Prototype or Fail

20160120_TTD Prototypes

These 5 different concepts continue from my last attempt to test a new design for a research project I’m working on – however these have been done on the ever-reliable Up! Plus 2 3D printers, not my useless Solidoodle Press! What a difference it makes…

Without going into specific details (the hush hush clause!) it was a great example of how important it is to test your ideas in the real world, you can’t rely on just what you see on screen and in your imagination. Each concept attempts to solve “the problem” in a slightly different way, and in fact the solutions we thought would work best didn’t, and the obscure ones that we didn’t really think would work very well have proven to be the best and are now evolving into the next stage of development. Without testing these we would never know, and could’ve invested a lot of time and money into something that wouldn’t have worked at all. So as the title says, prototype or fail.

Thanks to 3D printing it is very cheap and quick to test ideas, something that not so long ago may have taken a lot of time, skill and effort to make by hand, and thus limited the extent to which an idea could be explored. Having experienced these situations in professional practice where only a select couple of concepts could be squeezed into the budget (with plenty of kicking and screaming from clients), it’s amazing to now experience just how quick numerous ideas can be tested, with the above prototypes printed in an afternoon and analysed the next day in a 1 hour meeting. Done. We can move onto the next stage very quickly and with a lot of confidence in our direction.

– Posted by James Novak


Generative Design Experiments

Test LineupFor a while I’ve been interested in the idea of generative design – where 3D CAD files can automatically generate endless forms in response to certain inputs from the user, or through algorithms or random events. Today I’ve started playing with a free piece of software called Genoform which plugs into Solidworks, along with Rhino or Inventor. You can see how powerful it is from the images above; the top left form is my original creation in Solidworks, and the other 25 are the outcome of a few seconds of processing by Genoform. Talk about concept generation in the blink of an eye!

This is the first time I’ve seen something like this that works with Solidworks, and it looks as if you can get right into the detailed settings to control certain dimensions, and only allow a set few to change between iterations. Very powerful, and quite exciting in terms of the future of CAD software. Certainly reminds me of the great work being done by nervous system and their online tools for customising 3D printable designs. If you haven’t seen their work, I highly recommend checking it out and even downloading some of their designs from Thingiverse to 3D print yourself.

– Posted by James Novak

Back to Basics – Origami

2014-12-15 OrigamiSometimes it pays to step away from all the fancy technology (3D printers, laptops, CAD) and revive an old problem solving tool like origami. This is such a fast way to illustrate what I’d like to achieve with the 3D prints I’ve been playing with (see the last post and video here). Now to try and replicate this simplicity in something that can be 3D printed and controlled… Challenge accepted!

– Posted by James Novak

Moving Parts (with Updated Video)

After yesterdays test, I’ve made some modifications to the model and am quite pleased with the result. Rather than dealing with support material I’ve instead separated the pieces as independent parts, using snaps to bring them together. As you can see there is a lot of movement, and while it’s not exactly what I expected, it’s a good outcome that I’m going to keep pursuing. It reminds me of some of the work by Nervous System.

I have also made a simple frame to try and control the movement to be more like the facade of the Al Bahr Towers that originally inspired this experiment (read the first post here). It’s far from perfect, but definitely making steps in the right direction.

– Posted by James Novak

Tis the Season to be Racing

141123 Mario KartIt’s that holly jolly time of year again, and this time I’m skipping the crowds! Although my own 3D printer is yet to arrive (I jumped on the early discount of the Solidoodle Press, before realising they hadn’t actually made them yet! But shipping is due any week now!), I’m keen to make something one-of-a-kind for my family this year.

Some families play football, others compete by cooking or simply buying the best presents. If the picture hasn’t already given it away, Mario Kart is the ultimate competitive game in my family; even my technology challenged mum learned to pick up a Wii remote and take us on a few years ago! So it’s high time we had something to play for other than bragging rights.

I’ve purchased some small toys of each character (we all play with a unique character) and am currently modelling a trophy which will combine 3D printed pieces and some timber. The toys can then be placed in the ranked stands after a marathon session, serving as a reminder of who is supreme… until the next race. I’ll start 3D printing the pieces this week (probably about  15-20) so stay tuned.

– Posted by James Novak

Ctrl+z – the most important rendering tool

141116 Band RenderingIt’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to work on some quick and fun concept renders, and thought I’d briefly share the process I use. As mentioned in an earlier post, I like to make life simple where I can, so I start by doing a lot of quick sketches, then take the best ideas and trace over a template to ensure all concepts will be the same size. I use a few different felt-tips for the final linework, at least 2 different sizes (0.8mm and 0.2mm).

I then scan these into Photoshop, since I can’t survive without Ctrl+z! It’s then just a matter of building up layers, using my secret weapon (an old but still awesome media tablet). I’ve found this the best way to get that sketchy marker look, and simply erase the overflow. Once you get into the digital world, it can be hard to remember that concepts shouldn’t look finished – you don’t need perfectly smooth gradients like a CAD render (well, that’s my opinion anyway!). Save the big guns for later. A few shortcuts like ‘shift-clicking’ to erase or colour in straight lines are a must.

As everything comes together I like to add a layer over the top to add some highlights, and sometimes a layer for texture can help add another dimension – easy to download an image and overlay onto the sketch. Add in a background, or in this case a simple reflection of the product, and voila!

There’s a million different ways to present concept sketches, what’s your weapon of choice?

– Posted by James Novak

First Project, First Post

Kite Fin MeasurementAs the first post on this blog I thought I’d just jump straight in with what I’m working on right now. Being a kitesurfer I’ve been dying to find the time to try 3D printing some new parts to test out on the water. It begins today! I thought I’d start with the fins since they’re a nice manageable size for the small desktop printers at uni (starting with the ‘Up! Plus 2’).

The first tests will be similar to the original fin to compare how it holds up in the water compared to the original (Liquid Force GTS 2.0). Some of this will certainly come down to the print orientation to minimise the chances of de-laminating while skimming across the shallows and scraping the sand. I’m also thinking about using an acetone finish to help bind and smooth the outside surface when I get this printed in a few days. Some of my students have started trialling this with success, so worth considering.

If it works, the next step will be to experiment with the fin geometry. I’m definitely expecting some spectacular crashes on the water through this process, but that’s half the fun!

– Posted by James Novak