AC Unit for Haier©
Upon commission by Haier Group in December 2014, our team developed the design of an interior AC Unit chassis (to be realized entirely via 3D printing), to be exhibited at the upcoming AWE – Appliance & Electronics World Expo in Shanghai, March 2015. To date there was no precedent in the use of 3D printing for home appliances at the given scale (typically an interior AC Unit has a bounding box of 100x30x40 cm), so what we developed turned out to be a world’s first.
The target market sector indicated by the client for our design was high-level/luxury (due to the prototypical nature of the project and the current cost of 3D printing at the desired scale), not mass production: tag price was constrained, although not a primary issue. The designed chassis had to fit the core of an existing design unit and be fully functional during the exhibition.
There were two sets of challenges/constraints that we felt most influential for our work:
. exploiting in full the opportunities given by 3D printing over current production techniques to deliver a unique user experience
. conveying through the design a vision compliant with the client’s history and aspirations
The following aspects are all poignant when thinking about how 3D printing influences design aspiration in all fields, and in particular for the scope of home-appliance product design; thus we used them as premises to our work:
_ Design freedom
. unprecedented freedom for shapes – the limit dictated from 3D printing production techniques are much looser than the existing production systems
. detail intensification – the possibility to enrich the design and characterize it through high-resolution detail and aim towards a richer perceptual experience
. design variations – design effort focuses on the development of a system rather than a single object
_ User Customization
. through appropriate interfaces, users have a varying degree of choice on the object itself according to their exigencies and taste; most of the times, it is about designing a system that the user can configure to match his/her unique aspirations
_ On-demand production
. production system does not depend anymore on stock making and previsions, as the production matches exactly the order (one ordered, one produced). The cost previously invested in stock can be saved or invested in further design and user customization expression, stressing once more the importance and opportunities at the hand of the designer.
Although our first approach and intentions were more radical in re-thinking, evolving and integrating form and function through additive fabrication technology, in order to meet the steep time schedule and the given constraints we agreed with the client to focus mainly on the perceptual qualities of the object in relation to the user experience.
The design has a streamlined quality in order to solve surface continuity among the various parts and tries to absorb and integrate as surface pattern qualities the necessary functional adaptations to air intake, air flow and back lit display.
The system is designed to be customizable by the client in terms of pattern configuration and color choice prior to the production of the object.