In practice, we divided the development process into 8 phases:
- Verification of incoming proposal.
- Setup of the project on paper.
- Construction of the electronic.
- Software elaboration.
- Construction of of the early prototype (in cardboard).
- Process of drawings for printers’ usage.
- Printing of light-weight prototypes.
- Corrections, graphics and finishing touches.
- Final printing, assembling and documentation.
The goal of these steps is to create a concrete prototype, ready to be presented to various stakeholders, interested in starting a production or finding funds to finance a standalone start-up.
00. Verification of incoming proposals
In order for the project proposal to be accepted, it will need to meet the following requirements:
- The proposer must be a student of the Province of Bolzano, of any school (from elementary school up to university).
- At the base of any project there needs to be a good idea.
- The project is always composed of a physical part and a computer based part.
- But the most important requirement in any elaboration phase is enthusiasm. (just an idea may be enough)
- No requirements or previous experiences are needed, besides from the academic titles.
In our case, Edona Gashi is a student from the Faculty of Computer Science at unibz and she was the testbed of our makerspace. Her idea was interesting, and so we took it up and helped her create a prototype.
01. Setup of the project on paper
First of all, we simply represent the project and its function on paper. All physical parts of the object are listed, located and shaped in an initial plan.
The object Edona wants to carry out is a level-balance for children. It will be composed of two hats connected by a pole. In the middle, an electronical tool indicates the tilt between two children.
Here is Edona working with pen and paper to realize the design.
02. Construction of the electronic and electronical side.
This student being a part of the faculty of Computer Science had already the knowledge to make the electronic part of her project. Bus if you don’t have the requirements to handle electronic equipment, we can help you by finding student that will collaborate you and try to fix your problems.
Enlarging one of the photos above, we can get the “Arduino + shield + SD card”, the “gyroscope sensor” (level sensor), the “LCD”, two white LED (signaling), a “bread board” (the white base with holes) and the wires for the connections; It lacked only the battery and a small speaker, but Edona has procured them soon after.
Then with the development of the prototype, we added an orange LED and two switches retrieved from old equipment. One we’ve taken apart by a power found in the trash, while others found it in an old phone that we had been given (it was the switch that activated communication when he got the phone); we needed just a switch of that kind because we would then mounted with a cord in the middle of the box, so to activate the level / scale.
03. Software Elaboration
As far as the software is concerned, the same holds for the electronical components: Edona carried out all of this part on herself. In case the project proposer doesn’t have the competences needed for this process, then we (the makerspace) are going to search for students willing to collaborate, or the staff itself may even intervene.
04. Construction of Prototype in CardBoard
It might seem strange that the first thing before using 3D printers is to make a prototype using cardboard. So the first thing made was a prototype made of cardboard, with the approximate dimensions of the object we planned on the computer.
As you can see this was the prototype of the project where all the electronic equipment is concealed in the cardboard box.
And here is the prototype turned on and working.
Depending in which direction the object is tilted, the right or the left led turn on.
Here is the system in full function.
By positioning the display in the lowest part and the two LEDs on the sides at the topic, we want to recall a face. A good practice for design consists of recalling a face’s main characteristics (of a person or or an animal), in order to load it with strong emotional elements.
A tipical example consists of 50-60s cars. At that time, cars’ lights used to be round and cars’ expressions were sweet, trustworthy and reassuring. (e.g: FIAT 500, 600, 850). Whereas today they are rather tapered (like those of an eagle or hawk), conveying efficiency, power and supervision.
Whereas today they are rather tapered (like those of an eagle or hawk), conveying efficiency, power and supervision.
At this point the cardboard prototype was used for simple tests, now we can move to the next section.
05. Elaboration of drawings for the 3D printer
With the free software sketchup we modified the box containing all electronic components, reducing it in size and foreseeing square holes where a wooden pole can be plugged in, with section 15 x 15 mm.
Furthermore, we created a rectangular opening for the LCD display (the mouth), two holes for the white LEDs (the eyes), a central opening for an orange LED(the nose), 16 + 16 holes on the sides for the speaker (like the ears) and two drives (underneath the square holes) for the the plugging of the cover.
The design is made by a software called “Cura”, to configure the 3D printer to print the item.
Again with the “Cura” software the different printing plans of the object were checked.
06. Printing of light-weight prototypes.
We then proceeded to printing the prototype, in a way to make it as light as possible, to avoid using too much material, but to give us a good idea of the proportions of the object.
From the first 3D print, we weren’t happy of how it looked like and came together. Therefore we redesigned the whole box, making it smaller, reorganizing the electronic components inside and reducing the weight.
Here are various pieces of the whole project, most of them printed more then once, as they didn’t come out well the first time. And now that we have the electronic components and the physical casing, we are ready for the product presentation.
07. Final Graphic Corrections
In this penultimate step before printing the final project, we have corrected some small things, we completed the elements of communication design and graphics (such as the name BALA) and finished by hand the pieces, because printers always create small smearing of the support elements for the construction which needed to be removed.
08. Final Print, Mounting, and Documentation
The last phase is to make a final print of all the various pieces, mount the electronic components, and to prepare the documentation of your project from the start to the end (the making off…), to then be presented on this website makerspace.inf.unibz.it