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Parametric Dreams [Ep. 7] – ShapeDiver Supports Research And Innovation!

Mathieu Huardby Mathieu Huard

Blog > Parametric Dreams

Parametric Dreams [Ep. 7] – ShapeDiver Supports Research And Innovation!

Mathieu Huardby Mathieu Huard

<< At ShapeDiver, we are always happy to hand out licenses and a helping hand to any student or research fellow who wish to use ShapeDiver for their work. As a result, several publications have involved ShapeDiver in our three years of existence. In some of them, the platform even plays a significant role. We present here an overview of some of these eclectic works and discuss the shared design principles that connect them together.>>

Architectural Design

Parametric and generative design were initially born within the field of architecture. As a consequence, a large portion of ShapeDiver users are architects.

For instance in 2017, PhD student Deborah dos Santos presented a generative tool named CICERO (Creative Interface for Constructing Earthbag Resource Objects) for supporting earthbag dome design decisions [1].

In short, earthbag constructions are durable, strong, climatically efficient and they are composed of renewable and reusable resources. The main goal of Deborah’s work was to facilitate the use of such constructions and above all promote their low environmental impact. The tool gives architects a way to prototype and evaluate the costs of earthbag domes, including the bill of materials needed for the construction. Find more information about CICERO on the project’s website.

Association of compasses to create the dome shape (source: Khalili, 2008) 
Association of compasses to create the dome shape (source: Khalili, 2008) 

Urban Planning

Stemming from architectural applications, parametric design has become a fundamental tool in the field of Urban Planning.

In their 2018 paper, Shuwa Chowdhury and Marc Aurel Schnabel propose an algorithmic methodology to predict urban form using ShapeDiver as a proof of concept [2]. The tool they developed facilitates participatory urban design decisions in an intuitive platform. In particular, it helps visualize multiple urban scenarios with real-time feedback.

The tool is presented through the example of a mall in Karori, New Zealand. The ShapeDiver model provides various options to iterate on the design and forecast construction costs for each scenario.

An online collaboration platform to visualizing multiple scenarios of Karori Mall with construction cost per square meter.
Online collaboration platform for visualizing multiple scenarios of Karori Mall with construction cost per square meter (source: [2])

Product Design

So far, product design has been the main area of focus for ShapeDiver applications because product designers can make full use of all the features of the platform. In particular, it is possible to integrate the web interface in e-commerce websites, export quoting documents and bills of materials. Above all, production drawings and manufacturing data can be generated on-the-fly from the web browser. As a result, additive and distributed manufacturing combined with ShapeDiver give birth to truly innovative applications.

Furniture designed through the Visionaria workshops (source: [3])

During the upcoming International Conference on Additive Manufacturing, Modeling Systems and 3D Prototyping, Daniele Rossi, Davide Paciotti and Michele Calvano will present the Visionaria research project [3].

The aim of Visionaria was to regenerate an urban space at an important central location in the city of Seneglia, Italy. To that end, they developed an open design tool based on ShapeDiver which allowed the non-technical participants to design and populate the space with CNC-cut pieces of furniture.

Open design tool for a parametric chair (source: [3])

Towards A New Design Paradigm

Although the range of applications for cloud-based parametric tools is wide, an overlook of the above research works also reveals some common goals across different fields.

As an example, one obvious research direction is to abolish the need for high levels of expertise in order to take part in design decisions. Indeed, from business executives to collaborators and end consumers, ShapeDiver provides a way for all stakeholders to access, configure and share knowledge about a product. When it comes to consumer products, this has been referred to as co-design, or even open design, similarly to the open-source movement in software.

In his paper Computation by Design, towards a co-designed material culture [5], Viktor Malakuczi presents the challenges of implementing true mass customization in product design. In particular, he argues that tools like ShapeDiver are crucial for reaching a new frontier in human-centered design.

Restoring Freedom Of Creativity

What about the future? Which challenges remain for the design and production industries? Perhaps an ideal overview can be found in Rodrigo Lopes’s master thesis [6].

Rodrigo discusses how industrialization and the rise of mass production have alienated humans from creativity processes and deprived the objects they consume from their meaning. He then argues that parametric design and digital fabrication processes can be instrumental in turning consumers into makers again.

Cardboard prototype of a custom surfboard (source: [6])

His research is illustrated by the surprisingly old and complex history of surfboards. Finally, his work is applied through a surfboard configurator based on ShapeDiver.

Are you a student or an academic fellow? Don’t hesitate to request a free ShapeDiver license if you think it can support your project! We’ll be happy to learn about it and even provide some help if we can.


[1] Santos, Deborah & Beirão, José. (2017). Generative tool to support architectural design decision of earthbag building domes. 538-543. 10.5151/sigradi2017-083.

[2] Chowdhury, Shuva & Schnabel, Marc Aurel. (2018). An Algorithmic Methodology to Predict Urban Form: An Instrument for Urban Design. 23rd International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA), At Beijing, Volume: 2, 401-410

[3] Rossi D., Paciotti D., Calvano M. (2020) Visionaria. An Open Design Approach for the Regeneration of Historical Urban Heritage. In: Di Nicolantonio M., Rossi E., Alexander T. (eds) Advances in Additive Manufacturing, Modeling Systems and 3D Prototyping. AHFE 2019. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 975. Springer, Cham

[4] Minenna V. Innovazione di senso nel design litico. STONE DESIGN.:142.

[5] Viktor Malakuczi (2019) Computational by Design, towards a codesigned material culture. A design tool., The Design Journal, 22:sup1, 1235-1248, DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2019.1594989

[6] Lopes, R.A.P., 2018. Computational strategies applied to product design (Doctoral dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Arquitetura).