Friday, 15 April 2011

Comments on Peer Projects

As a final input on this project, I'd like to provide some links to some awesome projects by my classmates!  I left some comments on their individual blog pages, as well, but you should definitely see all the great work that my peers have generated!

Marco Tallarida:
Jen Jun Zhu:
Gleb Labazine:
Nicholas Baroni:
Alfred Boyadgis:

I attempted to post a comment on Alfred's blog, but I had technical difficulties and the site would not allow for it for some reason.  So, here's my intended comment, and you should still check out his great work:
"Alfred, your final model is simply amazing!  I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of seeing such a large-scale model with such fine craft and detail.  Your orthographic drawings are extremely detailed as well--very nice work.  The one thing I wish I could see more of is your process mock-ups and sketches along the way--you did all this work over the 7 weeks and you should show if off so that people can see what you designed along the way and where the design changes happened, so that we can understand even better.  Great project overall, though!"

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Reflection on "BlizzyBody" Project

Reflection on Project:
                Coming into this project, I really had never had any experience with designing for a specific culture of people, or rather a subset of a culture, if you want to be that specific.  I really didn’t know much at all about Chinese customs and responses to heavy snow and blizzards, but this project forced me to research and learn more about China (as well as Afghanistan and Iran, before our group switched to China).  Now, after finishing this project, I can not only describe to you the appearances of Chinese houses in specific regions and provinces, whether it be rural or urban, but I can even tell you that washing machines in urban China are nearly universal, as I’ve learned that just about every family in developed areas has a washing machine.  I can also describe that within a couple of decades into the past, this universal status of ownership of washing machines was not the case, and instead more traditional clothes-washing methods were used along with community-owned washing machines.  In addition to cultural values that I’ve gained from new perspectives that have arisen from this project, I have also learned a great deal about blankets, electric blankets, heating elements within electric blankets, and even that electric blankets in our modern day can be washed in a washing machine on gentle cycle or by hand.  In terms of my overall reflection, my biggest worry during the project was over the possibility of a removable cover for the blanket I was designing.  It would be a great idea to be able to remove an exterior quilt cover for the blanket in case it got dirty, so that you didn’t have to wash the entire thing, but I soon discovered that this removable cover idea would be very impractical for the user.  With the sheer size of the blanket, a blanket which is very flimsy and has no real physical definition, it is very awkward and frustrating to try to get a blanket of that size back into a cover after removing and washing.  At the same time, there would be no need for this cover, since the electric blanket itself can be washed, and the industry designs according to a set standard—I contemplated for a very long time whether or not a design change would be more costly to my design, since I would have to hire a company perhaps to develop a new system for my new product.  I think the overall takeaway for me is that sometimes, no matter how good an idea could be, you need to adhere to the simple minimum which made the idea so good in the first place, or else you’ll convolute your design and people may not even want to use it.  I think I’m learning more and more that there’s a very fine line between, “hey, that would be great”, and “feature creep” (adding features that overcomplicate and muddy the original design).

Rationale for the "BlizzyBody" Project

Rationale for Project:

The reason for design and development of the “BlizzBody”, an electric blanket powered by piezoelectric charging, is to aid blizzard victims and any and all people who suffer from hypothermia and sever cold conditions in China during winter peaks (as well as any part of the world, for that matter).  In recent years, central and southern regions of these Chinese mainland have experienced increased winter weather activity, including heavy snowstorms and blizzards.  In urban areas near the south such as Guizhou and even Guangdong, electrical outages during blizzards and snowstorms can last up to even two to three weeks, meaning families must find a way to heat themselves and stay warm—without electrical outlets.  Almost everything that people use in modern society to heat themselves tends to be something that relies on electricity through outlets, but what happens when a family is snowed in (unable to leave the home and stranded with what supplies they have) and without electricity for extended periods of time?  Though they are indoors, the fierce wintery weather is too much for ordinary households to insulate long-term against (especially in Guangdong where heavy snow is a rare sight, though increasingly common in recent years due to Chinese government weather alterations via weather rocket dispersals).
            This is where the “BlizzyBody” comes in.  It relies on the piezoelectric effect, converting pressure from human input—such as squeezing a hand actuator or pressing down on a foot pedal—into electrical current.  “BlizzyBody”, a blanket measuring 1.5 meters by 1.12 meters, is an electric blanket with an interior lining of MPET (metallized polyethylene terephthalate), much like “space blankets”, that insulates body heat.  But where the “BlizzBody” improves upon competitor products is it allows you not only to insulate but also to generate heat…sometimes insulation on its own just isn’t enough.  Another main strength is that it comes with two actuators, either of which can be used by hand or foot, so that families can share the blanket together—while sharing body heat under the blanket—and charge it even faster.  This is designed ideally for those in urban Chinese areas affected by snowstorms and blizzards who are without electricity for extended periods of time, though it could be marketed towards any part of the world with similar winter woes.

Final Poster for "BlizzyBody"

Orthographic Drawings for the "BlizzyBody" Blanket

Storyboard Scenario for the "BlizzyBody"

Photos of Final Model: Piezoelectric Blanket, "BlizzyBody"

I finished my final appearance model for the piezoelectric blanket, "BlizzyBody", today.  It's also somewhat of an operational model, as you can plug in cords and use the actuator to simulate what it would feel like to use this as a real product.  The blanket itself is 1500 mm by 1120 mm (1.5 meters by 1.12 meters), about 1 centimeter thick, and it comes with a "transformer" that allows for 2 actuators to be used at once.

My idea is for the blanket to be used ideally by 2 people at once, sharing it (and sharing body warmth, too), with each person adding power to it by using either hands or feet.  The final design incorporates an actuator to power the blanket that can be used either as a hand-held actuator or as a foot-pedal actuator (one design suits both).  It comes with two of these actuators, each with a cord length of 1.5 meters, and each person using it has the choice of whether they want to power it by hand or foot.  At the same time, one person can choose to "dual-wield" and use one actuator in each hand, one in a hand and one under a foot, or etc.  The inner lining of the blanket is a silver fabric that is meant to simulate "space blanket" or "microtec" technology, specially designed lining that insulates body heat and slows down possible drops in body temperature.  Where the "BlizzyBody" surpasses space blankets, though, is the fact that it allows the user not only to insulate body heat but also to generate heat, no electrical outlet required.  With the "BlizzyBody", keep your hands or feet busy and you'll stay warm.
Wearing the "BlizzyBody", cords and actuator to right

Inner lining of blanket

This is where you plug in the actuator

It's small, but the smaller the better for washing purposes (the blanket can be washed in a washing machine on gentle/delicate cycle)--I also didn't want the plug to weigh down the blanket in any way

Cords along with an actuator

Two actuators--it comes packaged with two

The "transformer" with two sockets for actuators.  The white end of the cord is what you actually plug into the blanket, and the black cords from the actuators plug into these two blue sockets.

Here I am using the actuator by hand

Here I am using the actuator as a foot pedal

Roughly the size of a regular single-sized bed

Easily rolled up for storage or transportation

3-D Research: Heaps of Sketch Models and Toys

Throughout my design process for this project, three-dimensional models and things that you can actually feel, move, and play with have been a major part of my lines of thinking.  As you can see and read below, I did a combination of experimenting with found mechanical objects to see how they work and creating props from scratch to experiment with ergonomics, size, and shape.  I found myself going to cheap gift shops and similar stores for inspiration, buying tools and small appliances so that I could play with them and take them apart.  It was all just a day in the life of trying to figure out what the best piezoelectric actuator would be (what it would look like, feel like, and handle like).

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sketch Models

These are just a few of the sketch models that I've created for testing my ideas physically.  For a hand actuator for the electric blanket I'm designing, my first idea was to make something that you can squeeze, kind of like a balloon shape.  Sadly, I've realized that this probably would not work in a real situation, as the piezoelectric effect requires a more rigid material--the more rigid and more difficult it is to physically move the material, the more energy the piezo wires/film will create.  I'm thinking now more along the lines of exercise grips, a hand-held hole-puncher I found, and related objects for inspiration.  Other ideas that I tested in my models thus far are the option to have a removable cord/plug from the hand-actuator, a hand strap that you can wear so that you don't even have to exert any effort in holding the actuator, and different holding positions that are decided by the size and shape of the actuator.  I made several sizes and shapes of potential actuators out of green floral foam, putting emphasis in my testing on ergonomics of comfortably holding the form in the palm of your hand.

"BlizzyBody" Progress Poster

This is a progress poster that I created for my "BlizzyBody" concept, an electric blanket that uses piezoelectricity from hand-powered and foot-powered interfaces to heat a person's body.  As you can see below, some of my ideas include having a strap or belt that allows the user to secure the blanket to themselves, a snap-lock belt for tying the blanket into a rolled-up position for easy transport, and a hand-held actuator that you squeeze to generate electricity.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Visual Diary Pages for Designing for Disasters: Blizzards

Shown below are some pages from my visual diary relating to our designing for disasters project.  I'm designing a hand-powered, or alternatively foot-powered, piezoelectric blanket.  More info will come in the next few posts but for now you can see some of my ideas and explorations of product possibilities.

This post originally just contained a few of my visual diary pages, but I've recently scanned in all of the pages from my visual diary, so now you can see most of my ideas and research below (in reverse chronological order, so the first page is at the bottom and newest at the top).

Designing for Disasters: Blizzards

Here are some of my very first concepts relating to designing for disasters for IDES 3221 third-year studio.  Sorry they're a little bit late on my blog, as I actually drew them several weeks ago, but the first was a concept for protecting the face from frostbite (the nose and ears especially) and the second was a concept for protecting the feet from frostbite with inexpensive "bag" shoes.  The third concept was a GPS location device so that people stranded or lost outside in a blizzard could send out their location, making it easier for potential rescuers to find and save them.  My project has evolved significantly since then, and as you'll see in my next few posts, I'm designing something far different, called the "BlizzyBody".