The Quest for Customization in a World of Economies of Scale

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The Reason

There are two types of people in this world: those who notice car rims, and those who don't. I used to be the latter, until I started noticing them... then I just couldn't stop.

It all started with my first car ever, a Seat Ibiza 2004. Finally, no more riding along in other people's cars. I finally had my own. While extremely grateful, I couldn't stop but noticing that every other Seat Ibiza looked practically the same as mine.

See, when you buy a normal car, it's produced with economies of scale in mind. This meant that my Ibiza shared parts with many other VWs, Skodas and even some Audis. That didn't sound original at all.

So I looked at the immediate, most obvious part of the car (other than the body kit) I could modify for an affordable price (or so I thought): the rims.

I looked for independent rim manufacturers that could help my car stand out from the crowd. What I found out in my price range completely disappointed me. Uninspired designs created by uninspired brands. If I could've just designed my own... I eventually gave up and kept my stock rims, hopeless.

What my younger self would've wanted to find was a brand that would've let me play around with size, number of arms, colors, etc. It certainly would've given me that feeling of authenticity and originality that I was craving for after owning such a common car.

Fast-forward over a decade and that passion for great rims hasn't dialed down a bit. Every car that passes by gets immediately judged by the rims it's rocking: Cool car but ugly, beaten up rims or even hubcaps? You're out.

The Grasshopper Model

Few months ago I again came across the idea of generating a rim configurator that could allow anyone to play around with a "master design" until they were comfortable with a final custom version of it and eventually manufacture it.

The challenges with this project were clear: I needed a simple-to-understand, efficient rim generator that anyone could use. A concept that could make real companies consider integrating a parametric definition into their sales process.

So I contacted Paco Ortiz, Parametric Design expert and owner of Grasshopper + Rhino Generative & 3D Parametric Design on Facebook, and told him about my idea. The result was this configurator embedded below. An amazing example of great, simple design and functionality. (Pro tip: You can download a 3D-print ready .stl file!)

Here's how this Grasshopper definition was designed as explained by Paco:

"I had to generate a definition with a fast and easy to execute data processing, so I needed to stick to the basics and use nothing more than native Grasshopper components.

First of all, I had to study the cross section of the commercial rims in order to adapt this shape to the parametric workflow, and be able to change the diameter and the thickness of the object successfully.

Only one arm of the rim was designed line by line, with the intention of creating only planar or developable surfaces. It was an exhaustive job because I had to intersect every single curve, shatter it, and finally choose the one I wanted to work with, but it helped a lot for data processing.

After each curve was joined and filleted, the surfaces were created with the Boundary Surface component one bye one. As the definition was getting in shape, I realized that some values were not useful in certain cases, the #Arms specifically, so I decided to modify those values according to the #Arms parameter.

I used the Evaluate component to set a group of conditions (equations) with the intention of getting an automatic adaptation of specific values, for example: if #Arms value increases, the main arm has to get thinner and if #Arms decreases, it has get thicker. If the rim diameter decreases, the height of the arm bifurcation has to be lower and vice versa.

Once I had the main arm finished, I left the intersection between the arms with opened edges so I could join them after rotating the main piece with values given by the Series component. Once I had all the parts in place, I proceeded to join them all in one solid Brep ready to become a mess able to be 3D printed."

The Conclusion

So there you have it. While it's obvious that this rim version doesn't provide a safe and reliable road-ready version, it certainly proves a point: it is possible to offer a great level of customization given the right tools.

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What do you think about this example of parametric design? Is the process simple enough for you to consider configuring your own set of rims in the future? Are there any other industries you think could benefit from an approach like this?

Please let me know in the comments below and don't forget to follow ShapeDiver and Grasshopper + Rhino Generative & 3D Parametric Design on Facebook. Until the next one!

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AlexKitzen Hello Ezequiel / Paco, This is very interesting! Please contact me, I have further questions and suggestions on this very topic, also a business case.