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Application Of CAD In The Toy Industry

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Introduction

Before CAD became popular, designs were done using pen and paper. Now, with so many CAD softwares available in the market, users are spoilt for choice with regards to choosing the CAD program that will best suit their needs. Many companies in different industries have determined that the use of CAD will benefit their business, and are willing to spend thousands to invest in CAD workstations. CAD softwares help users saves time required to churn out designs, saves space as designs can be saved electronically; gone long are the days where designs are drawn on large pieces of paper, and ultimately makes the designing process easier as compared to plotting designs on paper.

It is well-known that engineering industries, such as those in the manufacturing field use CAD to design their tools or jigs which optimize their production process. However, the use of CAD is no longer just limited to the engineering industry. With the growing interest in 3D printing and the advances made in the field, the prices of entry level 3D printers are low enough such that almost anyone can get hold of one and start printing their designs, from printing fanciful chocolate patterns to electric circuits. Nevertheless, CAD is the basis of 3D printing; a drawing done by CAD is needed in order to send the design to be 3D printed. This term paper will describe how CAD is applicable in the toy industry and the benefits from the usage of CAD.

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Integration of Virtual Reality (VR) technology with CAD

Just like any other design projects, designing toy products is an endless cycle of concept generation, concept testing and making changes, and CAD is used heavily in this cycle. To showcase and explain their ideas, toy designers would present their CAD designs, often with vibrant colours to appeal to investors. While CAD has allowed designers to present 3D models which give a better overview of the design, it falls short of showing how the product would actually look like in real life, and the audience also is unable to interact with the idea.

Furthermore, designers usually present their work together with a detailed, but wordy text description. This makes it hard for the audience to fully appreciate design, and it might even lead to biases in the design due to a lack of proper understanding of the text. Sometimes, prototypes are either too costly to made, or that there is a lack of time to produce it before meeting investors. To overcome this, virtual reality (VR) technology is incorporated alongside with CAD to improve the process of toy designing. In the absence of a prototype, through VR, a user will still be able to experience playing with the toy. With VR, interaction with a virtual toy allows toy designers to gain valuable feedback from users and improve their design further.

VR is also combined with CAD with regards to toy design teaching. The aim is to expose the learners to the process of interacting with the toy through VR, given them a clearer perspective to better understand the point of view of their target audience. VR interaction also aims to improve learner’s ability to design thinking through repeated interactions and making evaluations of their design, a soft skill that is not easy to acquire with traditional CAD training, which focuses more on the usage of the software and less of critical thinking.

Some advantages of incorporating VR and CAD to toy designing would be that it shortens the design process and improves design efficiency. Virtual modelling can also be used to perform physical and dynamics simulation of the design. With VR, a costly prototype that could also require a long period to produce would no longer be needed. This time reduction not only allows designers to rapidly modify and improve their designs, but saves design costs as well.

Shortening the development phase also shortens the sales cycle, which allow toy companies to release their new products at a faster pace, generating more revenue for the companies.

CAD softwares aimed at children

In recent years, the advances in technology meant that more children are growing up with new gadgets and gizmos, and are learning how to swipe apps at an increasingly younger age. In the US, the fall in students’ literacy in the subjects of math and science has resulted in a shortage of qualified workers in the growing science and technology fields, which has led to then President Barack Obama pushing for several initiatives to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) literacy in children (Livingstone, 2012). One of the initiatives was to teach children and teenagers to use CAD softwares.

This opens up a new market for CAD software companies. CAD is no longer exclusively geared towards professional engineers or engineering students in universities. A growing number of companies are producing CAD softwares that are intuitive enough to be used by children who are as young as elementary school students. For example, Autodesk launched Tinkercad, which is free and made available for all. What makes Tinkercad stand out is that it is aimed towards users of all age groups, which includes children. It is a software not just for children; hobbyists and designers can use it as well. Tinkercad comes hand in hand with Tinkerplay, a 3D printing app which is kid-friendly and makes it easy for them to draw and print out their designs. Tinkercad has made it possible for young children to design simple toys, and when paired up with Tinkerplay, children are able to 3D print their own toy designs (Lahwani, 2015).

Other CAD softwares that are aimed towards children would include SOLIDWORKS App for Kids, and LeoCAD. Similar to Tinkercad, SOLIDWORKS App for Kids is geared towards children, and makes it easy for users to 3D print out their designs as well. LeoCAD is an interesting CAD software which allows users to uses virtual LEGO bricks to ‘build’ their design. In a way, CAD softwares are now a form of ‘toy product’ for children who have a passion for design.

CAD in the toy industry

Not many people would associate the multi-billion dollar toy industry with CAD. However, CAD is a basic tool, perhaps even crucial, especially during the design phase of releasing a toy product. A lot of trial and error goes into designing a toy product, and CAD is used to make the process a shorter and easier one. The main reason why CAD is used in the toy industry is to gain speed. With intense competition between different toy companies, it boils down to how fast a company can get their product into the market.

CAD allows toy companies to produce prototypes rapidly, from designing to making the prototype. This allows companies to envision their product, get feedback from their target consumers with regards to their toy, and make changes at a rapid pace. Much crucial information that helps to improve the product is also gained with each cycle of prototyping and re-designing. This cycle may have to be repeated multiple time before the final product is finally ready to be mass produced. CAD thus shortens the time required for each learning cycle.

There are several challenges in regards to designing a toy product for mass manufacturing. The biggest challenge would be to design a toy which is not just fun to play with, but also passes a series of very stringent international tests and standards, one of which is to be tested and certified to ASTM F963-17, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety in the US (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). This is but one of the numerous international standards that toy manufacturers have to conform to. Factors to consider into would include choking hazards, moving parts and strangulation hazards.

While not directly related to engineering, there are other challenges faced by toy companies, such as appealing to consumers with different taste and interests, and to get their toy product onto the shelves in time for festive and holiday periods, when toy sales peak (McKenna, 2017). However, this meant that designers have a very tight timeline in regards to finish designing a toy product ready for production and sales before the festive periods, and also be fast enough to avoid releasing toy products that are ‘out of season’ with consumers.( Kudrowitz, n.d.)

In order to overcome these challenges, toy companies, over the years have been increasingly using more advanced technology to keep up with consumers. While some of the planning process of a toy is still done on paper, CAD has been employed to increase the speed and efficiency at which toy companies develop a new toy product.

Hasbro, an American multinational toymaker, produces the iconic Transformers toys. While toys are generally not easy to design, Transformers toys definitely top the list as one of the hardest toys to design, with several considerations that have to be taken in. Due to the various numbers of gimmicks that allows the Transformers toy to ‘transform’, much work is required in the planning and designing stage. The concepts are traditionally drawn on paper, but the finalised design will be drawn in CAD (Hoe, 2013).

The CAD drawing, drawn to scale, is used to simulate the ‘transformation’ of the toy, whether parts will be able to move smoothly, to ‘transform properly’. When the ‘transformation’ is deemed satisfactory, 3D printing is then employed to produce a prototype (McFadden, 2017). [image: ]By using CAD in the design process, the designers are able to flesh out their design into a 3D form, which allows them to get a better idea on how their toy product looks like. Also, being able to perform stress analysis and simulations using CAD is a great asset to the designers. Toy products are generally aimed at children, who are usually rough and not as careful with toys as how toy manufacturers would hope them to be.

Durability is even more of a concern to Transformers toys, which consists of several parts, joints and assemblies, some of which are more prone to stress and breakage due to design limitations. Running stress analysis would allow toy designers to determine the parts in the assembly that are subjected to the most amount of stress, and alter their design before prototyping it to reduce any breakages in the prototype. The simulations also help the designers to determine if the ‘transformation’ of the toy product is possible. While long man-hours are needed in order to produce the CAD drawing, the benefits of using CAD will outweigh the costs.

After the Transformer prototype is 3D printed out, it proceeds to a master model maker. The prototype will be given a functional check to determine if the dimensions of the design are acceptable. For example, movable joints are checked to determine if they are too loose or too tight. Any changes or adjustments to the design that need to be made can be done easily onto the CAD drawing. This process will repeat until the best design is drawn (Wagner, 2013). Only when the design is approved before it is sent for mass manufacturing.

References:

  1. Lalwani. M. (2015. 17 March). Autodesk’s new app lets kids design their own toys. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2015/03/17/autodesk-tinkerplay/
  2. Noe, R. (2013, April 22). Hasbro Designer Lenny Panzica Explains Transformers Toy Design Process. Retrieved from https://www.core77.com/posts/24772/Hasbro-Designer-Lenny-Panzica-Explains-Transformers-Toy-Design-Process
  3. GN Feature Story (2017). Here’s How Transformers Toys Are Designed. Retrieved from https://gineersnow.com/industries/heres-transformer-toys-designed
  4. McFadden. C. (2017, May 26). How Do They Design Transformer Toys? Retrieved from https://interestingengineering.com/how-do-they-design-transformer-toys
  5. McKenna, T. (2017, October 9). Toy Retailers Should Prepare for the Long Holiday Season.Retrieved from https://retail.emarketer.com/article/toy-retailers-should-prepare-long-holiday-season/59db9cb7ebd4000aa48d8e6b
  6. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. (n.d.). Toy Safety. Retrieved from https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Toy-Safety
  7. Livingstone, H. (2012, January 19). Get ‘Em While They’re Young. Retrieved from http://www.cadalyst.com/cad/get-039em-while-they039re-young-14242
  8. Lonjon, C. (2016, Dec 14). Top 8 CAD Software for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2016/12/14/top-8-cad-software-for-kids
  9. Kolstad, C. (2017, December 23). Rapid Prototyping & Design for New Toys. Retrieved from https://www.cadcrowd.com/blog/rapid-prototyping-design-for-new-toys/
  10. Kudrowitz, B. (n.d.) Emerging Technology and Toy Design. Retrieved from http://product.design.umn.edu/courses/pdes3711/documents/EmergingTech-kudrowitz.

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