Archive for the 'Processes' Category

Sorry Guys, Rotomolding Is Not Dead

I thought this was interesting when it was posted in early April, but decided not to pile on to the responses. Every once in a while, the folks at Core77 do step in it and their faithful readers are only too glad to point it out.

When frequent contributor hipstomp posted about some nifty watering cans, quizzing readers to see who could figure out how these hollow products were produced, his reveal was somewhat anti-climatic:

Rotational molding! I’d practically forgotten this technique even existed; we see it so rarely, probably because you could accurately describe it as being “expensive, and takes freaking forever.”

For those of us who design products utilizing a wide range of materials and processes, it wasn’t that rotomolding was the chosen process that was notable in his post, it was hipstomp’s apparent surprise that rotomolders weren’t extinct. As many respondents reminded our dear poster, rotational molding is still very much alive and kicking. I have personally worked on several rotomolded products in the last year and know that most molders and mold builders are quite busy indeed.

One of the reasons why you don’t see rotomolding as often as other processes might have something to do with the poor job the rotomolding industry has done promoting its process to the design community. True, rotomolding isn’t appropriate for high-volume applications, but for specific situations requiring the kind of rugged parts this process can produce, there are few other processes that can do the same as cost-effectively. Perhaps watering cans aren’t the best example of that as some observed–perhaps blow molding might have been a better choice (depending on the production volumes), but there would still be a fair amount of scrap generated by that design.

Hipstomp goes on to suggest that RP processes might be more appropriate for the creation of hollow parts. I’m not saying that these products can’t be produced using rapid prototyping methods like Polyjet, but I guess I still question why. As commenter Dave observed:

RP materials and processes are improving, but this is a question that should be posed to people with knowledge of roto-molding and other processes, as well. RP is not a silver bullet, despite what seems like an ID fascination with having a one-size-fits-all answer to manufacturing. As for surface finish, there are RP machines (polyjet) that do pretty high resolution (.0006″ layer thickness). With texture built into the build file, maybe surface finish will eventually not be an issue of “can we make it this way?” “Should we make it this way?” will remain though.

A more fundamental limitation comes into play. RP methods require high precision movements of the RP machine for every part. Roto-molding, like injection molding, blow molding, etc. requires high precision to build the tool, then much lower precision to build the parts.

To be clear, I’m not beating up on hipstomp; I myself am a moderator of the Materials and Processes discussion forum on Core and I’ve re-posted many of his articles on this blog. But it does say something about how we as a design community looks at M&P as the foundation of what we do as industrial designers. True, not all ID’s engage in the development of artifacts, but many of us still do and not all of them are mass-produced to justify infection molding or so custom as to warrant using RP processes regardless of how novel that might be. I think it’s worth taking the time to properly educate our students and continually educate ourselves and our community on the materials and manufacturing technologies (old and new) that are being (still) used today and where each fits in the broad spectrum.

Take a look at the post as well as the comments and let me know what you think.

[Core77 post]

Mr. Rogers: Making the Cosmonaut

I’ve been waiting for this thing since April… Since backing them on Kickstarter to make the Cosmonaut, a wide-grip stylus for touchscreens (like my iPad), Studio Neat has teased its supporters with updates on the product’s progress as it made its way towards production. Like many start-ups, I think the boys were a bit too optimistic on their schedule (these widgets were originally due out in June). But my hat’s off to them for sharing their leaning process and evolution of how the product’s made. Check out their posts on Kickstarter to see the progression. Looks like we’re in the home stretch.

After a good deal of research and trial ‘n error, they ended up building this chunky guy with a machined aluminum core that’s overmolded with a conductive rubber. The tip is a separately-molded cap that is snapped onto the end  (I wonder why it can’t be replaced when worn out or damaged?). The other end gets either an aluminum or wood plug (I guess because they can and because it covers up where the mold held the core during overmolding).

In a video “hosted” by Mr. Rogers entitled “How Crayons Are Made,” the guys share some nice video of the production process. It shows how the aluminum core is machined, then overmolded and assembled. You’ll see them hand die-cutting the cardboard packing and final assembly… Check it out before it gets taken down ’cause I seriously doubt Tom and Dan got permission to use that footage… Then again, having raised over $134K on Kickstarter and the success of the Glif, maybe they were able afford it.

It’s a wonder day in the neighborhood…

Thomas Forsyth: Ten Bespoke Brass Nuts

Boy, this video would have come in handy a few weeks ago in the materials and processes class I’m helping teach at NC State…

As hand-made gifts for speakers at the 2011 Build Conference in Belfast, London-based designer and artist Thomas Forsyth fabricated ten “bespoke brass nuts” using old-school sand casting techniques. Each unique piece weighed in at just over half a kilo (about 1.1 lbs). Enjoy the video.

[via Core77]

Sheet-metal Chassis Chair

As any industrial designer will attest, drafting an idea is relatively easy. Getting it made is the hard part. Prototypes often languish for years waiting for a manufacturer; and once one is found, it can take equally long to work out the production kinks. Just ask the German designer Stefan Diez, whose Chassis chair, made with space-frame technology commonly used in building car bodies, was unveiled to media swoons back in 2008 but didn’t actually see the light of day until late last year. Although Wilkhahn had committed to financing the project, finding a properly equipped factory willing to fabricate the parts proved a major setback:

If you come as a designer and want to make a chair using this kind of technology, you don’t find an entrance to the club—they have no interest in making chairs.

Chassis is lightweight (about 12 pounds) and flexible with a delicate-looking frame of thin sheet metal and a removable polypropylene seat. An advantage of the sheet metal is that you can apply many kinds of coatings: you can have it galvanized, chromed, or whatever. A laser cuts sections out of the seat back and the metal scraps are then used to make the legs, which are spot-welded to the frame. According to Deiz, he idea was to make a chair with flexible characteristics, like a bicycle. A rigid structure wouldn’t resist the forces applied to it; it would break. So the idea of using flexible materials, like sheet metal, for a chair is quite clever.

[via Metropolis]

Gut Check: Logitech Trackman Wheel

Another submission from Bruce Buck at SolidSmack brings us up close and personal with Logitech’s Trackman Wheel. Check out the stop-motion video of his dissection.

[via SolidSmack]


Gut Check: 3Dconnexion SpaceExplorer

SolidSmack contributor Bruce Buck gets bored. And when Bruce gets bored, he takes stuff apart (don’t we all?). There is sooooo much you can learn about product design and engineering by taking apart well-design (as well as not-so-well-designed) products to see what makes them tick. Let’s hear about Gut Check from Bruce himself:

Gut Check is a tribute to all the design, engineering, and manufacturing peeps out there using 3D/2D/Whatever-D day in and day out, to create and bring to life the products that we all use and enjoy every day. You’re the ones who are down in the trenches, making it happen. It’s also a look at the complexity and beauty of seemingly simple products. One look under the hood will reveal that almost anything is a “large assembly” and requires an enormous amount of time and effort to make everything come together in something that embodies the epitome of form, fit, and function.

I, for one, am a fan. Keep it up, Bruce and I’ll post some as well ’cause I LOVES to take stuff apart.

By the way, with regards to his “unexpected” finding of a weight plate, I too have found some interesting and curious additions of weight to products.

[via SolidSmack]


The Beautiful Plasticy Innards of the HTC Evo 4G

I loves me some product tear downs… One and Co designer Donn Koh shares the beauty (inside and out) of the HTC Evo 4G. Great products are those that look great far away and close-up (as well as when you tear it apart). This is the kind of stuff I’d like to see in museums–the blending of art, design and technology.

[via SolidSmack and Behance]