Teaching design freedom: Understanding the effects of variations in design for additive manufacturing education on students’ creativity

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Additive manufacturing (AM) processes offer unique capabilities (i.e., opportunities) yet inherent limitations (i.e., restrictions) due to the layer-by-layer fabrication of parts. Despite the newfound design freedom and increased use of AM, limited research has investigated how knowledge of the AM processes affects the creativity of students’ ideas after being exposed to AM. This study investigates this gap through an experimental study with 343 participants recruited from a junior-level mechanical engineering design course. The participants were exposed to three variations in design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) education: (1) no DfAM, (2) restrictive DfAM, and (3) opportunistic and restrictive (dual) DfAM education. The effects of these three interventions were measured through differences in (1) participants’ self-reported use of DfAM in a design challenge and (2) expert assessment of the creativity of the outcomes from the said design challenge. The results of the study indicated that variations in DfAM content did not result in differences in the participants’ self-reported use of either opportunistic or restrictive DfAM, with all three groups reporting similar levels of emphasis. Further, participants from all three groups reported higher use of restrictive DfAM techniques, compared with opportunistic DfAM. Moreover, while variations in the content had no effect on the creativity (uniqueness and usefulness) of the participants’ design outcomes, teaching both opportunistic and restrictive DfAM did result in the generation of designs with greater AM technical goodness—a novel and significant finding in our study. The results of this study highlight the need for DfAM educational interventions that encourage students to not only learn about but also integrate both opportunistic and restrictive concepts effectively into their creative design process. This would result in the generation of innovative products that leverage the design freedom enabled by AM, yet addressing the limitations inherent in the process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number094501
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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