Back in 2003 Canon put up a tutorial on how to block out a camera prototype in balsa wood to test look and feel. They have since pulled the tutorial from their website but I found a more or less complete copy.
It’s a good way of showing how sophisticated products and designs can be created from simple techniques using simple tools. You don’t need a CAD software or 3D printer to block out a design. In some ways using the CAD constrains you because you get attached to your model that took 100 hours to create and don’t want to just get rid of it when it doesn’t work. A hack made in a day with balsa wood? It’s like a school project, just toss it and make another one.
Blocking out a look and feel prototype is a good way to get a sense how the final product will look. And you can throw these things together from commonly available materials like balsa wood, styrene sheet, foam, thin sheet metal without making the investment in manufacturing or machinery. For that matter when you are planning to cast your design you can use the model to start the pattern making process.
The fact is that the simpler you make the design process, the more iterations around your design you are going to make. That leads to better designs and products that are easier to use. It’s a win all around.
The Let’s Build Series.