Rapid Prototyping

We haven’t said much here in a while but with Foundry 2011 drawing to a close I feel that there should be an update about what we’ve been up to over the past 2 weeks. First though, tomorrow we’re have a launch/farewell event/presentation discussing all things webby, thingy, smelly and Foundry and you are invited to come along! We will be showcasing the culmination of our 3 months with Mint Digital (but don’t want to give it all away just yet!).

For more information on the event, and to sign up, visit here: http://foundry2011.eventbrite.com/

Anyway, to fill in the chronological blanks, following on from Steve Jobs memorials and cardboard models we stepped into the digital and began 3D modelling prototypes. Using Google Sketchup, Ben and I knocked together a fair few digital model variations inspired by the forms and functions we had been playing with using card, glue and tape. After a bit of exploration, each of us had designed models which were aesthetically similar, however had different means of construction and interaction. We got both of these models manufactured at 2 different places using 2 different methods of 3D Rapid Prototyping. This gave us an initial run of 4 prototype models, 2 were produced using Laser Sintering while the other two consisted of a plaster/glue mixture. It quickly transpired that, though quite a bit cheaper, the plaster style models had a terrible finish, were incredibly brittle and justified the slightly more expensive (and more detailed) SLS method.

With the manufacture method chosen the four of us discussed things the two different designs so that Ben and I were able to go back to the modelling screens and produce a product that combined the best of both designs. There was still a bit of testing to go through, we wanted to try a friction locking, “lego block” approach however the output model showed us that the tolerances were tricky to get right and the material wore down  easily under friction meaning that the model quickly became loose.

So our final model uses a slide locking mechanism with very tight tolerances which works very effectively. It really highlights the perfectionism that goes into the most underrated interactions we have with objects We could easily spend another month working on the locking mechanism alone but we just don’t have the time (and it starts to get pricey with all these 3D printed models!)

Along with the construction method, the models helped us to define how the user interacted with smell input (which became a drawer) and the what the most effective logo is (which went though a few iterations to discover something that printed onto the model with a high resolution).

So as I write this, our models have been refined, then refined again and are at the 3D printers getting rapidly produced in time for tomorrow. On top of this, Chris and Genis have been busy working on a website detailing all you need to know about the project. This has highlighted the interesting challenge of, how do you visually sell an aesthetically subdued object that has a primary function of outputting invisible scents. Seems a bit counter intuitive but the guys are doing a great job and if all goes well the site will be launched tomorrow - keep an eye out for that!

So it’s been awfully busy and despite the inevitable last minuiteness of things, all is looking to be grand tomorrow for our launch. Come along and say hi, it’s nicer to meet in the physical than the digital!

-Tim

Posted on: Oct 26, 2011 at 6:21 PM

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Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.
Foundry is all about exploring physical objects which connect to the web though digital technology.

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The Smell of Success

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