At Huxlo we've been working on ways to invite the customer into the design process. Today we're introducing the first step of that journey - the product customisers.
We run a digital factory. Everything we make starts life as a computer designed 3D model. Products are designed in such a way that they are called 'parametric'. The whole design hinges around a few dimensions such as height, width and depth. So if a dimension is changed then the design will update to reflect it.
This design is then turned into a layout for manufacturing. We pull the model apart and lay it out side by side as tightly as we can. This represents how the parts will be cut to size during manufacture. This layout is then turned into a list of instructions for our manufacturing machines to follow. These machines precisely cut out parts from a large sheet of material by following a programmed path.
Mass produced furniture is traditionally made using physical workstations that allow a joiner to achieve repeatable results again and again. These workstations take time and resources to set up and are not easy to change. This makes bespoke dimensions or features prohibitory expensive to create.
By working digitally we don't use traditional workstations. Our robotics can repeat a process over and over, but it can also change that process in an instant if required. A change in design can be made by a change in code, the instructions sent to the machine.
How do we make this useful to the customer?
We wanted to offer bespoke furniture at an affordable price point. Using our digital process this could be done in theory. However we needed a way to explain the options to the customer in a resources efficient way. This is where the customiser comes in. The first step in joining the customer to the factory. The customiser works just like a normal product listing. The difference lies in the product image which is instead a 3D model that changes in size and colour as different options are selected.
Today we have customisers for our desks and chest of drawers. You can expect more to be updated periodically. Of course, feedback welcome.
What's to come in the future?
This is just the first step. In the future we envision a virtual store where customers can design, estimate and purchase any item of furniture you can imagine. Our mission is to simplify the built environment through technology and we're just getting started.