Welcome to John's Blog World...

Welcome to my little sharing space--where I come to showcase some of my custom projects and to share "how-to" info with others out there. As a lifelong "maker", design enthusiast, and design professor, this blog explains some of the little projects I occasionally throw myself into, with the intent that I may help inspire others toward self-actualization and to show them how easy it really is to construct and realize their own ideas and dreams. As Brancusi said, "Create like a god, work like a slave."

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Student Work -- The SolidWorks-designed, FDM-built Mouse Project

One of the courses I teach here at Metro State is a Computer-aided Industrial Design (CAID) class where my students learn how to use SolidWorks software to develop three-dimensional forms and prototypes in a virtual environment. Virtual prototyping (using software like SolidWorks) is a great way to test out an idea before spending a lot of time and money on it in the shop. In my class, I take the students through many of the basic theory and features of SolidWorks, from simple "extrudes" and "revolves" all the way up to using surfacing tools for complex shapes. Their final project is to take an existing computer mouse, take it completely apart, measure up and model all the internal components, and then to construct injection-moldable parts around those components for rapid-prototyping on our department's 3D printer (which is a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) machine that builds up plastic parts like a robotic, ABS-plastic-shooting hot-glue gun). The students' final prototypes need to be fully functional and have some good thought toward aesthetics and ergonomics. Since their prototype parts come out of the 3D printer in one color (white--though black, gray, red, and blue plastic material is also available), the students need to smooth out and paint all the aesthetic surfaces--a task that can be time consuming, but can produce some excellent results. For today's blog entry, I chose six of my favorite mouse prototypes from this semester's students to "show off" to the internet world. The picture below shows some of the variety that comes out of the class...continuing proof that there's always more than one way to look at a design problem.      
Emily Guthrie designed a simple, yet elegant mouse with a classy two-tone color scheme. The curves are clean and the form fits very well in the user's hand--an all-around well-executed solution.
Matt Meek went for an angular form and an ice-blue metallic finish (automotive lacquers, like this one, work very well as paint for ABS plastic models). I wouldn't consider the ergonomics of this design as being conducive for long-term comfort, but it sure looks pretty on the desk.
Mark Claiborne decided to go "old school"-retro with his design, opting for a hard-edged solution that is reminiscent of Apple's original Macintosh mouse, but with a more updated color application. 
Bill King built a mouse that nestles nicely up into the user's palm. The "tungsten"-colored finish accentuates some of the surface complexity.
Rob Todd went more whimsical with his design, creating a computer "louse". This little guy is both cute and creepy at the same time...like it would try to crawl away if you turned the lights on.
Chris Van Dyken tried for bit of a paradigm shift, creating a mouse that allows even the palm to ride on the tail-end of the mouse. The form is a bit "Trekky"-Klingon (especially with the triangular shapes and hammer-finish), but an interesting solution to the design challenge nonetheless.
Ultimately, it is projects like this that really help solidify the skills that our industrial design students pick up through their many courses. Time and time again, I hear from students that this particular project is one that has raised their awareness of what really goes into a design...both in the sense of the form development of the object, as well as its functionality and ergonomic fit. By designing something with such clear-cut functional requirements and mild complexity, the students quickly understand what it takes to make something "real". 
In an upcoming blog, I'll try to show how design solutions can be developed by "reverse-engineering" around a form or some functional innards, and then how a shell can be constructed using modeling software to fit around it...almost like a high-tech version of the RTV silicone molding process I demonstrated with the USB drives some time ago. 
Keep on rollin', ya'll. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Showing Off My Students' Work -- More USB Madness

My students always produce a good variety of work in the studio (which is one of the things I revel in as an instructor--creativity always gets me giddy). So, I occasionally like to show off what they've done, which is the point of today's posting. One of my recent posts was on creating an RTV mold and then using casting resin to mold around a USB flash drive to make a functional, redesigned USB drive. The purpose of that posting was partially to give my students a digital reference to work from as they were crafting results for their resin casting assignment with that same USB encapsulation requirement. The results of their assignment were all over the board, but I picked a few of my personal flavorful favorites to share with everybody in interweb land. An overview of my faves look like this: 
Louis Meyer decided to take the option of casting over his drive and then embellishing the cast piece with a variety of pseudo mechanical parts to create a unique steam-punk USB drive (as shown in this shot with views of both the top and bottom of the drive). Some of the components actually move, which is a nice little touch.
Chris White created a "stitch-punk" USB drive by first creating a pattern made from burlap, and then forming an RTV mold over it. The resulting cast parts had the same rough texture as the burlap, but additional painting and finishing gave it the illusion of the real stuff. When you touch it, it's suddenly evident that it's actually solid plastic rather than scratchy fabric. The button on this drive lights up when the USB is in use...super nifty.
Erin Larwick created a classic Army soldier USB...one that looks like he's aiming a big USB brick at an enemy (or at a data port?). Reminds me of childhood afternoons in the backyard creating little battle scenes in the grass...but with a little bit of USB love mixed in.
Jake Fling went for the retro-style of the ol' tape cassette...straight from the era when I first got addicted to 80's hair bands. His "rasta" color scheme really gives the drive some flavor.
Brad Gould decided to make a simple little person out of his drive...which ended up reminding me of a little kid looking up at you ready to ask the classic "Whatcha' doin'?" question. This one ranks pretty high on the "cute" meter.
It's always cool to see what other folks can come up with. Creativity kicks my trash...which is one reason why I teach.
Peace out.