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CO DESIGN - Integration of 3D technologies

Research @ MIT Media Lab | 2018

#customization #3Dscanner #3Dprinter #3Dsoftware #user experience 

CO-DESIGN is designed to investigate how the integration of a 3D body scanner, 3D software, and a 3D printer would significantly contribute to the functionality and aesthetic quality of the wearable by customization. Even though the systematic integration is limited in the current technology, properly fitted and uniquely designed protective gear is achievable and customization can increase the overall job performance, safety, and self-esteem of the wearer. 


co-design “an approach to design attempting to actively involve all end users in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable.”




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3D Scanner




3D Software

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3D Printer




As we live in the era of innovation, 3D technologies using 3D scanners and 3D printers have opened up new possibilities and led us to various questions. What are the possibilities 3D technologies can possibly bring to us? Which part of the industry could these be used most effectively? How can they be utilized in their full potential to enhance what already exists, and who are the possible users of products that are manufactured by using these 3D technologies? Over the course of the following paragraphs, I would like to introduce the stagnant aesthetics of protective gears, the current trend, and culture of the growing skateboarding community, and the integration of 3D body scanners and 3D printers as a solution.

Possible Users: Skateboarding Community


The skateboarding community is rapidly growing. As participation in sports increased, the perception of skateboarding, which has been typically perceived as a professional sport has changed and attracted crowds to form a broader community as an alternative to self-taught sports. Since the skateboarding community exhibits creative and artistic natures, including vibrant graffitis, bold streetwear styles, and personalized items, the government and brands are heavily investing in community growth. Because it embodies the nature of creating new trends and expressing individual identities, I saw the potential in introducing the customization and co-designing protective gears.​

  • Diverse age groups = individual sizings and fittings are even more important


The population of NYC in 2016



Skateboarders in the U.S. in 2010


Larger than NYC population!


  • The long history of customization or personalization = acceptance to change

  • 125,145 people in hospital emergency rooms = importance to motivate wearing protective gears

Expected Agenda


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The Reality of Trial and Error


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Step 1: Scanning my body 


In an attempt to scrutinize the user experience of this integration in concept, my body was scanned with Human Solution. It is the most accurate 3D scanner that acquires exact body measurements and body shapes in seconds. In order to compare the change in movements of my knees in different positions, multiple scans were taken and then the optimized shape is taken.


By comparison with Solidwork, Rhino is NURBS-based 3-D modeling software that users can edit any surface by the control point. Therefore, it is very easy to create organic and curve based objects by maintaining accuracy in measurements. Therefore, 3D scanned data was transferred to Rhino by using the command called mesh to NURBS.

Step 2: Transferring 3D scanned data to 3D software


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Step 3: Selection of body parts


Because Human Solution is a laser scanner, the color and texture of the object are not recorded. Therefore, the only way was to decide on the optimal portion of the 3D modeling was to make an educated guess of the area that is enough to cover the knees and the ratio of the computational modeling on Rhino. This is how my real leg was calculated.

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Step 4: Design Inspiration and Digitization 

The design was inspired by the bold graffiti of fire, which is a popular symbol used in the design of custom skateboard decks. First, the hand-drawn drawing was digitized in Adobe Illustrator and then converted into Rhino. The 2D illustration was extruded to one inch that becomes the body of a knee pad on Rhino. The intersection of the design and 3D body model was split by using the command Booleansplit. As a result, the inside of the design follows the curve of the outer part of the 3D modeling of my knees.

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3D Design to Tangible Product


The fabricated model was transferred to 3D printers. During the process, I tested with two printers MakerBot and Form Lab.  MakerBot was good in terms of speed and affordability on material and the print was very lightweight. However, the resolution was not as fine compared to the one that was printed with Form Lab. Another material I tried was Ninja Flex, which is printable rubber. However, because there were not enough surfaces on the ground to build a support system, it melted down into one chunk.


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Through trial and error, I found some limitations on the integration of current technologies of 3D scanner, 3D software and 3D printer in trying to customize the personalized wearable for public use.

  • Design choice - Because the customizing knee pad is not purely for aesthetic, some of the design choices were limited by functionality.

  • Prototyping - Because of the distance between the virtual model and the tangible products, it took a great deal of prototyping.

  • Material choices - The textures of the surface were rough and could be printed with higher resolution.

  • Challenges- There were constant unexpected challenges.

  • Skills-It is not for the novice or experienced users.

  • Time and cost

Future Implication


This issue of current 3D technologies made me think deeply about Human-Computer Interaction and user experience aspect on each 3D technologies. This may be the initial stage of the project but soon there will be a system operation that will combine all three subsets and bring changes in beyond. I expect these possibilities: 

  • New market segment—this will disrupt the current manufacturing process and will bring innovation to mass production based industry by allowing freedom in choices of design

  • Integration of manufacturing system—various technologies such as injection molding and laser cutting will be all integrated seamlessly under one process.

  • Design for specific needs—design guidance and community will be offered for people with specific needs.

  • Time and cost—soon the material will become affordable and very quick to produce items.

  • Positive societal change—The design thinking practice for the general public and customisation push people to embrace differences.



My senior project was exhibited in Jill Stuart Gallery at Cornell University for the duration of three months. It gained attention as it dealt with the gap in fashion between beauty and technology.

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