2D designs, Creative, Engineering, Interactive Design

Circular shapes

Circle― the most beautiful 2-dimensional shape, the infinite sided polygon…

No! No it’s not; it’s a limit curve of a regular polygon say the math nerds.

Alright, I agree. But as long as we agree that circular shapes are very pleasing to the eyes. Any object with curved corners looks great― phones, mugs, rings. Even throughout history, circular shapes have influenced the progress made by humanity. I will stop now and get to the point.

So, while designing the Elmentory Atom, I had the option for making these plug and play devices in any shape. Atom itself has 4 types of units. Originally, the plan was to make each unit a different shape. But after doing some research, it was evident that different shapes would be a bad idea. Circular was the best choice.

But, because we were using tiny electro-mechanical components to build them, each unit could not be perfectly circular, but had to have flat edges to accommodate for the rectangular connectors. I don’t know if you can see them― each of them is 35mm or less in diameter― in the images below, but the black connectors align perfectly with the colorful boards.

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Apart from the shape, the other important feature was the symmetry of each device. Each component was placed in a particular spot on the board to make the board look symmetric at least along one axis.

Finally, the most important part (I’m writing this last instead of first because of the title) was to make sure the devices were easy to use. Each of these devices can be connected to one another. But if they are connected wrong, it would not work, yet neither will it harm the user, i.e. the child playing with them.

Each device had a name on the top, and a specific color based on how it operated. Some inspirations were taken from common objects such as traffic lights to specify the color. The bottoms of the devices were mostly white, and helped the child identify if they were connecting the devices correctly.

This project was fun, because I had to literally think like a child to see what could go wrong. Fortunately, there were also several usability tests made with real kids during development to improve the product before releasing it.

 

3D Objects, Creative, Engineering, Redesigning Something That Exists

Infinitely Remoldable Substance

When I was working on Mobility devices for the Elderly project, my team and I had to do design research on why/how the seniors in the greater New York area used assistive devices for ambulation. While we uncovered many different insights, one of the thing that struck out was the ergonomic nature of the device itself.

Seniors used walkers, canes, rollators, shopping carts and also other make-shift devices to support themselves when they moved from place to place. No matter what device they used, it had to be comfortable to use. Comfort here doesn’t equate to the psychological feeling of stigmatization, rather, it is the congenial ease in using the device itself– hence the ergonomic nature.

When working on the ‘Adaptacane‘, we came across many materials to use it for the grip of the cane, such as memory foam. However, the best material that one could possibly use while making the grip of the cane is polycaprolactone (try saying that a few times). This material, sometimes shortened as PCL, can be molded by applying heat from, say hot water, and shaped into anything, including the shape of the inside of a gripping hand. It is also biodegradable!

Let’s look at an example:

The best part of using this material was that it could be remolded any number of times. The handle (white) of the adaptacane prototype below was made using PCL.

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Pretty cool stuff!

3D Objects, Creative, Interactive Design

Virtual Landscapes

So I had a conversation with a man working on his startup of making lives of architects and interior designers easy (in Layman’s terms). This led me to checking out Unreal game engine. Although I had used Unity engine before, this would be the first time I’d be using Unreal. No, I’m not counting the countless games I’ve played , like Mass Effect and others.

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It might be Dunning and Kruger speaking, but I think creating textures and materials seems fairly easy to me. Who am I kidding? I’ve only grazed the surface, and so far I’m really excited to see what more I can uncover with this.

Check this simple game level I created because of curiosity. Use WASD to move around, space to jump, and mouse to orient. Going beyond the edge of the level will make you fall down because I did not add invisible walls. Also, Alt+F4 exits the game. Heads up, there is music in the level, because I was bored.

3D Objects, CNC and Machining, Creative, Engineering, Redesigning Something That Exists

Fidget

The 2010s can be divided into two eras — the time before and after fidget spinners came to existence. The weird part is that they came out of nowhere, and now they don’t seem to exist at all!

In fancy MakerSpaces, it is quite common to make these using 4 cylindrical ball bearings, and printing the shell. However, where’s the fun in boring old 3D printing? Besides, it takes quite a while to print. And not to mention, there is always going to be tolerance issues, because low fidelity printers are not supposed to be accurate.

Truth be told, using a thick piece of acrylic and laser cutting is perhaps the fastest way to do this. But a laser cutter is limited to cutting at most an eighth to a  quarter of an inch, beyond which one will have to repeat the trace on the piece of acrylic. And this would cost, surprise, surprise… the tolerance.

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Regardless of the backstory, I was thinking of using multiple machines to make something. The plan was to use my trusty desktop CNC milling machine along with the water jet. I used delrin to make the case or the shell, and the caps. Then, I cut a thick piece of steel slab into circles, to give the spinner some weight.  All in all, it worked exceptionally well!

P.S. I’m not making another one, not in this way… ever. Also, I don’t think fidget spinners make good Christmas presents.

2D designs, Creative, Engineering, Interactive Design

Holy Diver

With Halloween coming soon, I though about posting a wearable game that my classmate Sam and I made some time ago. It is called Holy Diver.

The principle is that a demon is throwing fireballs at you, while you can catch them and throw it back at it, or defend yourself by joining your palms. However, if you get hit thrice, it is game over!

The game is very small, and it’s prototype can be downloaded here.

The game ran on unity. Well, the song Holy Diver by Dio was meant to be played in the back while playing the game, hence the logo on the costume. It was one of the first time I used a laser cutter on fabric. Laser cutters can be handy in making burned effects on clothes. A costume was made for the game, using Adafruit flora.

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Creative, Project Spark

Intuition in Kids

Some time ago, we were testing a STEM related product for kids at a low income school. The purpose of this project was to find out if kids could program using block programming. Another interest was to see how intuitive it was to use a plug and play hardware without much intervention.

The kids really did a good job at expressing their creativity by making fun projects! Due to the success, a newer version of the prototype was developed.

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Creative, Engineering

Laser cutting and engraving of Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn

Some time ago, we were testing the biggest laser cutter, the universal, which has a bed size of 2 ft. X 4 ft. We wanted to do an interactive project for little children to play at the New York Makerfaire.

A map of Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan with some of the most iconic buildings and monuments was decided to be the best choice. The children would press the monuments and a display would show the actual photo and a brief description of it.

But before making the actual prototype, we decided to test it out on a test piece of acrylic. It came out pretty good.

Here is the video of the test:

Creative, Project Spark

Project Spark: Mars Lander

On November 5th, we had a Mars Lander developing workshop. Of course, we were not actually going to build a lander, but use the concepts to build something which can be dropped from the 4th floor (5th for the Americans) of a building. With 18 participating kids between the age of 10 and 13, grouped into 6 teams.

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At the end of the workshop, the kids learned about using fundamental concepts of physics and creative thinking to develop a surround structure of a fragile payload. The payload was a light bulb wrapped inside a plastic covering. Each team had the opportunity to build a prototype which had to use at least two of these concepts:

  1. Create an external casing to protect the payload from impact
  2. Use a material to reduce the drag of the falling object
  3. Build a surface at the point of contact to reduce the impact

Ultimately any combination of these had to be use, with making sure that the total weight of the prototype including the payload is the least. The kids were given only a selection of prototyping materials: masking tape, ice cream sticks, plastic straws, balloons, thread, plastic bags, papers, and barbecue skewers.

The great thing is that we had also built a structure. the tetrahedral pyramid using straws and showed the kids when we began testing all the

prototypes. All 6 prototypes were tested, and none of them broke when thrown from the height. Below are the 6 teams with the prototypes, and after that, the testing video.

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3D Objects, Creative

The Earth, Reversed

So, sometime in the Summer of 2017 in New York, ultimaker did a workshop at the NYU MakerSpace. They showed their new Ultimaker 3 and Ultimaker mini 3D printers.

The Ultimaker 3 is a dual extrusion printer. This means that it has two different nozzles through which model filament can be extruded. Ergo, it can print in more than one colour at the same time. It also means that one of the extruder can print non-toxic support materials such as PolyVinyl Aclcohol (PVA), which can dissolve in water!

I used the Ultimaker 3 to print a model of the Earth found online. The idea was to use blue PLA (PolyLactic Acid) for water and green for the landmass. Things did not turn out the way I wanted…

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Clumsily, I loaded the wrong colour on the wrong extruder. So the land became blue and the water green. It’s a good visualisation of how it would be if the labd and water on the Earth was switched. I had seen graphic images online, and now there is a 3D printed model.

CNC and Machining, Creative, Engineering

Engraving Aluminum

I wanted to see if it was a good idea to engrave soft metals. Turns out, it’s a great idea. Not only is it easy, but also incredibly fast.

Even better is creating gcodes. In fusion 360, even though there is an option for engraving, it is not possible to use this with an engraving tool, because engraving is still considered milling by the software.

An easy way to get around that is by using the Trace option. And since I was using a simple sketches, it was extremely convenient to select the tool-paths. It is actually easy to engrave 2D sketches by using the trace option, rather than the engrave option. Engrave option is good only if you need a bit of a depth.

My choice of material was aluminum, and yes, they are dog tags.

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I had to trace twice on the othermill because of the uneven arrangement of the material, yet it still took only about 25 seconds for each trace, i.e. both the sides were engraved in less than 2 minutes!

No, I did not speed up the video.