Capturing Prototype Progress in Digital Fabrication Education

The early (pre-requirement) stages of product development can provide relevant insights into the creative design process. At these stages, the communication of ideas during the prototyping process can serve as a rich source for information. In this paper, we attempt to document physical prototypes generated during the design process. We describe the design and preliminary testing of Protobooth Oulu: a system that can be used for documenting the process of prototyping products through capturing process output ‘snapshots’ in time at the early stages of product development. Our primary motivation is to facilitate documentation and reflection from an educational perspective. We tested the system during a course on digital fabrication in a FabLab environment, where ten teams documented their coursework over the course of six weeks. Managing to capture prototypes over time, analysis of the captured data showed evolution and major changes in the prototypes. Such data can be used for understanding the process of prototyping and consequently provide means to improve prototype and overall creative performance. We outline a future Protobooth system in terms of functionality.