Making light work of rethinking tool design to combine ergonomy, utility and style

Greater emphasis on ergonomic industrial design and employee wellbeing, coupled with advances in design technology are enabling designers to look again at everyday tools. The results can be surprisingly stylish, as well as easier to use and more sustainable.

Few of us question how common objects look or function until an accident or age makes them difficult to use. Yet a complete design rethink of a tool can not only enhance functions such as strength, it can also result in reduced repetitive strain for workers, or decrease the amount of material needed in manufacturing. It can also make parts more aesthetically pleasing.

Take crimping tools, for example. Their dense, sturdy build helps them withstand the high forces needed to press together pieces of metal. And their simple, solid geometry makes them easy to manufacture using traditional production mechanisms. But these features also make them relatively heavy and unwieldy, which over time places considerable strain on the workers who use them repeatedly.

With this in mind, the designers Tino Kalettka and Hendrik Nater joined forces with MSC Software to generate new concepts for a lighter yet robust crimping tool, using MSC Apex Generative Design software for both the form-finding process and design development.

They set out to optimise the tool’s geometry for human use by making it lighter, easier to handle and more aesthetically pleasing. They also aimed to make it more sustainable by using less material — all without sacrificing essential functional attributes such as strength.

Bringing together simulation and manual design

Given a crimping tool’s primary function, one of the designers’ first tasks was to analyse the forces and stress values involved in the pressing processes so they could use it as boundary conditions for the simulation. Once they had established a range of optimisation parameters and generated different possible geometries, Tino and Hendrik were able to begin playing with design. They used the simulation software to rapidly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their redesign, allowing them to create sketches and rough CAD models. This led to a design that incorporated exemplary force flows that exceeded their expectations.  The designers retained the organic shape of the simulated design and used manual processes to realise transitions and force curves.

From a purely mechanical point of view, there was no reason to modify the highly efficient geometries automatically generated by the software. One of the designers’ primary goals, however, was to create a more attractive object based on mechanical optimisation, while at the same time leveraging common design language such as golden cut, main lines and form flow. So, they developed shape variations to produce a common, appealing formal language. In this way they achieved a sense of familiarity with the new shape because the form then emerged from an inner necessity. The component is not styled without context, but is semantically supported, increasing the user’s trust while still leveraging the organic structures.

The result was a different yet highly functional take on traditional crimping tools, which met all their objectives, including aesthetic ones, and which can be built with today’s manufacturing process.

Read the full case study to learn more.









  • Thomas Reiher

    Dr. Thomas Reiher received his PhD in 2018 from Paderborn University's research center for additive manufacturing, DMRC, for his work on the geometry optimisation of additive components. Based on his research, he founded AMendate GmbH to develop generative design software for industrial use. After Hexagon acquired the company in 2019, Dr. Reiher was appointed Director of Generative Design. He is now responsible for the technology’s further development within Hexagon's Simufact Engineering GmbH, as well as being Product Manager MSC Apex Generative Design.

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