Exploratory study on the perception of additively manufactured end-use products with specific questionnaires and eye-tracking
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The outreach of application domains for Additive Manufacturing (AM) is expanding and end-use products represent their next frontier. Contextually, design methods are developed for exploiting the unique AM capabilities. They largely benefit from the knowledge about peculiarities, constraints and technical performances of the various AM processes and devices. However, while the mechanical properties of objects created with AM are widely studied, there is lack of research on emotional and perceptual aspects. This is of great relevance in the mentioned perspective of employing AM for end-use products. The paper aims to elucidate which perceptual mechanisms are activated when a user observes an object generated with AM instead of traditional technologies. An experiment has involved 43 participants who have evaluated ten pairs of objects, constituted by a commercial product and a replica made with Fused Deposition Modelling. Testers have answered a questionnaire, as well as their visual behavior has been recorded with eye-tracking glasses. Based on results, replicas suffer from poor attractiveness and especially low perceived quality. They have also given rise to more careful exploratory behaviors because they likely require a lengthier examination for testers’ assessment or they arouse curiosity. It can be inferred that Fused Deposition Modelling does not exhibit sufficient accuracy to achieve acceptability with reference to everyday products. Nevertheless, it is also deemed that limited improvements might compensate for the perception of technical unsuitability this technology engenders. This can be verified by repeating the experiment with more sophisticated and precise AM devices.