using SOLIDWORKS® 3D CAD software, test it under real conditions using Simulation, find the weak points, improve on them, and repeat the process until they are satisfied with their final design. This final design need only be prototyped once before launch.

It really is that easy.

At the end of the day, the marshmallow challenge teaches us a valuable lesson: nothing beats the iterative process when it comes to new product design. The real question them becomes: with SOLIDWORKS® Simulation available on the market, why aren’t all design firms incorporating iterative design into their own design process?

Case Study: Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is a unique event that sees some 40 teams from around the world travel a 3000km journey across the Australian desert (between Darwin and Adelaide) in handmade state-of-the-art solar cars. Teams are challenged to push the boundaries of their imagination in order to develop highly sophisticated technological marvels which, over the nearly 30 years that the challenge has been running, have led to substantial improvements in the areas of vehicle structural design, aerodynamics, as well as solar and motor efficiency. With cars that rely nearly entirely on custom built components to achieve the most desired shape, with the lightest weight possible and without compromising strength, it is no wonder that 3D printing is becoming a fundamental manufacturing tool the production of both prototypes and end use parts for more and more solar car racing teams.

3D printer in the desert

At 3DSL, we could not be more proud to collaborate with one of the top solar car racing teams in the world, Brisbane-based Clenergy Team Arrow, to give them edge through the use of our 3D printing technology. Clenergy Team Arrow boast a number of awards including the ISF Achievement Award for the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

With the collaboration between 3DSL and Clenergy Team Arrow kicking off in mid-2015, 3D Printing played a significant role in Clenergy Team Arrow’s 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The versatility of the 3D printing technology made it perfect to produce customised parts, which could be tested, adjusted if necessary, and reprinted, all in a matter of hours. On top of being used for the creation of a number of components within the Arrow 1 solar car, 3D printing furthermore demonstrated its versatility during the entire duration of the 3000 km race, undertaking emergency repairs in the harsh and isolated Australian desert environment without hassle.

With new advancements in technology opening the doors to even more complex designs, it is exciting to consider how much of an impact 3D printing will continue to make in the world of competitive solar car racing. We are excited to continue providing our expertise in this fascinating area and look forward to supporting the 30 year anniversary of the Bridgestone Solar World Challenge in 2017.

Check out some of the photos from the event:

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

3D printed part

3D printed part

3DSL SOLIDWORKS® and the Marine Industry

With the Gold Coast International Marine Expo being held this weekend on the Gold Coast, we couldn’t help but think about how 3D Space Labs (as a reseller of SOLIDWORKS®) could help businesses within Queensland’s marine industry.

SOLIDWORKS® has been revolutionising the product design market for years. Today, over 3,073,600 product designers and engineers worldwide are benefitting from the numerous benefits that SOLIDWORKS® has to offer. Though the 230,400 organisations that use SOLIDWORKS® are all incredibly different and unique, we have found that our 3D CAD software is able to be utilised perfectly across a number of industries and product design specialities. More specifically, SOLIDWORKS® has become a popular choice for those within the marine industry and has been used to design commercial ships, leisure and competition boats, offshore platforms, marine equipment, and high-pressure hydraulic products.

The results that come with the use of SOLIDWORKS® are undeniable. Organisations have reported reduced adaptation times and prototyping costs of up to 66% as well as reduced total design time from 3 days to only 5 hours. Arguably, the most remarkable of all the SOLIDWORKS® results is, however, the ability for highly specialised engineers to be twice as productive in their day-to-day activities.

3DSL is an official reseller of SOLIDWORKS® software and would love to join your company to make your processes more efficient and profitable.

bicycle safety

Solidworks classic colour theme for Solidworks 2016

Solidworks classic colour theme for Solidworks 2016

Service pack 3 for Solidworks 2016 has been released and one of the most anticipated features in this service pack is the Solidworks classic colour theme option. This gives users the ability to switch the colour theme back to something more akin to the Solidworks 2014 and 2015 user interface. While I personally will be sticking with the new colour theme, there have been many users who were concerned about eye fatigue with the new low contrast colour theme. For those users this feature will be a welcome development. It is by no means a complete reversion to the old colour theme as you will likely notice from the images below, but Solidworks has shown that it has listened to customer concerns in service packs 1 and 2 and has brought this enhancement to users as quickly as possible. I expect to see further tweaking of the classic colour theme in service pack 4 to make this a more complete enhancement for those who feel they need it.

So, how do we go about switching themes?

Open Solidworks 2016 and go to ‘options’ in the top menu bar.

In the system options tab activate ‘colours’ on the side bar.

Go to the icon colour drop down and set to ‘Classic’.

Next select the background drop down list and select ‘Medium light’ as the background colour.

Your user interface should now look like the image below.

9 Criteria for choosing the best CAD system

3D CAD has become THE design tool for many industries. By investing into a 3D Design Automation CAD system, you can expect to enjoy; lower costs, improved efficiency, higher productivity, and it can be a differentiator in a larger product development solution.

Today we’re going to look at the smaller guys. How do designers investigating 3D CAD to support their use of 3D printing, or other first-time buyers identify what capabilities and characteristics are important for them? A new white paper from Stephen Wolfe, founder of Computer Aided Design Report, outlines the nine criteria anyone should consider when choosing a 3D CAD solution.

What to consider when choosing 3D CAD?

Obviously you want to investigate if other people in your industry are using the solution. Does it best address the type of products you develop, whether its sheet metal parts or highly stylized products? Will it allow you to easily move from conceptual design through manufacturing?

CAD data is at the center of the product development process; everything flows from the master model. Will the CAD tool you are investigating allow you to easily share data with other stakeholders during the design process for concurrent design – testing, machining, cost estimating, inspection, electrical schematics, etc? Once you have designed your product, can you easily share the data downstream with suppliers, manufacturing, customers or your own marketing organization?

You also need to consider the “intangibles;” like the selling process or ongoing support. Most people want to work with a company they trust during and after the sale. Although many CAD tools are now “easy to use,” designers just starting out will benefit from training and ongoing support. The vendor or value-added reseller (VAR) often offers training, but what level of support can you get from other users? A strong user community can help answer questions that are specific to your issues, because they have been in your shoes.

Finally, will the vendor address your design needs today and in the future? Is the company’s R&D team developing and delivering new solutions to support new technologies or ways of working?

Making an intelligent choice requires careful considerations of your engineering needs. Read this white paper to learn more about the nine criteria you should consider when choosing a CAD system.