People and Lasers: Interview with Maddy Afshar

November 21st, 2016 by Katie Fuller

 

Would you rather use a multitude of tools or one high-tech laser cutter to create the materials for one product? In the field of industrial design that decision is up to you, but you all know which tool we would choose…

Maddy Afshar is an industrial design student at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Fueled by a passion for design and creation, as well as a love for the environment, Maddy is hoping to change the way that people view products. As a future industrial designer she hopes to design and create products that will last a lifetime and have little impact on the world that we all love. 

1) Can you give us an overview of the field of industrial design?

MA: Industrial Design is the application of design in the world of mass produced products. Industrial Design Society of America describes ID as “the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value and appearance for the mutual benefit of user and manufacturer. Industrial designers develop products and systems through collection analysis and synthesis of data guided by the special requirements of their client and manufacturer. They prepare clear and concise recommendations through drawings, models, and descriptions. Industrial designers improve as well as create, and they often work within multi-disciplinary groups that include management, marketing, engineering, and manufacturing specialists.”

We do more than design, we create. We have to understand the process involved and be able to see the necessary changes to make something a good design, all while creating a product that is simple, aesthetic, and timeless.

2) How are lasers used in the field of industrial design?

MA: Lasers (specifically laser cutters) are used in rapid prototyping  – which is the process of creating many products at a cheap price point. Rapid prototyping allows product designers to create the materials for a 3D object before beginning the mass production of that particular product. In order to use a laser cutter you need to learn the cyber side of production – being able to create a 2D version of the product through a computer program and then send that design to the laser cutter so that it can be cut out. The most expensive part of industrial design is the manufacturing process, not the product material. Rapid prototyping makes a lot of room for innovation in the design process.

3) How is laser safety practiced when using laser cutters?

MA: Laser cutters use concentrated lasers to cut material, concentrated lasers operate strictly through light and reflection. I would say that the majority of laser safety precautions are taken by the manufacturers of the laser cutters. All laser cutter machines contain concentrated lasers that are encased in polarized safety glass – this protects from pieces of material flying out at you. In addition to the safety glass, it is advised that you wear sunglasses when operating the machine and that you do not look directly at the laser, which can be damaging to your eyes. When using laser cutters in the student lab you must always have the EVAC system on to make sure that air is circulating properly and frequently throughout the entire lab.

4) What tool(s) were used before lasers in industrial design? Why is it better to use lasers now?

MA: Before laser cutters came along industrial designers were (and still are) using just about every tool in the shop to create a product. Some of these tools are (but not limited to): band saws (in varying sizes), table saws, stop saws, Japanese hand saws, heat guns, razor blades, exacto knives, and bending tools. It is SO much better to use laser cutter machines now because an industrial designer may have to use a lot of different tools to create a product (or material) that a laser cutter could produce.

5) Is there anything about laser cutters that makes them difficult to work with?

MA: Laser cutters are fairly easy to work with once you are certified in using them. Since I am a student and still learning how to use a laser cutter, I need to have a lab coordinator present when I am using one.

6) Do you prefer working with lasers or traditional tools?

MA: I like to use a fine balance of both and I don’t want to end up using one over the other. I do tend to get more frustrated with lasers right now because I am still learning the program. I would say that lasers are way more exciting to use than traditional tools – there is no after process in production with laser cutting.

7) Why did you choose to study industrial design?

MA: I decided to pursue industrial design because it fulfills my constant need to create, innovate, and express myself all while having a direct impact on society. Everything manmade is designed, whether that is the coffee machine you use in the morning, or the shower head you stand under at night. If designed well, the environmental impacts are little, and the benefits to the user are made to be easier, more functional, and pleasing to the eye. We are artists.  

8) What is your favorite aspect of industrial design?

MA: I love being able to create new products. I feel like I am always thinking about products in the context of “I can make this better” – industrial design allows me to do just that. Design affects everyone – from the pen that you choose to write with to the car that you drive. As an industrial designer I get to have a say in what design is. My design philosophy is quality over quantity, being able to find a solution to the problem of disposability is incredibly satisfying but really hard.

Photo series of a shed proposal for the Auraria Higher Education Center.

Thanks for working this interview into your schedule, Maddy! We cannot wait to see what you create with the help of lasers. You can see more of Maddy’s design work in her portfolio. 

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