We left off last week at my first hurdle I needed to overcome, which left me dead in the water. It wasn’t until I spoke with a friend who suggested 3D printing, which would fling the door open on the iteration process. I knew about 3D printing but had written it off because I didn’t want a plastic tool. But that was the problem. I was getting stumped on the material! My friend told me it doesn’t matter what the material is when iterating, especially since it’ll save me money to print several versions in plastic.
The next task was to figure out a 3D program I could use to mock the tool up. I first looked to Autodesk because it’s the most well known. They had two free options, TinkerCad and 123D. I started with TinkerCad, which is probably the most approachable of the two. After a few hours piddling around, I was satisfied with my first mock up. I uploaded it to Shapeways and a couple weeks later, like magic, I get a physical thing in the mail!
The first lesson I learned was about size. I knew when I saved it, I didn’t really have a good feel for how big it was going to be; and sure enough when it arrived, it was rather small. Manipulating three dimensional objects has always come second nature to me. I’m a kinesthetic learner, and can master quickly anything I need to use my hands to learn. So I was surprised when it took me a while to really get my bearings with 3D software. I think the difference is: even though the object I’m creating will ultimately be 3D, I’m working and perceiving it in a two dimensional way. But I guess calculating in the learning curve is all part of the iterating process.
The second lesson I learned right away was about material. I decided to print it in stainless steel because that was one of the materials Shapeways had available, and I figured, why not? Since it was ultimately what I wanted the tool to be made in, and I just wasted a month banging my head against a wall about it. I’m glad I did, because I learned that it wasn’t a good option to print in stainless steel as it’s 1) expensive and 2) has major printing constraints: I was not able to make the arms thin enough to really be pliable.
Lastly, the shape did not allow enough room for the arms to be manipulated around a stem. Back to the drawing board I went.
I decided to mock up the next version using 123D, just to try out that software. It took me even longer to figure out how to use that, and I did not do as good a job as with the TinkerCad. It’s also pretty powerful software, probably too much for my poor, first generation 11” Macbook Air to handle. However, I did have an idea for how big the tool was going to be this time. The shape changed in order to make the tool work the way I had envisioned.
I made the arms on this model as thin as Shapeways would allow me to print. This time I printed it in a few different materials, just to see what the difference would be. I tried stainless steel once more because I like wasting money. As it turns out, it was still too stiff to really be pliable. I also printed it in a soft plastic, which was far too soft; and a hard plastic, which was juuust right.
I was pretty happy with the shape and size of the hard plastic version and having a hard time thinking how to make it better. It was a simple design, it worked the way I wanted it to. I showed it to friends and no one had any real feedback except, what else does it do?
Which made me think, what else should it do? What if it could do more? I know the whole point of the tool was to be a simple one-function kitchen tool, but if it had more than one function, wouldn’t it then be more valuable?
Maybe it was because I was reading 1984 at the time, but I like to call this next phase “overthink”.
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