Surprise Me: The Inhaler 3D Printing…

Here’s a quick clip showing the process of printing the lid of the inhaler device. This component took an hour to print, and the piece is shown at around 85% completion.


Surprise Me: 3D Printing, Development, and Manufacturing Ideas…

Over the last couple of days, I have produced an accurate 3D printed model of my inhaler design. For this I used the Makerbot Replicator II, and printed in corn starch. The advantage of using the 3D printer is that models can be produced accurately and rapidly. I printed the components individually, using my CAD models directly to translate the design to the printer language. Overall the model took around three hours to print, however printing is just the beginning of the rapid prototyping process. I then had to remove the supports from the model, these are printed below and around the pieces. I also spent around an hour sanding each component, as the 3D printer produces models in layers, the surface has some bumps and texture. The nature of the corn starch is very similar to a plastic, and as a result it is often mistaken for being so, however the advantage of components being made from starch, is that the components are completely compostable.

Having finally removed all the excess support materials, and having sanded the components, I was able to put them together and gain a better insight into their fit together. From this I realised that the reel shaft was too tall to fit correctly, an additional loop to hold the ribbon in place, and that the holes for the magnets were both too shallow and slightly misaligned. These are things which I can modify using CAD. Later in the evening I decided to paint my components. Ideally, I would have like to use spray paints, but on this occasion I used the resources available to me at home, and hand painted the components, eventually using around five coats and some further sanding to produce an outcome. At a later date I would be keen to sand this paint back and use an airbrush. I’m also keen to speak to our metal working technician about producing a cast aluminium model in the university foundry.

Surprise Me: Computer Aided Design, Iteration and Materials…

Today, I completed my computer aided design modeling. While it has taken a number of days to produce the components, this has been an important process. It has given me the opportunity to consider factors, such as; what I need to modify to make the design function, the overall aesthetic and balance of the piece, potential material choices, the internal systems and how they fit together, wall thicknesses. Having produced CAD models, there are still a few issues I haven’t completely resolved. While I have a good idea of how the pieces can fit together, and be opened and closed, I’m still not sure if they can be manufactured in the way I’ve designed them. One of the ways I’ve thought about ensuring the base and lid remained closed during use is by using well positioned magnets, but this idea may still develop.

Screenshot Solid Edge

I can now use my computer models to produce in-context boards to show how the design will function, along with features boards to explain how the piece could be used. The next stage was to apply materials and textures to the models, to give a more accurate representation of how the piece will look in reality. This gives me a good chance to experiment with different materials and finishes without having to take the leap into production. Often the outcome can be so realistic it is hard to tell whether an image is a photograph of a real piece or a rendered virtual model. On this occasion, I was keen to see how the piece might be made in aluminium. I am keen to avoid unnecessary finishes, such as chroming, as this process can have potential negative implications on the environment. I will continue to use CAD in an iterative manner. Over the next couple of days, I hope to produce a 3D printed model of my design in corn starch, this will give me my best idea of the true scale. It will also allow me to carry out some basic user tests. In a commercial environment, this model would be useful to present to a client to demonstrate my design intentions.

Rendered CAD model, assembled with ribbons.

Rendered CAD model, assembled with ribbons.


Workshop with Brunel University: Corporate Social Responsibility and Design…

A couple of days ago, I attended a research workshop at the National Product Design Research Centre of Wales, in Cardiff. The project, funded by AHRC is intended to examine the social values of design in the commercial sector. The project is being led by Brunel University, around fifteen Design students from Brunel University attended, along with twelve Cardiff Design students.

The aim of the day was to gather information on the ways we might implement good CSR, or; Corporate Social Responsibility, as designers, into product design, business models, or Social Policies. Good Corporate Social Responsibility is recognised, in business terms, as being a series of self implemented models which benefit; the people who work for the company, the people buying the product or service, and the wider community (often even on a world wide scale). Often these business models relate to charity projects, with the return of some, or all profits to a beneficial cause, often related (an example would be ‘Toms’ shoe company with their ‘one for one’ policy) . In some cases these business models go above legislative standards, for example, providing much better quality of working standards for workers, more social hours, and possibly education for their children.

We started the workshop with an icebreaker, each sharing ideas on a product we felt represented good CSR. While we were all able to give information on our examples, very few seemed to have evidence that the policies mentioned on the product packaging was actually true. Often the evidence only went as far as a couple of pictures on a website or a small print on some packaging.

We were separated into small groups for our afternoon exercises, the most valuable of which was a group discussion on Social Value Creation. Our group discussed how a company might become more socially responsible. We considered several factors, these included; the legislative inputs, the interior company policies, the company outputs (product), and the social impact of policies on the community. With a better understanding of how these factors related to the company, and to each other, we were able to look at how things could be improved. Some of the ideas related to improving the working conditions of workers in order to improve the community, ideas such as paying to provide schools and teachers to the communities where factories are built. One of the most interesting product related ideas, was to modify the legislation on waste disposal. The idea being that if companies had to pay for disposal of their own product packaging, they would be more likely to produce less packaging, with more use of recyclable material. Implementing this along with a ‘deposit return scheme’, whereby for instance, a bottled drink is priced at 20p more than usual, with the 20p returned upon return of the empty bottle to a ‘deposit’ point.  This in turn would reduce council disposal costs, and this money could be invested back into other social schemes to benefit the community.

Overall the workshop was very interesting and opened me up to new ideas on the relationship between business and design. It is often something which is not considered when designing, perhaps because it is not a usual consideration in the traditional design processes. I think this whole exercise gives a good insight into the changing role of Product Design and the Product Designer. As Alice Rawsthorn discussed in her book; ‘Hello World: Where Design Meets Life’, applying design methods to social policies can lead to more creative and beneficial outcomes.


Surprise Me: Installations and Collaborations…

Having produced a design for the inhaler yesterday, I met up with Sean to work on creating some larger scale models which could represent the installation. Our idea at this stage was to develop one shape which would be suitable for both a jewellery piece, and also as a building. We both agreed that the structure was striking and interesting enough to be effective, but neither of us were sure how we might go about making the installation worthwhile. At this stage we weren’t even sure how the building would function, would it be used purely as a presentation piece for educating society about asthma and other medical conditions? Could it be used as a medical facility providing advice and emergency care? Having produced several card mock-ups, we talked about how we might go about decorating the installation. From a technical perspective, I tried to consider the manufacturing of the design, realising that the structure could be made from a steel frame and panels of either fabric or a more rigid material. It might even be flat packed, being transported and erected as a moving display around the country, or even the entire world. Sean decided that he would need more time to research the idea at this stage, and consider what could be applied to either the interior or exterior of the structure to make it effective. Upon returning from research, it became apparent that the direction of the project had moved too far away from where he had envisaged the project might go. We acknowledged that together we had produced some interesting ideas, and some good research. We also agreed that the work we had produced to date was worthy of consideration and could inform us of our next steps, however we agreed at this stage it would be within both of our best interests to continue by working alone for the remaining period, while potentially meeting occasionally to discuss our progress. Sean was keen to explore the more hypnotic and psychological potential of the project, while I wanted to focus more on the structure and products. I think together we had worked very well to produce a good foundation.

This evening I considered the installation again. I think this topic is something I would like to discuss with Theo in my next tutorial. From my perspective, I think I would like to produce not only a product and installation, but a brand, with the goal of changing global perspectives on some of the most common medical conditions. This is something I want to explore in more detail.

Surprise Me: Clay, Card and Breakthroughs…

This morning, I started by playing with some polymer clay, producing a range of shapes. I was keen to see how textures might be produced by pressing them against things, such as wallpaper, leather straps and smooth surfaces. I was also keen to try and fold the clay, so when it dried it might mimic the plastic wrappings of a chocolate bar. I think my most successful outcomes came with trying to produced the thinnest layers of clay, which I then wrapped around rounded forms.

This afternoon, I undertook an often overlooked part of Product Design at university; reverse engineering. as an asthmatic myself, I have a number of old inhalers, one variety of which is an ‘Accuhaler’, a disc like product which can hold up to two-hundred doses of medication. From the exterior plastic casing, it is not obvious how the internal system works. Upon attempting to open the device, it became apparent that it was designed to be difficult to open and disposable. When I did manage to get in, I was greeted with a vast number of small white plastic components. The device functioned without it’s complete outer casing, which showed how a reel of plastic and foil were separated to release a pre-crushed powder by the tension of cogs. When using the lever, the numbered wheel turned to show one less dose remaining in the device. While there is no question that the device functions well, it might be considered over-engineered for a product which is designed to separates a foil ribbon from a plastic ribbon, before allowing the user to inhale the released powder.

Later, I considered the way that the mechanism functioned to put tension on the ribbons. Were there any other ways this tension could be produced which might simplify this system? I stripped the design to the bare essentials, a reel with two separable ribbons which released the medicine upon separating, running on a central shaft. The idea came to me at that stage, that if the ribbons were exposed to the exterior of the design, you could apply the necessary tension, on each, by hand to release the medicine. If the ribbons were numbered with the number of doses remaining, then this would remove the requirement for a numbered wheel altogether. This potential design would also owe itself to have easily accessible internals, a design idea I was keen to explore. I believe that if the casing is made desirable and precious, there would be no need to throw it away, only to replace the reel inside, this in turn would mean less waste too. With further development of card models, I have developed a model which resembles the human heart in some ways, a design I am going to explore further next with computer aided design.

The 'Accuhaler' foil and plastic reel.

The ‘Accuhaler’ foil and plastic reel.

My Essay, Featured in the ‘In The Beginning’ Magazine…

Again, I would like to extend my thanks to everybody at Cardiff School of Art and Design for making this possible and for choosing my work.