What are the biggest trends in product design? Someone asked me that at dinner. I gave this response: 1) lightweighting (what else could I say after the big stories this year on the Chevy Volt and Dreamliner), 2) miniaturization, and related issues concerning thermal conductivity of plastics, and 3) a move back toward styling. This came to mind because of the great new looking washers and dryers from Whirlpool and, more recently, the Nokia Classic 6500.The renewed emphasis on styling is due, in part, to the enormous success of Apple with the Mac, the iPod and iPhone. What do you think are the biggest trends?
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.