Digital Making Log: Week 3

Design for America (DFA) visited our class this week for an extensive workshop on how designers get from a problem, to an idea, and to a solution. We implemented the same processes the professionals use, and started out by watching this video:

It’s pretty fascinating. They sniffed out all the problems consumers had with the traditional shopping cart, came up with solutions for each individual problem, and synthesized a good final product that addressed everyone’s concerns. The most interesting thing to me about this video is the actual processes they used: post-it notes and a constant, unabashed flow of ideas.

Our workshop took on pretty much the same format.

– We were given a problem (distracted driving)

– We were given research testimonials (people talking about how distracted driving affected them)

– We went on to do our own research with questioning our classmates

– We came together as a group to share the problems we found, from boredom to the necessity of using a smart phone GPS

– We came up with a slew of solutions, ranking the feasibility and consumer desirability of each solution

– And then we (my group) came up with a product that incorporated the solutions, prototyping and demoing it for the rest of the class (see the picture below for one group’s prototype)

Photo by Zong Ze Chua

Photo by Zong Ze Chua

My group had a less photogenic prototype: A sheet of paper representing a windshield that was gamified and interfaced with the driver’s smartphone.

So what?

I never knew the actual processes of design, as I said in my last post, I’m a journalism major and haven’t really done anything with design. Now that I know how the pros do it, I think I have what it takes to come-up with a problem consumers have, and print a solution to that problem.

Looking toward the future, I’ll keep an eye out for problems I run into that could be solved with some ingenuity and layered plastic. I’m still pretty ignorant on the technical skills necessary to model, so I guess my next step is to focus on that while I ideate.

Digital Making Log: Week 2

I walked into this class without knowing anything about modeling, and after this week, I think I can safely say I know a little more than nothing: I’ve learned how to think in a maker mindset, something not easy to come by given my area of study (journalism).

We got to play around with, a very basic platform for modeling with preset shapes that can be scaled, cut, bent, etc. I ended up piecing together a nametag for my team (gold team), and using the “box hole” feature, I was able to angle the words without having a failed print.

Well, without having more than one failed print. Ha. Below is what I made.

Gold Team rules

This was just an exercise to get us exposed to modeling; the harder stuff comes later. And I can’t wait.

Just using some free time, I modelled a sci-fi space ship with the existing Tinkercad shapes. I had to use a wheel preset, so it doesn’t look all that cool.

space ship

Notice there aren’t really any engines, or any jagged details, like a torpedo bay. No discernible bridge. The eventual goal for me is to have the modeling skills to make fleets of ships that I’ve been working on with graph paper for my entire nerdy adolescent and college life. They’re a lot more complex.

Another component of week 2’s class was an introduction to 3d modelling sharing sites, most notably,

I found four really cool things that I could use in my life and I’ll list them for you now:

Settler of Catan replacement pieces

This is something very essential in my life, as I have lost a few wheat pieces to my set. One thing I might tweak with this before I print it, and presumably learn more about modeling, is beef up the terrain. Whoever made this took care to make what is normally a 2d landscape in normal Catan, to a 3d, much cooler landscape. However, it still took on the same look as the 2d pieces, down to the location of the wheat farms. Me, I might want to add a river, or a dinosaur. The possibilities are endless!

Tri-dimensional chess set

As a trekkie, I’ve spent a large part of my life wondering how the hell people in Star Trek play 3d chess. When I looked into buying a set two years ago, the cheapest one was $300. With this print, it would come out cheaper and look a lot sleeker, with custom colors even. The only thing I would change: I would probably put Vulcan ears on the pawns, just to be cute.

Batman shelf

I’ve been deprived of a night stand for two consecutive years of my college career. To one side of my bed, there’s a book shelf, to the other, there’s a wall. I’ve had to put my alarm on the other side of the room, and let me tell you, snoozing that in the wee cold hours of the morning is pretty brutal. Having this shelf on the wall slightly above my bed would make life quite easier, though I think I would have to increase the width to make my clock fit.

Saturn V rocket

The Saturn V rocket seems pretty essential to me, maybe not so essential to most other people. As someone who wants to make a hobby out of printing spaceships, I’d be remised if I didn’t include her in my collection. The only improvement I could make would be a launch pad.



3D Printing and Supply Chains

Having taken up Supply Chain Management and Information Technology as my courses of study, I never expected to want to learn about 3D printing – I had only come to learn that objects could be ‘printed’ about a year ago, when I had walked in to the MakerLab at the Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois. Imagine my delight when I came to learn of a course that facilitated education about 3D printing through making, learning and sharing – the . Now make note that I used the word ‘facilitated’, because the DMS experience isn’t your regular Illinois classroom experience, where you wake up at 7am and grudgingly head to the Foellinger Auditorium, learn through the professor’s instruction, textbook readings, homework and exams (ugh!). The DMS is an unstructured course with students from all over campus, ranging from Finance and Accountancy majors to Aeronautical engineers and Lawyers! No exams, fun homework assignments, and an instructor who learns with you. What’s more, there’s barely any theory, you learn through what you ‘make’ and through what the others around you make and learn. Grading itself is based on the three philosophies of the class – making, learning and sharing, each worth a third of your grade. Each session usually includes a guest speaker who is an expert in Additive Manufacturing (the correct term for 3D Printing, something you’ll learn if you take the course.

With my major, I was naturally interested in how additive manufacturing would impact Supply Chains. I was sure that they would indeed have a big impact, but wasn’t sure how. Enter our guest speakers for the first session of the DMS – the founders of Senvol. Senvol is an additive manufacturing solutions provider to many Fortune 500 companies. It was founded by Zach Simkin and Annie Wang, both of whom are Wharton MBA graduates. Their first teaching – just because additive manufacturing can be used in a product’s supply chain does not mean it has to be used. Through Skype, they explained the seven scenarios that they had come up with to identify areas of a supply chain where there is potential for cost and time savings through the use of additive manufacturing. The scenarios are explained to firms as follows:

  • Expensive to Manufacture: Do you have parts that are high cost because they have complex geometries, high fixed costs (e.g. tooling), or are produced in low volumes? AM may be more cost-efficient.
  • Long Lead-Times: Does it take too long to obtain certain parts? Are your downtime costs extremely high? Through additive manufacturing, you can often get parts more quickly.
  • High Inventory Costs: Do you overstock or understock? Do you struggle with long-tail or obsolete parts? AM can allow for on-demand production, thus reducing the need for inventory.
  • Sole-Sourced from Suppliers: Are any of your critical parts sole-sourced? This poses a supply chain risk. By qualifying a part for AM, you will no longer be completely reliant on your current supplier.
  • Remote Locations: Do you operate in remote locations where it is difficult, time consuming, or expensive to ship parts to? AM may allow you to manufacture certain parts on-site.
  • High Import / Export Costs: Do you pay substantial import/export costs on parts simply because of the location of your business unit and/or your supplier? On-site production through AM can eliminate these costs.
  • Improved Functionality: AM can enable a part to be redesigned such that its performance is improved beyond what was previously possible, resulting in increased profit margin or market share.

Mr. Simkin and Ms. Wang also described their newly created AM database which has information regarding the current range of materials that are capable of being used in AM and the machines that are capable of using them

Mr. Simkin also briefly stated that additive manufacturing could be used as a means of reactive capacity. Reactive capacity is a firm’s production capacity after the initial sellout of products produced through their speculative capacity. Speculative capacity is often dictated by demand forecasts, which are not the most accurate means of creating orders that completely satisfy the firm’s demand for the current period. This can be better explained through an example. Let us assume that BRZ is a company that manufactures New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks licensed football helmets through their plant in China. Given the Patriots’ emphatic Super Bowl win, Patriot’s helmets are highly likely to get sold out, BRZ could miss out on huge sales for no fault of their own, and blaming Pete Carroll isn’t going to help them. But additive manufacturing can. Manufacturing another batch of helmets through China could take over a month, by which time the demand for Patriots’ helmets will have almost completely died down. AM, on the other hand, will help have those helmets shelf-ready in a week or even earlier, depending on the resources available to BRZ. The helmets may be more expensive to manufacture through AM, which could cause decreased profit margins, but hey, some profits are better than no profits at all, and then there’s the fact that BRZ will not upset the retailers that order from them, as no sales means that retailers are not able to capitalize on that trophy-winning interception by Malcolm Butler.

To sum it all up, additive manufacturing may not have a dramatic impact on supply chains in the near future due to it’s current limitations, but the future looks promising. With more and more materials coming under the AM banner, expect to see big changes in the supply chain’s of all physical products.