Autodesk Fusion 360 is tool of choice for founder of Los Angeles design & engineering startup
As Sam Birchenough tells it, his affinity for industrial design sparked in early childhood when playing with radio-controlled airplanes and helicopters. That passion ignited an education rich in design and engineering techniques that led to Birchenough founding the Los Angeles-based BRCHN Design House in 2015.
The startup specializes in concept-to-market product development across a wide range of industries from robotic automated manufacturing and the future of personal transportation to entertainment innovation and consumer technologies.
“We blur the lines between art and science to create beautiful, functional products— with a focus on sustainability, manufacturability, efficiency and quality design,” said the 26-year-old Birchenough. “The design of new products, the evolution of manufacturing and the growth of sustainable practices are absolutely necessary not only to continue doing amazing things as humans, but also to ensure we have a place to do so.”
A sampling of BRCHN Design House’s novel products includes a kite board boot, listening devices called theater ears, and a hanging desk. To develop these products, the firm leverages cutting-edge design tools such as Autodesk Fusion 360 along with visualization renders and prototyping technology.
Birchenough explained that the theater ears project was particularly important to him because it helped him transition from a previous startup where he was employed to commit fully to BRCHN Design House.
“I am proud of the theater ears project because it exceeded the client’s expectation in all aspects of product development and was my first independent success,” said Birchenough. “It served as the proof-of-concept for our business model in a number of ways and really laid the foundation upon which our business is growing from.”
Birchenough began interacting with CAD and CAM design tools including Autodesk Inventor in high school in New York along with CNC mill and lathe machinery. He later attended the University of Cincinnati where he studied marketing and entrepreneurship to round out his business background, but it was an internship in the automation department of a plastic company back in New York that rekindled Birchenough’s desire to pursue design and manufacturing.
“Luckily, I had an awesome boss who put me on the robot end of arm tool design for automated manufacturing, allowing me the opportunity to engage with machine shop and component vendors and work with cutting-edge manufacturing technology,” Birchenough said.
For Birchenough, Autodesk Fusion 360 has become a tool of choice because it enables him to work in both parametric and surfacing environments simultaneously. The firm leverages multiple Fusion 360 capabilities including cloud-based collaboration, FEA simulation and CAM.
“It’s icing on the cake to have functionality like that in Fusion 360 at an industry-leading level in a single piece of software,” Birchenough said. “For the past two years, Fusion 360 has been the tool with the largest comparative advantage over industry standards for us.”
When it comes to blurring the lines between art and science, Birchenough explains that BRCHN Design House does this throughout its entire design process, working to push the intersection of product form and function to new heights. This not only allows the team to improve upon past solutions, but to also create new ones.
For example, Birchenough outlined how the use of an organic form design in consumer goods would complement function and result in a more efficient user experience and a more intuitive user interface. A mechanical product example would be the use of modern material science and new manufacturing technology to simplify a complex assembly design, while increasing the design’s operation efficiency and reducing its maintenance, consumables and environmental impact.
Birchenough adds that he is particularly excited about the future due to what he calls “astounding machinery technology development” that is leading to being “on the cusp of a technological industrial revolution.”
“Design and manufacturing are becoming more sustainable than ever, and software and hardware are becoming more in tune with natural human brain processing,” Birchenough said. “The days of not being able to make organic shapes due to limitations are diminishing. Having the ability to take what is in our brain and make it a ‘thing’ in real life with as little compromise and interference as possible is allowing us to design more freely and creatively.”
Being a relatively young entrepreneur, Birchenough advises others with entrepreneurial dreams to practice sound principles including working diligently and networking, but his best advice is to “take advantage of timing and give it a shot” when opportunities present themselves.
Check out this video of Sam as he explains his design process and how he uses Fusion 360.