|Over the last several decades, the production industry has experienced a paradigm shift from traditional mass production processes toward mass customization processes; this enables consumers to become an integral part in customizing products. The ability for consumers to specify options that fit their needs has created a large demand for customized products. This segment of opportunity in the production industry has prompted companies to begin implementing strategies for "mass customization" that create customer-centric value in all of their products and services. Mass customization is an approach to mass production that offers the consumer the ability to input their options and specifications into a final product. While mass customization allows the consumer to become an integral part to the design process, designers are responsible for developing the guidelines for consumers to design within. This ensures desirable outcomes for both the consumer and the company providing the product platform for mass customization. Mass customization is still immature in its development, but companies with highly developed infrastructures, like Nike and Ford for example, are leveraging approaches to mass customization.
This study researches different approaches to designing product platforms for mass customization. Product platforms for mass customization, as referred to in this research, are the platforms created to allow consumers to customize a product. These platforms should be built and created by designers; it is the designer's responsibility to develop boundaries and rules to ensure that consumers customize desirable products. Developing standardized approaches to designing these platforms creates consistency, which increases production efficiency, consumer satisfaction, and value that companies are able to offer their consumers. This research focuses on combining traditional production strategies with developing strategies for mass customization and rule-based customization; these strategies use emerging technologies like digital fabrication, CAD/CAM, 3D printing/scanning, and CNC technologies. In addition, this research explores the ability to automate production processes, which ensures precise fabrication and can streamline the development of successful product platforms for "mass customized" products.