Idea Generation and Prototyping

This week we returned to the Digital Making Lab for the first time in three weeks. A guest speaker from Shapeways started the class with a brief virtual tour of their production and fulfillment facility. Shapeways leverages the digital making community platform to custom print and ship designs around the world. The printing machines expectedly dwarfed those I have seen in person, yet I was still impressed by their capabilities. These machines can simultaneously print objects from purchase orders.

I hadn’t considered a need for a dyeing section of the facility. From a revenue standpoint however, it makes more sense for Shapeways to print in one color and dye everything afterward. Changing colors using the Ultimaker or the embroidery machine in the FabLab is a hassle. Repeatedly having to do so would reduce Shapeways productivity and profits. This exemplifies how companies in the digital making space manage to foster creativity while staying profitable. More focused on the creative side of digital making in this class, I’m glad our guest speakers have consistently shown business insight in this industry.

The remaining class time was dedicated towards our final project prototypes. My team and I produced a rough sketch of our hydroponic drip system prototype and the necessary materials. Our early discussions were heavily focused on various design points. I drew upon lessons from the Design for America presentation a few weeks ago, specifically narrowing down the problem and asking “How can we” questions. Currently, the team is looking into ways to feasibly integrate a pH sensor. Hydroponic plants frequently perish at low or high pH levels because owners neglect to monitor it. I’ve reached out to a professor in Agricultural Engineering hoping for clearer direction.

I also returned to Brandon at the FabLab for further design input. I wanted to find a material strong enough to support several hanging plants. Instead of PLA plastic, we are leaning towards using laser cut wood. Adding wheels to the three support prongs is another interesting design aspect emerging from this meeting. The ability to move the hydroponics system to sunnier areas of the house would promote growth and further satisfy customers. Lastly, I spoke to Brandon about an air quality measuring device developed at the FabLab called DustDuino. The device could be attached at the top wooden hook in order to measure the air purification progress over time. There is still much work to be done, but the freedom to explore these options certainly makes this project unique.





4 thoughts on “Idea Generation and Prototyping”

  1. Hey Michael!
    I was also surprised that Shapeways has an entire area solely for “finishing” and dyeing products although you made good points about how it increases their efficiency. I also found it really interesting that they print a bunch of different jobs in one machine at the same time. It’s amazing to me that the machine is able to do that! It sounds like the meeting at the FabLab went really well and I’m excited to move foward with our project and start building a workable prototype.

  2. Hi Michael! I was also intrigued by the fact that Shapeways dyes their products after they have been produced. But, like you said, it does make sense because it is such a hassle to change the colors while it is being made. Also, I think you are really on to something with your project. This is definitely something I would buy, and I hope the material you decide upon works well because this idea has a lot of potential!

  3. Hi Michael,

    I missed this week’s lecture, so thank you for providing a summary of it! I thought you raised a great point about Shapeways’ dyeing facility– for companies that operate on such a large scale but have to deliver such customized products, they have to get creative about how they organize their facilities and even their business models in order to stay profitable. I’m also glad to hear that you’ve made so much progress with your hydroponic drip system through the help of the FabLab. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you come up with.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Brandon is the best! He has been extremely helpful for my group and has suggested better ways to go about our project. For example, he suggested using a different, more efficient, sensor- I am glad to hear he is helping your group with your design as well! The DustDuino sounds like it’s going to be a great addition to your product.

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