At the very end of the first semester in my Interaction Design study we had a module called “digital fabrication”. The Goal of the model was to get to know various digital fabrication methods such as 3D printing, CNC machine and laser cutter together with graphic software.

The given end result of the course was a zoetrope as a group work based on given natural objects. Our group decided to focus on crystals.

Project Process

Very bad image of the process Looking back, our process was structured in the following way:

  1. Brainstorming
    • Mindmap
    • Sketching
  2. Research
    • Google search
    • Online articles
    • Videos/Pictures
    • Asking experts
    • Experiments to observe nature
  3. Moodboard
  4. Prototyping
    • Form prototyping
    • Production prototyping
    • 3D visualization
  5. Presentation
  6. Documentation
    • Taking photos
    • Generating GIFs
    • Make a PDF-Documentation
  7. Reflection

To keep the post short and condensed I won’t go into detail with every point but with the important ones.

Successes

Prototyping

We learned and saved a lot of time through prototyping. During our research we found out that crystals have a very strong structure of small crystals which are connected to each other. With some clay we wanted to figure out on which basic crystal form would give us a desired flexibility to create different end forms and would be easy to reproduce at the same time. The second prototype was to find out how we can make a mass production of small crystals. We tried it with a silicon mould filled with resin but this gave us terrible results so we decided to go with plexiglas and the laser cutter. The 3D visualization was very helpful at the end of the module when we were running out of time. It’s so fast and easy but alone (without i.e. 3D printing) it is probably not the best solution because it’s very and isolated way. Also during this course we made many 3D print experiments to find out what is doable with this kind a method.

Pressure in the last days

It took us a long time to figure out what we wanted to make as the zoetrope. At the last two days we didn’t have anything made but we handled it very well and had our best ideas during that time.

Reflection

Not everything went as we desired. But after the end presentation we sat together and reflected the last two weeks. It was very honest and direct. We talked about our process but also about some personal tensions. So I think this was one of our greatest success of this module.

Failures/Things learned

Project management

I’m not a fan of planing everything especially when your work doesn’t have a certain purpose to serve somebody. But in our project we didn’t plan anything. Especially the splitting of the task was a big waste of time. But more about that on a separate section… Next time we should take a step back and plan or think before we jump right into the work.

Brainstorming

I wasn’t happy with our brainstorming sessions. It wasn’t open, it wasn’t easy and so the end results weren’t really satisfying. In another project I would recommend to take more time, get into a comfortable environment, structure it more and define some very strict rules.

Presentation

It needs time, preparation and some space to breathe to have a good presentation. We didn’t have anything of that. Of course it probably is like this every time but if I could choose I would focus on that. Maybe it also would have been possible to plan some time for that but honestly I’m not very optimistic that this would be possible.

Splitting up tasks

We decided from one task to the other what to do. As mentioned before there wasn’t any plan (which again is not necessary a bad thing). When we had a big task (i.e. documenting growing salt crystals through a time lapse video) we split it up into very small tasks and worked on the big thing at the same time. This caused that we often had to wait till the other person was ready to and so we wasted a lot of time. Also some more creative tasks we did it together all the time. For sure, it depends on the persons you work with but in our example we more or less were braking our creativity. Instead of doing every big task together it would have been better to split up the work in big tasks in which we can work simultaneously. We did that on our last productive days and it changed not only productivity but also the quality and creativity in our work.

End result

In the end we made three zoetropes. All of them were made at the last two days!

First one are three small crystals which are adopting to each other at their edges. Made in Cinema 4D and printed with the 3D printer. Birdie Zoetrope

The second on was also made in Cinema 4D and represents a scaled version of shape memory metal. In this metal you can see the connected crystals which jump back to their original form. Structure Zoetrope

The third one shows our initial ideas of crystals which you can place on an object and it will be rebuild on the zoetrope. The small were cut out by the laser printer and assembled by a lot of hand work. Crystalclear Zoetrope

Conclusion

The end results are looking quit nice. But it was a lot of distraction and loss of quality and creativity caused by our messy methodology.