RS’s DesignSpark is removing barriers to design engineers and supporting the industry

Launched in 2010, DesignSpark is a suite of resources for engineers to use when they are designing or developing new products and want to learn quickly and move faster through the product development prototyping phase to get to the end production.
 
“The whole thinking behind DesignSpark for RS was to find a new approach when speaking to the design and development marketplace,” says Mike Bray, Vice President of DesignSpark, RS. “One of the first things we realised was that simply going to that engineering community with a standard marketing promotion approach would have little impact, given how discerning and time-poor the audience is.
 
“Therefore, we looked at how we could provide these people with resources that they would actually value. With this in mind, we looked at what the real barriers were for this group, and quickly found that software was expensive or not of high enough quality, and there wasn’t an obvious ‘one place’ where engineers could collaborate online.”
 
The resulting website means that DesignSpark users enjoy free access to high-quality design software without having to worry about licences. The software provides users with data such as CAD models in 2D and 3D along with technical information. In addition, there are now more than 500,000 users in the DesignSpark community around the world and, according to Bray, they are adding 10-12,000 new users every month.
"DesignSpark is all about providing a valuable resource for the engineering and design community "Mike Bray, Vice President of DesignSpark, RS
“DesignSpark is all about providing a valuable resource for the engineering and design community which, in turn, we hope will lead those people to have an instinctive preference for RS as a supplier of parts and equipment,” explains Bray. “What’s particularly exciting for us is that the user group of DesignSpark tends to be in the 18-34 year-old demographic, which represents the future of the industry.
 
“Really, this is all about democratising design and removing barriers to getting started in the industry,” he adds. “It’s in everyone’s interest, from suppliers like RS, to the UK economy as a whole, to encourage as many people to get involved in design, engineering and innovation, and DesignSpark is a really effective way of doing that.”
 
There have been a number of success stories to come out of the DesignSpark community, including the highly respected Pi-Top. “Pi-Top uses a Raspberry Pi and turns it into an affordable, adaptable and easily upgradable laptop,” says Bray. “The original concept was all designed using DesignSpark software and the final product is now in most UK schools and expanding around the world.”
 
Bray believes that the DesignSpark story is only just getting started and points out that there are a number of improvements planned for the next 12-18 months. “Things to look out for in the near future will be a variety of new software, or functionality within our software for users to get their hands on,” he says. “This will include help with compliance and safety standards when people are designing products, we’re looking to increase the ways that people can share CAD model data into other software tools, and we have recently launched PCB Part Library, which gives users the ability to view schematics for components in any format they want, in any product they are designing.”
 
All of these developments will help DesignSpark continue to grow and flourish, and Bray believes it’s a programme that RS can be proud of. “The whole concept is unique in the industry and definitely one of the differentiators between RS and other companies in the MRO industry – we’re always looking for ways to improve DesignSpark and help design engineers to innovate.”