This research was concerned with the integration of physical and virtual prototyping to support user evaluation in the product design process.
The research background, research aim and research objectives which give the overall guide to this research are introduced first. The top-level aim of the research was to explore the ways that physical and virtual prototypes can be simultaneously combined to support industrial designers in testing and modifying their designs. A comprehensive literature review was undertaken into the topics of product design and development, the role of physical and virtual prototype/prototyping and related prototyping integration technologies. A questionnaire survey regarding the applications of prototypes is then presented. The knowledge gained from these was used to define the needs of real time integration of physical and virtual prototyping. A method to quickly transfer the changes in a physical prototype to a virtual prototype has been proposed and developed into an integration system known as the Loughborough University Prototyping Integration System (LUPIS). The feasibility and potential benefits of this system were tested through several user trials. The generic implementation of LUPIS is then discussed and an example of the configuration of this system for a motorcycle is presented. Finally, conclusions about the outcome of the research and suggestions for future work are provided. The main conclusions drawn from the research were:
Real time integration of physical and virtual prototypes/prototyping is an efficient way of helping product design activities, especially in the product evaluation process. LUPIS has presented a new approach to achieve the real time integration. However, more advanced technologies are needed to develop this system and make it more sophisticated.
The main contributions of this research include: i) a deeper understanding of the applications of physical and virtual prototyping (obtained through literature review and questionnaire survey), ii) the needs of real time integration of physical and virtual prototyping has been defined; iii) a wide range of technologies related to prototyping integration have been investigated and analysed, and their limitations are identified; iv) The Loughborough University Prototyping Integration System has been developed and a generic implementation method has been also proposed.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.