Anaheim, Calif. — Plastics ranks in the top order of magnitude, giving product developers freedom to design a surface, according to a prominent industrial designer.
“Designers are not constrained by manufacturing technology” and can specify a minimal number of parts, said Bryce Rutter, founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group Inc. in St. Louis.
Rutter made a presentation and both organized and moderated panel discussions during the Feb. 9 medical design track of the UBM Advanced Manufacturing conference in Anaheim.
Rutter's firm uses “human factors to shape everything we do.” Metaphase addresses curvilinear and organic elements and can design tools that “won't be square or have orthogonal planes.”
The Metaphase website notes: “95 percent of the products we use every day, in everything we do, involves our hands. Even the most seemingly insignificant details can be the difference between a memorable or a bad user experience.”
In an interview, Rutter suggested that plastic processors should “initiate discussions with their customers about making packaging conform to human usability factors, not just to meet specs for crush-resistance/tensile strength, health requirements and efficient use of space.” The aim is “frustration-free packaging.”
Use of plastics “provides tremendous freedom in product form development,” he said. “This freedom allows human factor and industrial design experts to create product forms that are more organic and formfitting to a user's body to optimize comfort, human performance and aesthetic performance.”
Individuals can sense differences in surface textures as small as 3 micrometers, he said. “Such differences can change the perception of a product being masculine or feminine or rugged. Plastics allows us to design high-performance textures in primary grip zones on products that directly impact grip security, dexterity, control and finesse.”
In designing hand-intensive ergonomic products, plastic packaging providers should increase their understanding of the optimum range of design elements for use by the human hand.
“If managed correctly, good design does not need to increase cost in producing packaging that meets customer needs,” he observed. “Investing in the front-end science can drive down the production cost per piece.”
Also, packaging providers need to recognize the increase in the aging of the American population and develop packaging or design details that are responsive to aging hands and eyes. “This is particularly important for molded devices, caps and closures and pouches,” he said.
In creating enclosure shells, thermoformers need to incorporate controllers for housing graphical user interfaces.
Rutter is trained in both industrial design and human factors. He received a Bachelor of Industrial Design Degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in industrial design and a doctorate in kinesiology, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Rutter founded the business in 1991.