The Flower Caddy & Other Stories of Fabrication

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Wow. Survived my first month of school. I love it. It’s hard. I am out of practice. To be perfectly honest, it felt like I was just barely treading water this last month. After a relaxing summer with my kids, my world went from 0 to 100 flash.

September 4th was my first day of school. Over the summer I heard about some changes in programming, and right away I wanted to learn more about the Digital Modeling and Fabrication (DMF) Program. Before I knew it, I had met most of the IYRS staff, and had many meetings about switching from Composite Technology to DMF. The faculty and staff were incredibly helpful while I debated which program to move forward with. Ultimately I made the switch to DMF, and I know I made the right decision.

While I was starting off on my new path, my kids were starting school the next day, 4th and 6th grade. Soccer, dance, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts were also starting up that week. In August they were bored, no one is bored anymore… Together we all went through a whirlwind of school supplies, alarm clocks, bedtimes, practices, games, and homework. I’ve heard it takes three weeks to get into a routine. Those felt like the busiest three weeks of my life.

Now it’s October, and everyone is just as busy, but somehow, it feels more manageable. The first DMF project is complete and we all seem to be adjusting… at least most of the time.

Classes began right away, Design Principles, SolidWorks, and Machine Shop. Machine Shop is so much harder than it should be, I haven’t worked with hand tools before. We’re learning how to make products by hand. Learning the importance of process, technique, and precision before we integrate the technology. I really like learning how to use tools, it’s a skill set I definitely do not have. I haven’t used tools since middle school tech-ed…and it shows. It’s a bit of love/hate right now in the shop. I love learning it, I hate that it take me so long to do everything, and in the end, my work still doesn’t look good. I guess it’s like everything else and practice is key.  However, if you’ve never chiseled anything before in your life, and your first task is to chisel four, perfectly square, wooden joints, you’ll likely spend a lot of time practicing.. and it is incredibly frustrating,

SolidWorks

SolidWorks is the software we are starting with for 3D modeling, a parametric modeling program. I’m pretty computer savvy and have taught myself programs like Illustrator and Inkscape in the past, but this is entirely different. Measurements have to be precise, or your model will not work. This is also challenging, but I’m much more confident that I will figure it out in time. Lots of new terminology and processes, but it’s all coming together. I’ve been able to successfully model some simple parts, and I’m understanding the fundamentals of SolidWorks. Still challenging, and so much better than the chisel…

Design Principles

Design Principles is the third course right now. I was pretty sure we’d be combining SolidWorks, the laser cutter, and some hand tools to create our first project.  I was right.  We started with exploring materials and simple modeling in paper and cardboard.  The first project was to make a cell phone caddy.  What?  A cell phone caddy?  Who uses a cell phone caddy?  Has to be better than the chisel, but I wasn’t sold…

Cell Phone Caddy

The assignment – Model a cell phone caddy in SolidWorks that would be cut out on the laser cutter. It was hard to come up with an concept I liked, since I doubted that anyone would actually use a cell phone caddy. I removed my skepticism from the situation, and decided I would try to make something decorative that a cell phone could sit it. Not the easiest way to learn parametric modeling software, but I was bound and determined not to make an ugly caddy.

My original paper iteration morphed into a model that looked like a flower, and I knew I would be able to laser cut a cardboard prototype. For about a minute I was feeling good about my idea, and then found out the final iteration of the caddy would be in acrylic. Acrylic doesn’t have the flexibility that cardboard has… how was this going work? Turns out that you can bend acrylic with a heat gun, great!  I could still make my flower caddy, now it’s just have to figure out how to shape acrylic…

SolidWorks Model

Cardboard Iteration (so close, yet so far..)

Bringing the Heat! Shaping Acrylic

The Flower Caddy!

There’s the caddy, after many iterations, design changes, flimsy cardboard, and cracked acrylic, I did it! I wish it looked better, but looking back and thinking about how I’ve never done anything like this before, I feel a little better about it.  It’s functional, and while I’ll probably never put my phone in it, it’s doing a great job holding up my kids’ school pictures on my workbench.