Posted on 14/09/2015

The modern consumer market is constantly hunting for technological advances. Standing out in the increasingly competitive market is imperative and configurators are a development that have caused a stir. If you were to visit the website of almost any car manufacturer today, you would find a configurator that allows you to make a whole host of changes to a big, shiny and interactive visualisation of a car. A huge array of components can be modified, with all of them appearing instantly in front of your eyes. Essentially it’s an adult version of a Lego car for the modern consumer. Instead of changing blocks to create your perfect vehicle, you make adjustments on a digital visualisation. These engaging and interactive POS configurators are the more glamorous side of configurators, but they can also be utilised as an important means of review in the product design process.  

Configurators for use throughout the design workflow have the same key features as those used at the point-of-sale and provide many of the same benefits. Customisation is still a key feature in the design stage but instead of allowing a customer to try numerous iterations; it gives designers the flexibility to explore different options and make multiple changes before making final design decisions. With the easy to use nature of a configurator, it brings forward the design review to an earlier stage in the process. Configurators are rapidly changing the process of design and enabling designers to make decisions on a digitalised visualisation of a product rather than using a traditional prototype.

Streamlined design workflow

Due to the technical capabilities of a configurator, it is much easier for designers to present and adapt many different design possibilities in an internal workflow. The ability to present, prototype and collaborate on a project is a key feature that configurators offer. Groups of designers can suggest and try different design iterations, amending numerous components in real-time and bringing true to life visualisations to all internal clients. Within the internal workflow the need to use multiple applications in design is restricted, as all design changes can be made using the configuration application. This streamlined design process makes final design decisions quicker and easier to make whilst saving time and money.  

As with any configurator, the component parameters can be set to include material, size, geometry etc. Designers can then try different combinations of these components and see how they react with different environments, materials and lighting structures, making it easier to focus on final design decisions. This innovative design methodology also has scope to be extended to allow for remote design decision making. With a configurator in a central location, it could be connected to external devices to allow others to see design changes being made and make recommendations themselves. The ease of presentation, speed of design changes and ability to collaborate make configurators an invaluable tool at the design review stage.

Design accuracy whilst reducing time and costs

This method of design saves companies both time and money; there is no need to manufacture prototypes as configurators allow for design changes to be made in real-time whilst being represented on a physically based photorealistic image. In addition to this, products represented in a configurator are built with physically accurate materials, meaning they react and look precisely as they do in the real-world. This accuracy means designers can be confident that any changes they make to the product in the configurator will be fully represented on the final product.

Designs can be finalised using the configurator, with the precision suitable for engineering, pre-sales manufacturing and all areas of product design. The real-world accuracy of the configurator negates the need for lengthy design cycles and high costs. Market research can also be improved using a configurator. Instead of showing a focus group a selection of images, a configurator can be used to show multiple options, including 360° navigation. Interaction with the product is enhanced resulting in deeper and more engaged feedback. 

A key tool in the design process   

A configurator can be used as a product design tool across numerous industries, including automotive, architectural and technology. For instance, if a watch company were formulating ideas for a new design of watch, a configurator could be built to act as a valuable tool when trying out a multitude of design options. A configurator would allow designers to make changes to the material, colour, size and much more. As each different design can be automatically cached, designers have the ability to go back to previously created designs. The ability to make instant design changes at this stage of the workflow gives designers ultimate flexibility.

The benefits of using a configurator as a design tool are numerous and companies can take advantage of these instantly. Whilst a configurator at the POS allows customers ultimate personalisation, a configurator in the design review can be used to achieve the opposite. Designers need to finalise design decisions, not to an individual’s personal preference but as collaboration between numerous interested parties. The real-time changes to a photoreal product improve the design workflow, whilst saving time and money. No longer do companies have to rely on expensive and time consuming multi application design iterations and prototype development; final product decisions can be made using a configurator.    

A look at how Configurators can be a key tool in the design process
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