Task: Make 3 hardware sketches that move 1, 10 and 100 mm. Use indirect human actuation inspired by junk laying around the house.
Honourable mention goes to Preeti Vyas for sitting on a call with me while we constructed our sketches together. We created a feel of a “real” lab experience that was much needed for the sharing of ideas and creative flow.
Moving something 1 millimetre is pretty minute. In order to do so, I set up a ball release system that will move the end of a tape measure off a table ledge by 1mm. There was stored energy in the ball rolling down the ramp as well as the weight of the back of the tape measure to pull the end off the table once hit. At 13 seconds in the video (below), you can closely see the edge of the tape measure on the table carefully placed at 1mm on the edge, just barely hanging on.
Ball, string, wood planks, push pins, measuring tape, tables & boxes
Searching around my house for different materials, I found a few pieces of wood, a ball, and was trying to figure out what to do with them. Gravity worked in my favour when knocking the tape measure off the table when it was set up in a precarious hanging spot. I combined the pieces of wood to form a ramp (a little narrower than the width of the ball) to hit the tape measure. A solution I came up with for the ball release was pretty last minute — I needed a way to film and release the ball at the same time, so I made a release system with the chopstick and some string.
This sketch would probably end up in the “minutes” or “hours” level of sketching as defined by Moussette’s “levels of sketching” taxonomy. It did take a bit of time to think about how I wanted movement to happen, and referred to some YouTube videos for inspiration with gravity. In the end it was still a low fidelity sketch and took minimal physical construction effort (most of the materials are leaning or balanced in some way), but more time in the ideation and testing phases. Additionally, this is the smallest metric of movement in this lab, so I thought it would be fun to try and have a large action perform a small movement :).
If I were to take this design a little bit further, I would work on the accuracy of the ball release and hitting of the tape measure. While mostly reliable in accomplishing the intended movement, this prototype was very unstable due to the lack of stable construction. This was an effective sketch, but in a next iteration I would secure the wood planks, string around the chopstick, and get a non bouncy ball for a bit more consistency.
For the 10mm movement I aimed to use materials that were unique and afforded an exact movement of 10mm. I recently bought some vintage glassware and they came with a lucite cup/can holder. I attached two pens to the side of the drink holder and suspended the drink holder underneath a chair over a piece of paper. By twisting the drink holder, I stored energy in the string to raise and lower the pens to draw a picture (albeit not that pretty of a picture). The pens were able to move exactly 10mm up and down repeatedly with the stored energy.
Chair, pens, pipe cleaners, vintage drink holder, string, chopstick, tape
This movement was inspired by a kids drawing exhibit at a science museum I used to visit. Using gravity and twisting actuation to draw fun patterns was my aim with this one. By suspending the round drink holder over a piece of paper, I was able to draw curvy lines with pens. To set it up the 10mm movement, I twisted the drink holder handle to wind up the strings and released it to being the actuation. I measured the string while twisted and before releasing it to ensure the tips of the pens were suspended exactly 10mm over the paper, so as the strings untwisted, the tips of the pens would brush against the paper and back up again.
This sketch would also be in the “minutes” or “hours” level of sketching. The main pain point I reached with this design was how to ensure the pens stayed in place. If I were to implement this design again, I would secure the pens better so they would be able to draw more effectively. Sometimes the friction of the felt tip pens would stop the rotation of the drink holder, so I also had to ensure the pens were exactly touching the paper before setting up the movement system. One way to remedy this is to use slicker pens or even paint to do this type of movement. There also might be less resistance this way when the pens touch the paper, making the twisting action last a bit longer. And hopefully make a prettier picture.
The goal of this prototype was to move something 100mm. I cut half of a straw open to create a channel. I twisted up a pipe cleaner that had stored energy to project the marble to hit a banjo pick, ultimately moving the origami crane 100mm. The idea of the movement of a pinball machine helped me design this sketch.
Straw, pipe cleaner, marble, paper crane, banjo pick
This was the first prototype I sketched, but the hardest to get to work. As you can see in the video, the banjo pick that was balanced on the cut-off straw was finicky and sometimes wouldn’t stay upright. I aimed to provide enough force from the marble to push the banjo pick with the crane on top along the straw 100mm. Using a pipe cleaner as a spring, the pinball-esque wind up of the marble helped propel the origami crane on top.
This sketch would be within the “minutes” level of sketching. It was fairly easy to collect and construct the pieces for this prototype, but the quick construction time came with a price: instability. If I were to take this prototype a step further, I would secure the straw/channel to a surface so I do not have to hold it above the ground. I would also ensure the channel is wide enough for the banjo pick so it would not swirl around the straw.