Archive for August, 2008


Project Post-Mortem

August 31, 2008

To wrap up the last project, and get ready for the next one, a proper post-mortem to figure out what happened.

To put it bluntly, I didn’t like how my presentation went. I think the project really needed more time, and that time I had ended up misallocated thanks to some shoddy planning on my part. Lets go through some feedback I got from the reviewers and other classmates:

1. The model backpack I made was nice, but could have used some more work on certain things.

2. Most of the work I did ended up more on the engineering side of things, and even that didn’t quite have enough work put into it.

3. Needed more work on Ergonomics

4. Boards were hard to read in parts where colors overlapped.


And, honestly the reviewers were right – I did spend far too much time on the engineering side of things, but in my defense, in a way, I kinda had to. If I had an engineer on my team working with me, sure, that would have been their concern, but I was told to tackle a problem that had a large amount of ‘how it works involved, and I wasn’t quite comfortable working on ergonomics of the pack when there was such a gaping hole in the plan, such as “how the things fit together”. As not to be completely depressing, It isn’t without its lesson – in the future, an approach closer to Wes’ (leaving the mechanical details in the air to some extent, and use some awesome computer renders to distract the reviewers) may work better.

I think the model backpack was what killed me – scratch that, I know its what killed me. When I have roughly half a week to go from vague concept to presentation, I just didn’t have time to be in the shop chiseling out a backpack from a block of sign foam, nor the time to spend another 5 hours gluing fabric on said block. With another week, that would have been a valid addition to my presentation, without some of the corner-cutting, such as proper-looking padding for the ergonomic people, and perhaps some more care taken when gluing to allow for an ‘open’ view or something. Unfortunately, a lesser model wasn’t possible, ignore fabric and you have an ugly brick of sign foam, ignore the sign foam and you have a hopelessly complicated sewing job. The route I probably should have gone would be a nice render of sorts, but since building a good computer model is, once again, nearly impossible for fabric in the programs I have in my skill set, marker would probably have been the way to go, allowing me more time to work on other more important issues. But, alas, I’m not sure my marker skills are up to the task – yet another thing to add to my to-work-on list.

As for boards, I was quite disapointed with them – I had such awesome plans, but just plain-old ran out of time – despite only stopping work between Wednesday and Friday for classes on Thursday and 3 hours of sleep Friday morning. Didn’t help that most of that was spent gluing fabric on a brick of sign foam, but yeah, we’ve been over that. Next time more planning is in order, with the hope that something nice’ll come out of it.



Time is of the essence… Lunchtime doubly so.

August 29, 2008

Its 9:15. I’m not ready. I am supposed to be sleeping right now.

I’ll be ready though – just one bit more to tweak on the solidWorks model, and I”ll have that finished, then just some photoshop and putting it into my boards (mostly formatted. Just need to put in the content.) I didn’t put the care and attention I was planning on putting into my boards, but I’ve utilized a couple tips and tricks to hopefully make them a bit more interesting. The story of this project I guess – given the 2 week time frame, we only have 2-3 days to make stuff – I thought I’d have plenty of time, but the everything takes longer, and this was an especially bad case of that, particularly my physical model. That was supposed to be a quick form realization, but it ended up taking me all night plus what time I had between classes yesterday, until about 7:00 PM. I’ve been working on this project non-stop since Wednesday morning, taking a 3 hour nap earlier this morning, but besides that, no major breaks. And I’m still not getting everything done like I should.

Time is of the Essence – Lunchtime doubly so. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds funny right now, and thats pretty much all that matters.



Mid-project report:

August 28, 2008

Hours awake: 33 and counting

Mountain Dews/Vaults consumed: 7ish?, with an estimated caffeine content of 840 mg caffeine, adjusted for volume.

Parts checked off my to-do list: None recently.

Form model is still incomplete, with an estimated 2 hours left of laying fabric down with Super 77 and hot glue.  I have 21.5 hours until due date, and assuming some sleep (didn’t get any last night for the sole purpose of getting some tonight), that gives me 14 of so hours of work left, estimate 12 hours once I’ve done some driving back and forth from home and eaten some food at some point.

so, 2-3 hours for the appearance model,

2-3 for the computer model of the internal frame, 1-2 hours for the model of the internal latch system.

leaves me 4 or so for my boards and photoshop, which isn’t a lot considering the amount of work I want to put into it. I may have to cut back on some sleep, but again, I’d prefer not to. We’ll see how all this goes – there is a possibility I’m doing better than I think I am on several counts, but I’m not going to bank on it. Being coherant for the presentation is a good thing though – I should make that a priority.

Back to work.



And a Project in a Pear Tree….

August 28, 2008

I enjoy this part of the studio project the most perhaps – Most of the uncertainty has been ironed out of the design, and most of what is left is the little detail bits to make it look finished and cool, and then prepare all the needed models to describe the design and get it ready for presentation. I spent lots of money on fabric and zippers today, and the sad part perhaps, is that I spent more on materials for a form model (fabric laminated over sign foam), then I did on my current backpack.

Making a foam model isn’t all that hard – you start with a foam block, and take away everything that doesn’t look like a backpack. Horribly overused sayings aside, I basically spent 5 hours with a chisel and hammer, knocking off pieces until it didn’t look like a block of sign foam any more. I haven’t started covering it with fabric yet, but I’ll have some of that done before the morning sun pokes over the horizon. Did I mention that I started writing this post at 11:00 on Wednesday, and am finishing it at 5:30 on Thursday? The model hasn’t gone quite as fast as I hoped it would, but its coming along, so I’m happy. After the model is finished, I have one more model to make out of Styrene (a model of the fastener system), and then comes the SolidWorks model of the frame, followed by some photoshop to play with the model photos – compositing, color adjusting, etc. Once all that is sorted, I”ll finally get down to my boards, preferably before late night tonight, so I can get some sleep and be ready for a presentation.

And, off I go to walmart to get a cut of a more tame accent color, and try to track down a fabric that looks suspiciously like a mesh that you’d find on padding – I’ve been mostly ignoring the side of the pack that interacts with the human, I should probably whip up some straps and padding. Oh – and one of the zippers I bought is too long. Here’s hoping Walmart has what I need, since nowhere else is open… may have to rearrange my to-do list order of operations.



Sleep deprivation is now an approved design technique.

August 26, 2008

Not sure what it was, but I tried going to sleep over an hour ago – but something clicked on my design, and now I can’t get to sleep. I’ve now got a pretty good idea of what my design will look like, and have a schedule of what I need to get done when to avoid killing myself at the last minute.

If you know anything about my normal design style, this is not it. I typically just go at it until I run out of time, but I figured I needed to get this stuff started if I want to get what I need to get done this week done. (editor’s note: I’m relatively certain that made sense. However, as previously stated, I’m sleep deprived. When you read it, assume it means what I’m assuming you will think it means). Add the complication that I don’t want to be up all night Thursday (nothing to do with the football game, I’m perfectly fine with missing it for the cause), but I want to be alive after my presentation…

I think I’ve solved my troubles of how the boxes will attach to the frame (oh yeah, I decided to go on hard boxes in a soft case, with the added complication of an internal, probably aluminum, frame to hold the boxes where they should be). A bit more hardware added to a generic design should hold the boxes in place, with a simply designed spring holding the hardware in that position until you press in as sliding… its a bit hard to describe with text, but I’ll have sketches.

On the agenda for tomorrow is: Enough sketches to establish a final design direction, a model of the joinery, a model of a box, and begin on a solidworks model of the frame (with a simple geometry of the overall bag built over that to establish the size of a blank for my physical model).

Wednesday morning shalt be shopping morning, wherein I will run around buying stuff like a suburbanite on the day after thanksgiving, after which I will begin my models – gluing up a basic blank in sign foam (or pink, not quite decided – pink would be easier to work with, but lacks on strength – its cheaper, and with a coat of bondo it would be )roughly equivilant, but lighter…. hmm, will think on this more.), and get it to a rough shape. By the time I work in the evening (Yay, work in the shop. perfectly timed to wipe out an important evening), I’d hope to have it near to the point of sculpting basic details onto it – afterwards, its a long night of making the physical model.

Where from there depends – Thursday will be boards and further modeling if needed – I’d like to have a physical model of the frame as well as in SolidWorks, but SolidWorks would suffice in a pinch for time. Depending on how the boxes go (I’ve been informed that PETG, the plastic of which I have a healthy supply thanks to the Facilities people, doesn’t melt together with normal solvent cements – this would complicate any lasercut + glued together box design, which limits me to less friendly materials, or longer processes), I may want a couple of those functional too, to fit on any physical frame I have. Slightly on the unrealistic side, and I don’t know what they’d add to the presentation, unless they’re exceptionally well done.

Now to see if I’ve gotten that out of my system sufficiently enough to get some sleep – given that I need to get up way to bright and early tomorrow to get to Alias at 8:00… I sure hope so.



Musings on the project

August 25, 2008

In an attempt to get myself working on my project at some time before tomorrow morning, I figured I’d write a bit about what I’m working on, and what I’m working towards.

I’m designing a backpack – the point of which is to eliminate my need for my current backpack and the various toolboxes I end up carrying around because the backpack doesn’t carry what I need it to carry. Sounded easy enough, but then comes the hard part – designing more than a fabric bag that happens to fit little plastic cases. I’m also not a giant fan of hardshell backpacks, so I was hoping to avoid those too.

Some of the ideas I was thinking about:

1. Expanding fabric pack, modular hard cases.

This train of thought is a direct hybrid of the two inspirations for project, a plastic toolbox and a fabric backpack. With the addition of an internal frame to the backpack for support, my thought was to build a set of boxes that attach to that frame, inside of an exterior ‘skin’ of fabric that would be much like a standard backpack. I thought about using some tensioning system on the fabric skin to allow it to expand to a needed size, if you needed to add more boxes – either tensioning it outwards (think fabric laundry hamper with a coiled wire inside the rim to keep it standing, yet can be folded down flat), or in (fabric can expand to its maximum size, but has elastic bands keeping it to the size of whatever is in it).

This design direction has me a bit on the uneasy side, since it seems to be the most obvious and direct option I have. As a direct hybrid of the problem causing items, it tends to be less innovative, but comes with some problems from tossing the two original designs in the same general space and seeing how they fight it out. Its there in case I need it, but it depends on how it all sorts out.

2. Soft cases, soft backpack.

I’m a bit uncertain about this one, and some research may be in order, but thinking about the original toolbox, I’m not certain all the toughness of the bins and whatnot are required for most uses. Unless I’m carrying unprotected exacto knives, most everything could deal with a simi-hard case. This spawned another generation of the idea, that also solves the hard cases + soft shell problem – some sort of skeleton of plastic + wire that can fold flat, but when given the space it needs, springs to shape, complete with fabric dividers and holds what you need it to hold. Keeping stuff in the bins as the backpack gets knocked around may be a bit difficult, but with some fasteners, I’m sure that’d be perfectly reasonable. Designed right, this could have signifigant resistance to deformation from certain directions, protecting things from being crushed if weight was applied… but this could use some study-modeling and playing around with materials to figure out.

3. Hard Shell + case

Most akin to projecting a toolbox form and function onto a backpack shape, this is also not exactly the most original solution, and probably the least versitile – But put some sort of system for attaching boxes of stuff into a hard shell backpack, and you have a functional backpack that has modular boxes that can hold whatever. Disadvantages include the limitation of what fits in a hard shell, and the backpack is the same size all the time. This also tends to be slightly less eco-friendly then the other options, in that it uses more materials that are less renewable, but it retains the modular advantage, and the durability//repairability factor.

Anyways, thats what I’m thinking.



“Creating an illustrated look from a photgraph”

August 23, 2008

And, for a first tutorial, I wanted to play with the brush in photoshop, coupled with my laptop, which happens to be a Tablet. Below are my results… not the most stunning, but may be applicable when creating a storyboard from photos, and looking for something besides the pictures, or allowing you to abstract out unnecessary and distracting details. Leaving it at a line drawing (sans shading), and it looks pretty cool too.

Enjoy, comments, etc?