Where does the time go?
Over the last two weeks, many things have happened; progress, however, was not one of them! I’ve been working non stop on the three ongoing projects: Constellation essay, field project (Bottle for life) and subject (Headtorch). Feeling I wasn’t dedicating my efforts sensibly across the three, I decided to take time out to concentrate on each of them and tick them of the list. After much research and reading, the essay didn’t take too long to structure, with only minimal trimming needed to bring it down to the 2500 word limit. I was happy with the core idea of the essay and feel I managed to communicate the evidence with meaningful clarity. I submitted the essay a week or so early, so that was one project done and dusted. Boom, good start.
Post essay, I spent a week (week 3, I think?), sketching ideas for the overall shape of the headtorch. I looked to nature (animal eyes), automotive (car headlights), and existing headtorches for inspiration, designing some pleasing shapes. It became apparent, however, that some of the designs would not be suitable, as they wouldn’t be able to house the core components needed to make the product work. Back to the drawing board. Think. Make a list of all the components needed and design around it: form following function, this is an item I hope to give away, so the aesthetics are not the leading priority (at this stage, anyway). It needs to fit, a thermoelectric generator, a solar cell, battery, lights, a button and a strap. With this in mind, I sketched out these ideas:
One thing I did want to make clear however, was the product needed a night time signature, something that would give it branding, something that would make it instantly recognisable to someone that it was my headtorch they could see in the distance.
I moved from rough sketch to rough CAD work; working through some ideas in three dimensions really helped to formulate the design around the components. Here are some early models:
With a rough form to work on, I started to finetune the design – raised refractive light strips to allow the lights to be seen from the side, not just head-on, strap running through the body to reduce the component list / weight and to allow cool air to flow over the rear of the TEG chip (this aids in boosting the voltage). I also put one big button on the side so it can easily be found if people are wearing gloves and is obvious to someone unfamiliar to technology. Finally, I decided to add a clear, exo-shell around the outside of the headtorch. Similar in principle to the clear case that goes on the outside of a GoPro, it keeps everything inside free from water and dirt, and acts as a protective shell. Here is the semi-final design.
The presentation of this (on a Monday, I don’t know which one, I am both very tired and easily confused), went well. Theo was happy with the form, agreed with the design points I had raised, adding an additional point that the night time signature would also give a clear indication to others, that the light they see in the distance would be attached to a human, not just a static light. Good point. Thanks Theo.
With these files ready to roll, I booked a spot on the 3D printer – like gold dust these are, so I’m glad I booked this a while ago – and set it printing the inner component. The printer didn’t do a great job – I does have a hard life – and my noob status with it meant I didn’t put any support structure in the build, so it came out a little weak. What it did prove, however, is the components fit. I kept the design as small as possible to keep the cost and weight down, but amazingly, everything fits. Phew. Another spot booked on the 3D printer for next week (or the week after, I lose track of the days), so for now, the head torch will be switched off.
Onto field and revamping the bottle for life project. This week (four??), I have dedicated to tackling and finishing this project, so I can concentrate on the headtorch. Speaking to Theo, he said the presentation box was a little Arts & Crafts movement – fair point – and needed to be more contemporary. Gareth said the use of plastic as material for the plastic bottle (?!) wasn’t the best choice and I should look into other material options. This is something I did in the original presentation, showing why I settled on plastic, but I will make alternative options for the bottle, to give people the choice.
Redesigning the box, I originally wanted to make it out of cardboard, but ended up making it from chunky wood – too bulky – so I went back to this original plan. Researching on the ‘ol internet, I looked into different box shapes and styles, finally settling on a simple, two part rectangle box that would house the bottle, lids and toolkit. Time to measure and layout a flat plan for the box, so I can cut it out on the laser cutter and then fold it into finished box. MANY HOURS LATER, I managed to get a 2D CAD file for the top and the bottom of the box that should – SHOULD – fold up and fit together. I booked the laser cutter for two days – I needed to do my induction and knew it would take many attempts to get the depth right on the crease points for the different cardboards – and set to work. MANY HOURS LATER, I managed to cut out several versions of the top and bottom of the box, carefully folded them together, and lo and behold, they fit together! A little tight, but they fit. I have made a box. I am proud.
In reality this week, I have spent most of my time learning machinery – laser cutter, 3D printer for the other project and Adobe Illustrator – and designing the bottle for life project in CAD. A new bottle has been designed, along with lids and tool kit. Here is the result:
I have asked Joe in the workshop to CNC my bottle (in two halves), so I can vacuum form the bottle out of plastic, but he is slammed with the second and third year’s work. FIngers crossed he managed to do it on Friday so I can vac form it on tuesday and get the project physically finished. I’ll still have the poster / photoshop work to do, so I can ‘sell’ the idea, but at least a good chunk of the project will be done.
Phew, these last few weeks have been busy. I seem to have spent my time either in a virtual 3D world – my CAD skills have gone from nonexistent to looking sweet – or in the workshop cursing the laser cutter / 3D printer (both have a lot to answer for!). I was really hoping to have the essay done and dusted and the field / bottle for life project ready to roll, but this is not the case. Essay done, but bottle for life is still in production. Not from a lack of effort – I really am putting the hours in, look at my tied face – more a case of waiting for machine space or waiting for them to work, (I’m still not happy with you, 3D printer number 2), or technicians availability. If there is one thing I have learned over this time, it’s book machinery in advance. When I was sat at the laser cutter, I lost count of the number of people asking me how long I would be, as they had stuff to cut out last minute, or, “can I just jump on there quickly, it’ll only take 5 mins”; 30 mins later it’s still cutting and then my laser cut files have been messed up on screen ruining up my next cut, thanks Mr No Names Entered Here. Book, book, book. Plan ahead, hope it goes well and then book another spot when it doesn’t. I’m still looking at you, Ultimaker 2.
As tradition dictates, stay tuned for another exciting edition of Term Three Blog: