Archive for the 'What's That?' Category

What’s That?: Rotomolded Utility Cart Door

The sickness strikes again… I’m walking on NC State campus and notice a utility cart used the landscaping crew has… The doors catch my attention because while the entire cart looks nice enough, the doors have a bit ‘o styling that I would expect in a product like this. Anything too flashy or complicated wouldn’t be appropriate for a cart intended to haul dirt or recently-killed wildlife…

BANG! It’s a rotomolded door.

So here’s a reasonably decent-sized part that’s both rugged (that plastic can take a lickin’ without any dents), functional (it can get cold and rainy in NC, you know) and has a bit of style (checkout those Batman-esque details at the bottom). The doors help to elevate the aesthetics of what might otherwise be a hum drum utility cart.

Stay tuned for more materials and processes sightings in the wild…

What’s That?: Rotomolded Upper Section of Parking Meter

It’s a sickness, I know it is…

I’m walking down the street with some friends in Portland, OR. I’m there attending the IDSA International Conference and I notice the parking meters… Nothing really out of the ordinary. “Nice, clean design” I think as my eye traces the lines of the human-statue-sized meter that line the streets. I ‘m draw to how everything fits together to make up a complete product. I notice where the parts meet, how they match up, the radii, the different materials… What a minute: that upper section’s rotomolded

While the bulk of the meter is constructed of painted metal castings, the upper section–the one that holds the solar panel (of course this thing is solar-powered, this is Portland), is rotationally molded plastic. There are several styles of these meters throughout the city and it’s difficult to tell if these are retrofits or part of the original design to use rotomolding for this upper section. I suspect that perhaps it was easier to bolt in the relatively light solar panel and run the wires through the hollow part and doing something more complex out if metal. Also (this is pure conjecture), rotomolding might have provided a way to add some visual interest to the meter where to part cost and tooling was less expensive using this process. But, again, that’s just a guess…

I’d love to hear the story behind the design of this thing.  I actually found some information about it here, in the form of a “Green Purchasing Case Study.” According to the study, these SmartMeters have a 10-watt solar panel and cost about $7500 each.  Parkeon and Cale manufacturers the SmartMeter, but I can;t find any additional information about them. If anyone has the inside scoop, I’d love to hear about it.

I told you it was a sickness…

What’s That?: Extruded Aluminum Drive Housing

I was over at the NC State College of Design (my alma mater) participating in a final crit for a Junior Industrial Design studio, and someone brought me a part to ask me about it. It was the housing from a Maxtor OneTouch portable drive (the first series)…

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What’s That?: Adding Dead Weight


So I was working on a project that utilized the recording capabilities of the Pinnacle Video Transfer–a useful little widget that transfers a video feed directly to a storage device via USB.

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What’s That?: Plastic Cardboard Box Latch


Okay, here’s your next bit of plastic part design geekery: This single polypropylene part is a latch mechanism that holds a corrugated carton closed (like for plasma TVs). It’s passed though a hole that goes through two walls of corrugated (the top and the bottom) and then the two locking surfaces are pushed inward, hooking onto the backside of the inside of the carton. The latch is locked in place with a snap, which can be opened by squeezing…

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What’s That?: Ejection Mark On Angled Surface


I thought it would be useful to start a series I like to call, “What’s That?” where I point out little details on parts and products I see that help designers understand better how they are made and how that might affect their designs… This is not unlike the kinds of stuff I point out to my wife, who looks at me with the expression of “Seriously, do you really think I care about this kind of stuff?”… But hopefully you guys will…

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