Technology Transformation

In recent years, the influence of new technologies on society has grown faster than ever before and they are impacting people on every scale, from individuals to enterprises to the global economy. Major technological disruptions are ongoing in the fields of ICT, materials and manufacturing, forcing industry to reconsider the processes of engineering design. Sustainability is recognised as an integral part of design, and as a topic of continuous education and research. 

Traditionally there is a technology readiness gap between the world of scientific research into new technologies on the one hand and the world of new product development on the other hand. This gap is known to have led to inappropriate application of technologies in products as well as missed opportunities in industry (Tempelman 2012). The mission of Technology Transformation is to succeed in linking technological research with product engineering in a twofold fashion: a) identifying emerging technologies and adapting them to a form in which they can be introduced into product concepts and b) influencing the agenda and priorities of technological research towards the most fruitful directions for new engineering concepts.

To advance the engineering design process, improved tools are needed to anticipate and simulate the relationships between technology, product concepts, product usage, market acceptation and sustainability. Each of these relationships demands its specific forecasting technique or prototyping method. To handle the increasing complexity of the products, we take a systems design approach to support the engineering design process. The scope and methodology adresses society, culture, users, product functionalities, resources and the technologies themselves.

The programme has three subprogrammes: 

Design for Sustainability

Design for Sustainability (DfS) is inspired by the globally accepted need for sustainable development, which implies that the design of mass consumption goods and their functional contexts should go together with a continuous improvement of environmental, economic and sociocultural characteristics. For example, in such an approach the emerging problem of future smart textiles, implying an expected enormous global increase in toxic electronic waste, should be addressed by prevention, on the drawing board, and not by poor end-of-life treatment once the problem has manifested itself on a global scale. Along this line DfS explores, describes, explains and predicts problems and opportunities for innovating products and product systems with respect to sustainability.

The research activities comprise the systematic development, testing and international application of methods and tools for the design of artefacts with superior life-cycle efficiency and effectiveness. The foundational work on sustainability during the past several years at the IDE faculty has provided a basis for exploring this theme which tackles the issue of sustainability at a global level, focusing attention on all its three components: economic, ecological and social. Besides PhD studies in the DfS area, a relevant contribution is made to the international standardisation in the field, such as the Ecocosts Value Ratio- indicator (EVR) for the assessment and comparison of a product design concepts from both an economic and ecological perspective. 

Engineering for Design

Engineering for Design (EfD) focuses on the transformation of emerging technologies into product functionalities and on increasing the efficiency of this process. Both environmental awareness and greater mobile use of products are driving forces in this development. One topic is the ever-expanding family of materials, enabling designers to conceive a variety of artefacts to do more with less, perform efficiently, integrate functions and meet the tangible and intangible requirements of modern society. New and old materials both offer new opportunities and pose challenges due to their novelty. Their use demands great innovative leaps to meet increasingly stringent requirements set by users and society. Conversely, research on societal trends and expectations has inspired the creation of new engineering concepts. 

Design Support

Design Support (DS) aims to explore, adapt and apply existing and emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support the design processes of products and productservice systems. Due to the diversification, miniaturisation and enhancement of ICTs, many opportunities have emerged for the support of design modelling and visualisation, remote design collaboration, virtual reality-based simulations, additive physical prototyping, natural interfacing and ad-hoc communication and transfer. Central to this were the opportunities offered by ubiquitous technologies (wireless, mobile) to extend design support tools beyond the desktop computer to other locations where stakeholders meet, prototypes are evaluated and design information can be collected.

The research was reoriented towards cyber-physical support systems with a high degree of synergy of hardware, software and cyberware. Considering the imperative developments of computing and the change in the market needs, the objective has shifted toward development of design principles and prototype implementations of cyber-physical solutions for specific applications such as rehabilitation, mobility, well-being, sports, and security. The move in this direction was urged and stimulated by both external and internal opportunities, e.g., industrial and Horizon 2020 funding, recruiting MSc and PhD students.