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Item Type: Tesi di dottorato
Uncontrolled Keywords: Concept design, Robust Design, Continuous product innovation, Participatory Design, Emotional Design, Kansei Engineering, Virtual Reality, Seat comfort, Postural comfort index
Date Deposited: 20 May 2010 08:58
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2014 19:38


Nowadays innovation is a critical task for companies of industrial products. The ability to achieve a virtuous innovation process can be reached pointing the attention on the Quality of both products and processes that offers considerable advantages for the competitiveness. In this context the design activities hold a central position and designers have to look for the optimal design in terms of user satisfaction. This research work aims at giving a methodological contribution to the product innovation process, starting from a Robust Design approach applied since the early stages of the product development. In particular two are the mainstreams of this work, respectively related to the identification of the user needs to be translated in product features and to the implementation of these features in product design in terms of comfort fulfilment. The first mainstream regards the formalization of a statistical design strategy for product innovation in concept design phase, based on the integration between designers and engineers activities and on the involvement of potential users in experiments with virtual and real prototypes. The process is cyclical, from the identification of user needs to the generation and evaluation of product concepts in order to define the optimal one. In this process identifying as soon as possible user needs is a difficult task for designers because users ask more than just functional requirements, they want something able to touch them. Emotional Design is the answer for these new tendencies and several methods have been developed according to the idea that products can elicit (positive) emotions in users; among these Kansei Engineering can give an important contribution to product design, allowing designers to identify emotional user needs, expressed and latent, and their relationships with product features. Then the adoption of Virtual Reality technologies can help designers to develop realistic product concepts, reducing time and costs comparing with the traditional approach with physical prototypes, and offering many advantages for their evaluation in immersive environments. In order to test the effectiveness of this strategy it has been applied in three practical case studies for the innovation of a train interior, of railway seats and of a postural seat system for disabled children; as an important consequence a patent has been deposited from the results obtained in the last case. The second mainstream regards the problem of comfort evaluation, in particular of seats; indeed even if it is a long time since the seat comfort has been faced especially in car design applications, a synthetic objective measurement of comfort has not been yet developed. In order to overcome this lack, in this research work a new index is proposed, based on pressure maps, for objectively evaluating seat comfort in a robust design perspective. Starting from a comfort loss function the index expresses the loss of comfort due to differences of pressure among the cells of the map, providing a seat comfort evaluation which is strictly related to posture and physical characteristic of seats. The index is easy to calculate and easy to use also in an industrial context and, thanks to the application on three office chairs and to the comparison with subjective evaluations, it has been possible to highlight its goodness to effectively evaluate the comfort. The gathered experimental results underline the importance of a rethink of the new design philosophies to implement the innovation process based on an integrated approach requiring aesthetic, ergonomic and engineering skills, on a multidisciplinary cooperation between designers, engineers and industrial statisticians, on the user involvement and on the adoption of new advanced technologies of Virtual Reality.

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