Wrapping up Making at the Makerlab

Expectations and Reflections: 

It was out of curiosity and a suggestion from a friend that made me pick this class from a extensive list of Electives I could have picked in my last semester as a Senior. I had briefly heard interesting things about 3-D printing and making almost anything you wanted from scratch. I hoped to learn how to prototype, design and apply myself in a way which I had never done before. Looking back after the semester long course I have come a long way as not only an engineer but also as someone who cares deeply about the things around us and making a difference in our community.

The Experience: 

My experience kicked off with some motivating and inspirational Guest Lectures from Jeff Gringer and John Hornick who talked about the Maker movement and where its headed. It instilled in me some kind of responsibility to be a part of the movement and make a difference in a way where I could leverage my skills as a Materials Engineer.

In the next few weeks we had an opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by representatives from the Design for America team at UIUC. I gained a deep understanding about what designing actually is and what it entails from the user and who it impacts. As a team we came up with a novel idea about using Goggle Glasses for deep sea diver which was pretty awesome. This experience helped me shape ideas during my next few weeks of the course and was fundamentally very important to the success of our tea, JJJ inc. Displaying 20170206_144220.jpg

The next week we got a chance to work with Fusion 360 which was of great use moving into our final projects. This powerful application helped us create almost any object we could think of and was pivotal in our making journey. More about this software can be found using this link.

This is the part where everything kicked off into full steam where we were not only thinking about the next big idea but also making it. Our final semester project started off with a brainstorming session, we came up with 3 issues we each faced in our day to day life and ideated some crude solutions to those problems. I learnt how much we over emphasize coming up with a product rather than solving the problem with the product in hand. Here are our initial few ideas we sketched for the final project this semester :

Week 6,7 and 8 the class spend learning and making at the Champaign Urbanas Fab lab! From learning how to code an Arduino to soldering and laser cutting plywood we learnt useful skills which we could implement while making our final project.

It was finally time to put our CADing, ideation and prototyping skills into action. Our group, JJJ inc, is designing a smart switch which can potentially pave way for cheaper smart homes and user customization. The next few classes we worked on designing and prototyping our Smart light switch. Here are some images from our initial sketches, mechanical designs and our final working switch seen as the bottom most picture.

I was so content with myself and overall really happy with the hard work, time and effort put by team JJJ inc to make the project from a mere idea to something which actually works like how we had imagined it. This class led me to belief that if you want to make something happen, there are enough resources, technology and like minded people to help you along, you just need to apply yourself and grind till you see the results unfold. I would finally like to thank Vishal Sachedva for his expertise and help!

The Final Few Steps – Week 9

This week kicked off with a presentation by Arielle Rausin, who is a professional wheelchair paralympic athlete, on 3-D Scanning which was really intriguing. She showed us how to scan various objects and then even 3-D print them. We then got a chance to scan our heads and using this new cool 3-D scanner which was really a scanner which shoots out light and gets an input signal based on the reflection from the object. In the image below you can see Vishal scanning Ariel’s head as its been recorded on the 3-D scanning software as a mesh.

Team JJJ inc’s project is slowly coming to life as we tested our first pre-prototype on the light switch to see if we had the dimensions right. Our next steps are to print the outer boxing of our smart light switch and to program our motor. One problem we had was that the motor was running to fast and so we need to wire it so that it runs according to the distance we need our light to move. Here are some pictures of our teams 3-D printed Rack and Pinion:

Maker Movement : The New Age of Sports

The Maker Movement has gained momentum in the automobile, aerospace and interestingly even in the sporting industry. With Adidas running trials on printing sports shoes in their SPEEDFACTORY  and Nike following suit, there lies tremendous potential in what can be done in the sports industry. Sporting equipment manufacturers are slowing testing the waters for what could be a game changer in how sporting goods are made. Professional athletes sponsored by manufacturers more often than not customize their equipment based on their body type and performance needs. With the advent of 3-D scanning and printing, these athletes, in collaboration with equipment manufacturers, can easily custom build their goods. In the future for example, Michael Phelps could 3-D scan his body, send it to SPEEDO and they can custom print his swimming suits and googles according to his body type.

One of the games I am really passionate about is Cricket, and its absolutely mind blowing as to how much can be done using 3-D Printing. As Cricket uses a lot of equipment which is often customized to suit the players needs, 3-D printing can be made applicable in the near future by printing custom Helmets, Bails, Gloves and shin pads for the player. At the Materialise Press Conference during the latest edition of the Asia Pacific Conference in India, 3-D Printed Helmets, Bails were displayed and even used in a cricket match. 

Cricket players and enthusiasts could easily have personal 3-D Printers at home to print out helmets, balls and stumps. Instead of running to the nearest sport shop to buy a ball, I can see young children just setting up a print to have a quick game. This could not only engage people to play more sports but also promote the sports popularity within communities who have never experienced or played the game.

The biggest constraint in the 3-D printing of sporting goods is the kind of materials which can be printed. We all know that almost all plastics and some metals can be printed, but what about composites, which are materials made up of a combination of plastics,ceramics or metals. Sporting goods are often made up of complex materials and intricate designs. For example a simple Cricket hand glove uses rubber, some plastics and other fabrics to protect the batters hand against impact, absorb moisture and be flexible. This functionality is hard to achieve using 3-D printing and a lot of research still is under way. One such advancement in 3-D printing of highly functional materials is under the scanner at the University of Bristol, where they have created an innovative way to 3-D print composites. Dr. Richard Trask at the University of Bristol has successfully pioneered a way to 3-D print composite structures using ultrasonic sounds. Here is a video :

As a future Materials Engineer I am excited to see and be part of what can be done in the field of 3-D printing the next generation of innovative and functional materials.

Time for Action

It was finally time to put our CADing, ideation and prototyping skills into action. Our group, JJJ inc, is designing a smart switch which can potentially pave way for cheaper smart homes and user customization. We started the class with watching a few videos on getting our spirits up and running. Before class our team had the general design concept in mind, in which we wanted to install a box on top of a light switch and have a motor move it up and down remotely, but we had not thought about the constraints of the functionality and in the design itself.

We then headed to the CU Fab lab to explore and get advise about our design and its functionality. One of the helpers at the fab lab suggested we use a rack and pinion arrangement to move our switch up and down. We then designed and discussed our idea among the team and came up with a simple working model which could be simply 3-D Printed. Our idea is to attach a motor to the Pinion Gear which is connected to a rack gear which moves linearly. The rack gear will have a hole in its center which will be mounted over the light switch.

Our next step was to CAD the rack and pinion using Fusion 360. We started of with first measuring the dimensions of the light switch to get an idea about how much the rack must move linearly to push the switch into position. We then used it to design the rack and pinion model which we now have put to print.

The next step of our creation is to design a housing for the rack and pinion and to integrate a Bluetooth module using an arduino uno. Later that week I spoke to one of my friends in the ECE department who suggested that the simplest way of operating a motor remotely will be using a Bluetooth HC/05-06 module which is available readily. I can already seeing our project come to life its just a matter of a few weeks!

This a step by step guide to anyone interested in working with Bluetooth modules on an Arduino Uno board : http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Control-DC-Motor-via-Bluetooth/

Soldering at the FabLab

After last weeks lab session where our group wired a breadboard and uploaded our code onto an Arduino Uno, the next step was to set stone our circuit design with the help of a soldering process in which wires are joint together by melting metal. Our task was to wire up the LED’s and the photoresistor so that they have fixed joints and can be easily wired into the arduino board. As we sat around the table with soldering machines and wires in front of us, we were pretty overwhelmed and somewhat scared about using the solder as even a small touch of it onto our skin could result in a 2nd degree burn. Some of us used “soldering helping hands” helpers to keep our wires fixed in place while soldering them together as shown in the picture below. Due to the delicate nature of the soldering components and wires the helping hands proved to be very useful in keeping everything stationary and out of harms way.

Soldering basically uses a hot iron rod and a solder flux (a metal with a low melting temperature) to join two wires or two metal components together. The hot iron melts the flux in between the junction of the two metal components and quickly solidifies thus keeping them in a fixed state. Due to the fluxes metal characteristics it does not impede the flow of current in the circuit. The instructor was incredibly patient and helpful as she guided as through each of the soldering tasks. I quickly realized that soldering was an art form of its own as it required immense precision and concentration. The worst part about the soldering process is the smoke which is given off when the flux melts and it can be really suffocating at times. Due to this we took a 15 minute break to clear the smoke and also to rest our eyes.

Finally after soldering and wiring the arduino to our LED’s we powered it up using a battery and yes it did light up! In the video here, you can see the LED’s light up when my hand is close to the photoresistor and vice versa. The next step of the project is to laser cut a wooden box to house all these cool LED’s.

**Here is a link for beginners to learn more about the soldering technique!

Learning and Making

Week 6 was all about learning and making at the Champaign Urbana Community Fab lab. The Fab Lab does a tremendous job in inspiring interest and innovation among the members of the community. As I walked into the Fab lab, I was amazed to see how many different machines and materials they had for us to create almost anything we imagined. Jeff Gringer who is the Director of the Fab Lab even told us that the building was the second oldest on campus and it once had huge doors to let horse carts in!  I was particularly excited for this class as I was looking forward to learn how to use Arduinos and apply them to my teams final Project. After a brief introduction of the MakerSpace, our team was split up into 3 groups with each group working on a different skill. I was put into the team which had to design an Arduino circuit which detected light and powered LED’s based on the ambient light in the room. 2 Volunteers working at the Fab Lab provided us with a step by step guideline on how to wire the Arduino on a breadboard. After wiring up our circuit, we connected the Arduino to a Desktop and messed around with some C code to bring our circuit up and running.

It was a great experience working with Arduinos as I never really understood its power and application value. As our teams project is geared towards making Smart Homes more affordable, I positively believe that we can use Arduinos in the product we are designing. The next two weeks our team is going to work on the final project proposal and put the theory and skills we learnt into action.

** Check out hackster.io , its like a pinterest for cool projects mostly related to Arduinois which can be shared and done by anyone. It also provides detailed instructions and materials which can be easily purchased from their website. The Motion Sensor Water Gun was something I was checking out as I was going through their website.

Crafting Solutions to Real Issues

When we look around us we can find hundreds of objects and products designed intricately as well as empathetically to solve our personal needs. We often ignore these objects in our life as they fulfill a purpose that we so often times take for granted. Upon scrutinizing these everyday objects, its astonishing to see how much detail and sweat was put into these products by their inventors. This weeks class opened my mind to identifying problems not only faced by college students but also specific communities. I was greatly inspired by David Kelly, who is the CEO of a Global firm IDEO which incorporates human behavior into product design. In his interview on the show 60 Minutes, he talks about how he creates solutions by thinking of peoples problems empathetically. IDEO’s concept of brainstorming ideas collectively and using each others perspective allows the invention of products which no one person can do alone.

It is also very important to understand that coming up with an idea is just a small part of crafting and implementing a solution to real issues. As quoted by Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”, your idea is just that 1% of inspiration, the other 99% is the amount of work and sweat you put into making that idea an incredible story. Much of our class time this week we focused on ideation and coming up with 3 design solutions for common problems:

  1. Water Wastage : A product which could fit onto water taps and reduce water use drastically.
  2. Expensive Smart Homes : A product which can fit around light switches allowing for a remote turn off and on option all done without a need of expensive electronics.
  3. High Winter Heating Bills : A window air sealant which can be put around house windows to avoid the loss of heat.

Often times while coming up with designs we tend to spend more time thinking of a product than a problem which the product would address. Dr. Vishal made it very clear while we were pitching the ideas that we talk about the problem we are addressing rather than the intricacies of the product itself. Products can always be fine tuned and re – designed, but the problem at hand is really the deciding factor in ones journey to create a successful business model. After all business is people and if we do not have a product that the people need it will never sell. Design thinking is an art and there is a lot of science behind it than what most people think. This MIT Technology review briefly talks about the essentials of design thinking and its worth a read!

For the last part of our class we had, Mark Bohmann, who is the Assistant Dean at the College of Media, talk about his passion towards the Maker Movement and his own side projects. I was so amazed that so many people including professors and students of almost all majors are so deeply invested in the maker movement and every week I feel it getting bigger and bigger.

Design Thinking in Today’s World

Digital Making at the Makerlab last week was an eye opener. Representatives from the Design for America team held a workshop about design thinking and creating solutions to solve real world problems. The Design for America team at the University of Illinois creates products and solutions which help impact the society we live in and it was fantastic to see them hold a workshop as part of the digital making class to help us integrate 3-D Printing to solve real world problems. For example, DFA has come up with  an innovative product called TherepAlz which aims to help patients of dementia and and related disorders by using robotic therapeutic animals. At the workshop 6 teams of about 4 members each worked on creating a solution/product to help alleviate the challenges faced by Senior citizens in our societies. The DFA team walked us through the design process which started from thinking about a big problem and then narrowing it down to creating a feasible,attractive and a marketable product. My team focused on helping the elderly socialize and express their thoughts using technology. We created a type of glasses which old people could wear and record/stream videos about them either cooking a meal or sharing some interesting experiences. Also as a team we came up with a design logo for our team name. Here are some pictures from last week:

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Design thinking is a process of creating products which are not only desirable by consumers but also feasible technically and business wise. Dr. David Weightman, who is a professor of Industrial Design in the School of Art and Design at the UIUC, explains in his interview that a good design is created at the intersection of desirability,feasibility and viability. It is interesting to understand how a product is created to impact the society. One must first reach out to that very society which needs help and understand what the people really want both technically and economically. Tim Brown, CEO of the international design consulting firm IDEO, gives interesting examples in his article “Design Thinking” where he talks about creating products which meet peoples need;s and desires. IDEO worked with Shimano, a Japanese bicycle manufacturing company, which was trying to understand why 90% of American adults did not ride bikes. The team then did in depth analysis to find the various causes of this problem and then implemented strategic ways to solve this day to day problem.Recently, BMW’s venture capital arm has invested money into a Boston based 3-D Metal Printing Startup company. Car manufacturing in the next 15 years could be revolutionized by this technology if made feasible and viable. Innovation today is drastically changing and with the advent of 3-D Manufacturing, the design thinking process is going to take a whole new turn and maybe help solve many of the worlds problems.

Week 2 Reflection: The Age of 3-D Printing

So far it has been two exciting weeks of classes; listening to John Hornick talk about the future of 3-D Printing in the first week of class really manifested my curiosity towards the age of 3-D printing.

For week two, we had Jeff Gringer, who is the director of Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab come and talk to us about the Maker movement and his role in shaping future societies. The Fab labs play a crucial role in the Maker Movement, which is a social, cultural and economic movement that promotes creativity and learning  by integrating computer-tools with the do-it-yourself (DIY) culture. Originally started at MIT, there are now over 200 Fab labs across the world impacting children and adults of all backgrounds. One of the prominent feature of the Maker Movement, as described by Dale Dougherty in “The Maker Mindset” , is its potential to change the education system for the better. It is absolutely incredible to imagine that in the next 15 years, middle and high schools will slowly move away from rote learning methods and rather learn through creating, building and making things come to life with the help of the Maker Movement. I personally believe its going to simulate the next generation to create products and shape society in ways never thought of before and I can’t wait it.

Imagine going to amazon.com/3d and buying a table and then starting a print at home using your own personal printer! Class this week for interesting as we got to actually print our own products. Websites like thingiverse and shapeways allows users to not only browse through various products and collections but also download these designs for free and print them at home. From visually pleasing designs to useful day to day household products, these sites are slowly grabbing people’s attention allowing people to sell as well buy designs and market cool new products.

On the other hand 3-D printing is revolutionizing the health industry at the same time. Doctors and research scientists are digitally scanning organs and printing them out to simulate surgeries and save lives as seen in this video below.

Week 2 of class not only taught us how to download a design we like and print it but also inspired us to be a part of the Maker Movement and impact the society we live in today.