Case Study

Analogue & Digital Making

A careful balance between craftmanship & digital possibilities.

Methods

  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Laser cutting
  • 3d Printing
  • Arduino
  • Raspberry Pi
  • HTML / CSS
  • Wood working

Following an iterative design approach becomes more and more important in the world of design. Prototyping makes it possible to not only test solutions with end users over and over again, but it also facilitates a research through design approach. However, to enable designers to tinker on their solutions before their solutions become products in a rapidly changing society, the ability to take on a rapid prototype approach is key.

“Devices and technologies that enable a rapid prototyping approach can be found in Fablabs around the world”

Devices and technologies enabling this approach, i.e. laser cutters, 3d printers, Arduino’s, etc, can be found in Fablabs around the world. In the last three years I started to experiment with these devices and technologies and currently I’m teaching the Making elective at Stadslab - the Fablab of the University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam. There are few rules, only an open source approach is preached. Consequently everybody is welcome, can use the machines and can make use of the collective knowledge available, as long as they are sharing their work in return.

Computer with laser cutter settings World map engraved with the laser cutter Laser cut lamps
Laser cutter settings, engraving a world map and laser cut lamps.

Especially the laser cutter turned out to be practical for my work, see for example another of my case studies: ‘Co-creation and the IoT’. For co-creation assignments around the world I designed and laser cut a toolkit to facilitate co-creation workshops with multi-disciplinary stakeholders. Cutting the toolkit was quite a challenge, since the tolerance between the pieces is very small and the acrylic plastic wasn’t of a uniform thickness. It took the laser cutter multiple times to cut through the material and achieving the correct engraving dept was challenging. The advantage of the toolkit is that is is expandable, since pieces can be added and laser cut over and over again. I have made less use of the 3d printers in Stadslab. Printing 3d models takes a long time and printing them in the lab is sometimes impractical, moreover I haven’t found a direct use for it yet. Besides the machines in Stadslab I have also started experimenting with the Arduino micro controller and the single board computer - Raspberry Pi. Through some personal projects I’m trying to grasp the endless possibilities that these small devices and their sensors offer. Besides learning to write code for the Arduino, I’m trying to keep my HTML, CSS and Javascript up to date by coding websites for myself and for others.

Arduino set up Raspberry Pi smart tv set up Custom build php wordpress template
Arduino, Raspberry Pi set up and a custom build php wordpress template.

"The class started with basic woodworking skills, i.e. planing and chiseling wood, and basic theory on maintaining your tools and machine safety"

These new devices and technologies offer many new possibilities. Already before I stared my Industrial Design education I was curious to learn an older craft. Therefore I enrolled in a woodworking course, at the Hout and Meubilerings College in Rotterdam, with a duration of two years. The classes took on a hands-on approach, one full day a week there was time to work on assignments, every other week theory was explained and homework for selfstudy at home was provided. The class started with basic woodworking skills, i.e. planing and chiseling wood, and basic theory on maintaining your tools and machine safety. The first two assignments were practical and involved making your own woodworking tools, the third assignment a side table, contained the first wood joints and a veneered tabletop. As the class progressed the assignments became more complicated. The last assignment of the first year was the build of a treasure chest containing a hinged lid and a drawer.

Veneer table top plant table. Treasure Chest Side table
Furniture made during the wood working course.

In the second year two more comprehensive assignments were given, a side table and a chair. For the side table a technical drawing was provided, the chair had to be designed and drawn by the students themselves. For this last assignment I drew inspiration from the Internet and decided to craft a lounge chair, I traced photos of an existing design in the 3d CAD software Solidworks and constructed the drawings. There were a number of restrains to the design of the chair, it had to contain bended shapes, several wooden joints and a certain complexity. Together with a theory exam and a practical exam in the machine hall, the chair formed the graduation assignment of the woodworking training.

Solidworks 3d CAD drawing Technical drawings Bended wood Machining chair legs Machining holes chair legs Finished magazine lounge chair
Making of the lounge chair - the graduation assignment of the wood working course.

This variety of analogue and digital skills provides me with the opportunity to iteratively design for many design challenges by crafting beautiful analogue objects containing digital technologies.

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