IMPROVING THE LEARNING PROCESS IN MATERIALS SELECTION: THE ROLE OF CONTEXT IN CHOOSING MATERIAL SOLUTIONS
1 Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2 Electrolux Professional S.p.A. (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The redesign or incremental innovation of existing products driven by materials selection is a hard process for designers and engineers. Changes on existing design made on one component have to be deeply studied as they are often followed by changes in materials and processing technologies. An educational experience conducted at Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with Innovation & Technologies Department - Electrolux Professional S.p.A., allow students of the course “Materials Selection Criteria In Design & Engineering” (School of Design) to approach this kind of design problems.
The structure of the educational experience derived from a previous workshop on materials selection conducted in 2014, in which students worked on lighting products. In the new experience, students focused on materials and technologies of production of some semi-professional cooking appliances. Following the Mike Ashby’s materials selection criteria, students examined a limited number of product’s components, exploring their function, constraints and objectives.
The strategy of selection developed by Ashby permits the designer to find different material solutions mainly from the viewpoint of intuitive aspects. Although, applying the method for the first time, students find some difficulties as they are not always able to define function, constraints and objectives for each component they analyze. Moreover, they often misunderstand the difference between “constraints” and “objectives”, confusing the ones of the whole product with the ones of a specific product’s component.
This evidence, together with the will to perform a complete investigation of the component under consideration, prompted the development of a tool able to organize the preliminary information that characterize each materials selection, and facilitate the process from the first approach. The “Context Analysis Datasheet” has the aim to clarify the context in which each component operates, increasing the knowledge about the factors that could compromise its functioning. Furthermore, the tool has been developed to facilitate the identification of the limiting factors (constraints) and the objectives of the selection, guiding the process of materials and manufacturing technologies selection. This paper shows the results of the first application of the “Context Analysis Datasheet” in an educational experience. Analyzing the users’ feedback, and assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the tool, concrete guidelines would be proposed.
Keywords: Materials selection, Design education, Context analysis, Professional appliances.