DisciplinesUX, Interaction Design, Visual Design, User Research, Market Research
Autodesk Netfabb is a suite of tools for streamlining and optimizing additive manufacturing processes.
As Lead Designer, I supported new features and redesigns within Netfabb Simulation Utility for the 2017 and 2018 releases. For a full list of What’s New by version:
Role: I served as Lead Designer for Netfabb Simulation Utility versions 2017 and 2018. This is a new desktop application within the Netfabb suite that enables engineers to simulate professional-grade metal printing processes in order to predict distortion, alleviate support structure failure, and avoid potential damage to machines & hardware. Metal printing is inherently expensive and time-consuming, so using simulation to avoid errors is a major cost saver for our customers.
Being a new product built on acquired technology, I was deeply involved in market, industry, and user research. This also enabled me to get closer exposure to product management, as I was more involved in strategic planning and formulating the product roadmap than in previous roles. Our small team had the freedom to work closely with early adopters in the space, moving fast to test our hypotheses in working code as part of a tight feedback loop with real users who were running weekly test builds.
The types of complex and expensive 3D printed parts that might be simulated in Netfabb:
Mini Case Study - Improving Results Animations (“4D Printing”)
We are simulating a manufacturing process that occurs over time as parts heat and cool, and so engineers are interested in understanding how displacements and stresses behave over the duration. Thus animating and scrubbing through the manufacturing timeline is critical to understanding the resulting part quality.
As you can see below, the original animation controls were barebones and stretched the usability of the ribbon UI:
I looked for inspiration from time-based interfaces in audiovisual apps like YouTube, Vimeo, and Spotify that all of our users would be familiar with. There are also precedents in simulation & manufacturing software, though typically these involve removing material to create a part (CNC & CAM), versus the additive manufacturing we are modeling:
We ended up sequencing the updates into three phases:
Simulating the manufacturing process has already saved our customers millions of dollars in lost time, expended materials, and damaged machinery. As available compute resources continue to increase and additive manufacturing reaches maturity in more industries, we expect this impact to continue to grow superlinearly. Animation of the process is fundamentally critical to understanding behavior in all 4 dimensions.