Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Illinois Informatics and School of Information Sciences
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

Final Project – Grant Johnson

Q1:

For my final project I decided to construct a Bluetooth speaker. Some challenges I faced during this project include: Part shopping for the proper parts that would all work together and create a decent sound. Learning how to solder and using it to help add security to the internal wiring of the speaker. Figuring out how to power the speakers in an efficient/mobile way. Figuring out a well-designed layout for the housing/case that fits properly to help hold everything together. I’m proud of a couple different parts of my final work. I really like the aesthetic and physical design that I landed on for the final version and think that given a second go at it I could create an extremely cool looking exterior to the speaker. I also was just proud that I was able to get everything to work. I’ve never had a lot of experience with working electronics besides computers and it was cool to get a chance to mess with something set up so very differently.

 

Q2:

My learning goal for this project was perseverance – I wanted to try and take this project beyond the point of simply ‘being functional’ and make it visually interesting and finished looking. I think one thing I definitely took away in the making of my speaker was that perseverance takes a ton, ton, ton of time. Trying things out, looking at stuff in different ways, and really finalizing what you want your creation to be takes thinking and experimentation until you can’t take it anymore. I still think that I have yet to hit my peak level of perseverance – I didn’t quite end up with the final product I wanted by the time the showcase rolled around (I would have liked to have had reactive LEDs and button controls. I didn’t necessarily not meet these goals because I lack the skills to be able to take on the challenges I set for myself, it was more because I didn’t actually force myself to take the time and really try everything as much as I could. I think one thing that I could definitely benefit from more is documenting what my construction process will look like before-hand so that I can get a better idea of problems that may crop up in the process. I’ve also come to realize how much this helps you figure out what you can do at different substages and helps identify different problems you can tackle within projects while waiting on other things to get solved or become available. All that said, I’m still insanely happy with my final product. As stated earlier, I’ve never really messed with electronics much besides computers and it was fun to make something that’s more on the ‘analog’ electronic side of things because I think the simplicity of how stuff like that works is very interesting. I was also really happy with my ability to solidify this product in a very short time. I was in a huge time crunch at the end of the semester and the fact I was able to create a finished product within a week or two is crazy to me. My project is also meaningful to me for two different reasons – one, it’s my first ever Bluetooth speaker (I’ve never had one before) and I got to make it myself and decide how everything would work and what functions suit me. Two, this project (as well as the iteration project) has shown me how I can take all the stuff I’ve learned in this class, as well as others, and apply them to solving problems myself as opposed to hoping that a solution is created by someone else. This autonomy is really powerful in my eyes and something that I definitely want to foster in myself.

 

Q3:

I think there are probably two main things that I’ve built in myself over the course of the semester. The first, I would say, is the ability to get over my usual fears of talking to others and trying to have them give advice and/or help when I am trying to figure out an idea/project. The sense of community that gets fostered within a fab lab really is palpable and you realize very quickly how helpful it is to be surrounded by a community of people with similar goals/objectives as you, with skill levels across the spectrum in a broad range of topics. It’s also great to use other people as a way to figure out if what you’re trying to communicate or design is coming across in a way that makes sense or works. The second thing I think that I really gained over the semester is the ability to be unafraid to tackle a variety of different skills/crafts when approaching them from an exploratory place. There’s definitely a huge range of topics we cover in this course and I think that doing that allows people to look to even more varied skills and feel as though they have the ability to at least try something out because they know how to use the resources, tools, and documentation that can point them in the right direction. I think that the openness to at least try to learn different skills (and combine them over time) is something really beneficial that can be taken away from this class. I also think that I have built my confidence in my ability to fabricate and create things significantly. I’m an art minor so I’ve had opportunities to make tons of imaginative stuff, but never to design so thoughtfully and never to create more tangible, interactive objects. This confidence definitely makes me want to come back to making things more often in the future and taking on projects similar to those we did throughout this class.

 

Q4:

I think this course has definitely helped me feel more connected to my STEM side in some ways, which I really appreciated a lot. I first came to UIUC for CS and then switched after realizing I wasn’t nearly as prepared as a lot of people coming in. This class felt like it bridged the gap between that style of thinking and the styles of thinking I see in classes like my advertising classes or my art & design classes. Even before I took this course, I would probably describe myself as a maker – I enjoy creating my own things and realizing my own distinctions and personal needs and design principles. I think it has become harder and harder for people to describe themselves as makers as time has gone on, but that nearly everyone can take on the role should they choose to. Making is something that is totally within the grasp of anyone, you just need a lot of persistence, patience, and passion. I think this class (and this semester for me personally, as well) has spurred a lot of those three things in me. I’ve started to realize that you can easily fall into some role where none of those things are really an importance, but I personally enjoy the personal growth that can come out of trying to achieve these things. I do still agree with Papert that the most significant learning is hands-on and personally meaningful. I think this class has really shown that to me. I’ve created a ton of stuff in a very short time that’s honestly super cool and decently practical. I’ve seen this through other classes as well – the one’s where I’m making stuff that is going to benefit me and personify me definitely catch my attention the most and help me hold onto the things I’ve learned the best. I think that having the chance to just get your hands onto different things can really help you figure out how you feel about different topics and hobbies in a much quicker way than just reading about it or hearing about it. Answering tests is great and all, but actually being able to show the knowledge physically is really great as well. I also think that working with your hands also just allows more nuance to the learning process and gives you a bigger connection to what you’re working on.

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Textiles – Grant Johnson

During these weeks in lab we worked with textiles, sewing, and embroidery. I happened to also be in a fashion class this semester, so I was excited to get the opportunity to learn some new things that could add to my clothing construction repertoire. I’ve also never been around embroidery machines before, so that was an exciting prospect.

During the first week of this lab we had to make small drawstring bags. Since I missed the actual lab section, I ended up constructing this on my own at a separate time. I was definitely still getting a hang of dealing with the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides of fabric during this time and as you can see in the pictures, some of the parts of my bag ended up in the wrong spot. I decided to make the most of this and have a bag that has outer pockets instead of the lining that it was supposed to have. I decided to hand sew some parts of the bag for practice as well (although now that I know a little more I always try and avoid hand sewing). Making this bag actually ended up kind of helping me in my fashion class as well, later down the line. When making two whole(!) outfits  for my final project I needed some way to secure the waist of some shorts I planned on creating. I thought back to this assignment and realized I could make a similar drawstring (coming out of the sides of the shorts) that would both be functional, as well as stylistically unique.

The following week in lab, we learned to use the embroidery machines to sew vector images into fabric. This is something I’ve wanted to learn about and play with for a really long time since I draw and have created vector images in the past that I think would be really interesting to sew into clothes. In lab I got the opportunity to make myself the majority of a squirrel patch (side note: embroidery can be really time consuming). I was really impressed by how accurate and clean everything looked with my squirrel. I realized there were probably a ton of really cool things I could do for my final embroidery. I didn’t really experience any serious issues with this patch in lab, but when it came to making my final piece I ran into a totally different set of problems in making a patch work out, which I will discuss a little later.

Build Process

For my final textile product I decided I wanted something that could be useful to me and serve a function instead of something that just looked cool (especially since I was still working on upping my fabric craftsmanship). When I looked through all of my options I eventually came across a pencil bag that I thought would be super helpful because I’m always searching for all of my different art pens, pencils, and other tools which can be spread across my apartment, throughout my backpack, etc. With this bag I would be able to keep everything contained and in one place.

I immediately thought of a drawing I had done a while back that would make the perfect embroidery to put on it and I thought about all the extra clothes I had at my apartment that could possibly used for fabric. I ended up deciding on a tie-dye shirt as the fabric I would use for the outer lining. Once I started working on the actual bag, however, I realized all the mistakes I had unwittingly made. My original drawing, vectorized, turned out to be too much for the embroidery machines to handle. The file size was too large, even when trying to reduce the density of stitches, turn outlines into running stitches, or trying to simplify the vector image. This was a major bummer for me as I really wanted to see that image in fabric form. After I gave up and decided to create a new vector image I began starting into my patch for the outside lining. This is when I ran into even more problems!

I soon found that the embroidery machines don’t quite work with t-shirt material by itself, not matter how taut you get it on the hoop. The fabric I had cut from my t-shirt ended up getting sucked down into the bobbin pit and getting all caught up in everything. I decided to suck it up, cut a new piece (the last I could get out of the t-shirt), and try it again with some stabilizer. The stabilizer did help some, but with my specific design having the heavy filled areas, it still ripped and ended up letting the fabric get caught up in the machine again. I tried one more time to no avail and just decided to get my patch made so I could move on.

I grabbed a piece of canvas and started into it. One of the types of fabric I tried to use to embroidery immediately broke and I couldn’t get it to work no matter what I tried (it was pearlescent and I think it just wasn’t strong enough for the tension the embroidery machine needs). What happened then is still somewhat of a mystery to me. When I started into my canvas piece it was late into the night and I was unable to finish before the fab lab closed up. I left my machine until the next day and started back into the patch. Somewhere along the way it got unaligned which ended up being the final patch you see on my bag. I decided that I was fine with just using that patch to try and get this whole ordeal over with. As per usual, I decided to try and work with what I was given and decided to try and use the patch as a little pouch on the front of the bag, to help give it some utility. After attaching that to the outer lining I ironed some interfacing onto the outer lining to help give it some rigidity. I then attached my inner lining and a zipper to enclose the whole thing. My bag ended up being a little different than what the guide was looking for, but I like the way it looks personally and think it is much more unique than the standard pencil bag.

Final Reflection

I had a lot of trials and tribulations in the process of making these objects, but I think that’s a lot of what getting good with textiles takes — experimenting and trying things out until the process makes sense in your head. I definitely think I need to spend some more time around embroidery machines to try and really get my skills up to par there and test out how you can make different fabrics work out with them. I also think that designing projects to be cut into pieces and aligned later takes a certain level of organization skill and planning that I still might not be at yet. Either way, I was still really happy with the items I produced and plan on getting as much use out of them as possible. That’s one thing I really love about textiles — the opportunities are so limitless and it’s instantly gratifying to make an object that can serve some kind of real purpose for people.

I learned a lot about handling machines through these weeks and in conjunction with my fashion class, this time period was a time where I really upped my skills in textiles a visible (at least in my opinion) amount. Being able to figure out ways to turn mistakes into benefits was definitely a skill I pulled out of textile work quickly. I actually bought my own sewing machine recently due to how much fun I have had with all the textile prospect I’ve taken on now and hope to make lots more stuff soon! Since I’m a little late in turning in this write-up, I’ve decided to include some other projects I took on in my fashion class in hopes for a little credit or at the very least to show that I do kind of know my way around textiles. There are more, but here are the highlights:

          

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Iteration Assignment – Grant Johnson

For this assignment I decided to take a whack at combining what I learned from the name tag assignment and the Arduino assignments and create a little ‘light show machine’. The plan for this creation is to combine more complex woodcut patterns with motors, LEDs, and an Arduino to make an object that spins the designs over top of lights to make cool patterns.

Build Process

I started out this assignment in class by drawing out some ideas and creating a general sense of what I was going to do. Once I started thinking more on making my light show machine, I realized that 3D printing parts would be a great way to house everything very securely and making sure that everything kept from falling apart. Given the time constraints I had, I realized I could make small 3D prints to help create the most essential parts of my machine.

After planning out my design, I went on to laser cutting. I had designed a file in Illustrator and made the design go radially, resulting in a sort of flower-like pattern for the wheels that would be spinning on my machine. Creating this pattern was easy enough, and I realized that I could go back later and create multiple different types of patterns in the future for different kinds of visual effect.

After laser cutting my wheels, I went on to setting up circuits with my Arduino and component parts (breadboard, resistors, etc.). I sat the breadboard on top of the Arduino to try and save lateral space and make the final device more column-like as opposed to plate-like. I had to work with some components during this part that I hadn’t worked with before — RGB LEDs and a 6V continuous servo motor. Wiring these in was a fairly simple task, however I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to run the motor and both of my RGB LEDs off the same power source feeding the board (at least without a motor controlling chip, which I should’ve asked about at the fab lab; my Arduino kit didn’t contain one). To help alleviate this problem I set up a separate controlling chip to power the wheel off of a 9V battery. The Arduino controlling the LEDs would then be powered by a computer or power brick (what I used to help make this thing a bit more portable — an initial goal of mine.

Once I got that all set up I went about mapping out 3D designs for my adapter to help hold the wheel to the servo and a bracket to  try and contain the breadboard and Arduino on the bottom, while housing the motor. I got help from Brandon and worked in Fusion to map everything out to the mm. This part way definitely new for me, but got pretty understandable pretty quickly, so I’m glad I now can work software like that better.

After printing out my component parts I headed home to assemble everything and add a piece of wax paper to the wheel that was closest to the LED (to help disperse the LED light and make it more ‘glowy’ as opposed to super direct beams). I housed my final machine in a roll of duct tape and some cardboard for the time being, as I didn’t have time to accurately measure everything and create a 3D printed housing (although at this point, I definitely want to do that).

Getting everything to sit in a way that kept the servo from getting jammed was definitely a challenge, as was finding ways to house everything that are neat and still accessible. Another problem that I realized far too far into this project was that continuous servo motors can’t be controlled speed-wise in the same way that stepper servos can, at least without additional parts. I wasn’t able to take care of this before turn-in so my light show machine looks a bit more like a glowing jet engine, but I still think it’s cool.

Final Reflection

I would say that as much as I would have wanted this project to end up looking really finalized, there’s still some stuff I could add to it to make it better. I plan on 3D printing a housing for everything once I find a way that I can make it all sit uniformly. I also want to be able to make it so both wheels on the machine can spin in different directions, but this may take some more time and effort to crack. I lastly would like to be able to incorporate some type of sensor into this project, but again, I think I may need to take care of some other parts before that happens.

I was really happy with what I made for this project, even if it is somewhat rough, because it really helped me use the skills I already had, expand them, as well as learn new skills I wasn’t planning on learning. The coding on this project was fairly simple, as it usually seems with smaller arduino projects. Housing and measuring things was definitely something very challenging, as well as learning to approach the different design challenges that would pop up in the process of working on my gadget.

I’m excited to keep prototyping my light box and see if I can make one that really looks professional within the next couple of weeks. Maybe if I get it really right I can use it in conjunction with the speaker I plan on making for my final project!

Here are some videos of my light box in action:

 

 

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Arduino Introduction – Grant Johnson

Build Process

The storyboard for my Arduino invention!

For this week, we began working with Arduino’s and attachments, to make cool stuff and little robots. For my invention, I decided to create a fan that turns on when a certain temperature threshold is met, and turns off when that temperature goes back down. You may be thinking, “Wow, this sounds a lot like an A/C unit”. I would agree, but in some buildings and situations, I think it would be convenient to have a more personalizable, small-scale fan to keep the

The hand that would turn on or turn off switches on the extension cord.

area around you cool. I

also think this is something that could help out people that aren’t entirely mobile or have difficulty being mobile by allowing them to cool themselves off without the extra strain of having to get up.

Having some familiarity with Arduino’s definitely made this week’s lessons much easier to follow and understand and allowed me to be aware of the limitations and accessories that come with them. I started out by drawing a storyboard showing how my product would function and the problems it would solve — allowing people to stay cool without having to get up. To make this possible I essentially decided to attach some servos to some ‘hands’ (in my prototype, popsicle sticks), these hands are then connected to the Arduino, which is reading the local temperature on a digital thermometer. When the

temperature threshold is met then the hands move to turn on the extension cord that the fan would be plugged into. When the temperature gets low enough again then it will turn the fan off. The only real challenge I experienced with this project was getting three different accessories to run off the Arduino at the same time. To solve this I simply took the wires and ran them through a breadboard to act as a type of ‘splitter’ for the wires

An excerpt of my code!

running into the power and grounding inputs on the Arduino. I then took the code for sweep and changed it some to work with two different servos running when different actions happen. I also created some simple loops for LEDs connected to Arduino’s during this week, which you can see in the attached video:

 

Reflection

This project was a lot of fun and really gave me a lot of room to make a huge variety of

different prototypes that could do any number of things. A lot of what we learned in class really helped me know how to proceed, but it also helped that I had previous knowledge of how to work with Arduino’s (I’ve made a locomating little car). I feel like this assignment definitely helped me think of how to take my previous knowledge and expand it in a really creative way. I also really enjoyed seeing all the examples from Sara on different ways that Arduino’s could be integrated into things such as art experiences.

I really was excited to see the arms of my prototype move when different temperatures

The set-up for my thermometer and Arduino board.

were read from the thermometer, that was a really fun and cool part of the project. It was also interesting seeing all the different things that could be connected to Arduino’s that could be used in future projects! I can see myself coming back to Arduino/buying a kit for myself soon so I can make some more awesome stuff.

 

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Pom Bots – Grant Johnson

Build Process

A sketch of ideas for motion in my bot!

For this project, we were tasked with something that seemed somewhat monumental at first – making a moving robot using Arduino. Having had some experience with  Arduino in the past, I knew that this was surely possible, but I had actually used wheels attached to 360 degree servos in the past, so using no wheels was a new challenge. This assignment started on the drawing board, thinking about ways that I could create simple and effective movement using a couple motors and some simple objects such as popsicle sticks and tape.

My first ideas for motion kind of both resembled the ways that bugs move in nature — one idea involving a crawling sort of motion and one idea involving a motion of the bot sort of tumbling over itself. When I started to test out ideas in lab this week I realized how much time could be spent trying to tweak different speeds of servo movement and adjusting how things sit. Balance was definitely something that was vital in designing a prototype that wouldn’t simply topple over. Coding movement and adjusting it using the Arduino is fairly simple and easy, so that part didn’t take too much effort beyond modifying the sweep prompt from the Arduino IDE. This kind of movement immediately made sense for this project when I saw how the servos reacted:

Some of my code to make my final robot walk

I started by looking at my idea for a crawling-like motion first, as I figured that might be the easier idea to execute off of.  After putting everything together I quickly realized that I was having a hard time getting the arm to actually pull along all the servos and wiring that was being held on the tail  end of the bot. I also realized that with only one arm making movement for the bot, it made stuff pretty off balance whenever it would rise up, making the whole thing dump over and not be able to move. After seeing this poor performance I decided to look more at things with bipedal (or even more legs) movement. I figured this would be easier to balance and not have the problems that a crawling or spinning motion would have when designed the ways I had initially designed them.

Final Reflection

One thing that really was disappointing with my final design was that I don’t have a way of setting it free from the computer. If I had a small power source to plug it into I would love to see what it could do when introduced into larger environments. I realized through this project that working with movement was a very precise sort of thing — it took a lot of tweaking to get the exact types of movements I was looking for out of my robot. At first, my robot moved incredibly slow, but was actually working so I was excited with that.

I ended up making my robot look somewhat dog-like so I decided I would make it run really fast and kind of skitter like a small dog does. It was crazy how much that personified my robot and made it look  like a chihuahua (to me). After seeing that I decided to make it fully into a chihuahua by adding a cutout picture of my girlfriend’s chihuahua to the face and adding a (small) pipe cleaner as a tail. I really  enjoyed working with Arduino’s again and this and last week’s lessons really helped me expand my ideas of electronics projects I could work on for different specialty things.

One part of this project that was definitely a ton of fun was iterating different ways of moving an object around using the servos and popsicle sticks. There seems to be endless ways of making your robot walk, run, crawl, wiggle, spaz out in different ways and it was really fun and interesting watching that happen each time I uploaded new code. I think I picked a final design that is fairly simple to execute, but works how I wanted it to, so I was happy with that. Getting the chance to design a source of movement that is inspired by something more tangible and real also definitely was a good place of inspiration for this project and I’m glad we took the time to do that in section.

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3D Printing & Scanning – Grant Johnson

Before Building

The alien created, which was then added to further in Meshmixer

Before working on my final piece for this assignment, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of different tools/platform in order to try and create well designed, 3d printable models.

These various methods of developing models had their pros and cons — using iPads and scanners didn’t work very well, but I could see how this would be a super easy and convenient way to scan models if it was working 100%. Using the Kinect was very interesting, seeing how it captured motion somewhat accurately, but was prone to duplicating or leaving off fine details on a model. TinkerCAD was cool to use because it had a lot of very basic tools and simplified the modeling process down to its bare bones in able to kind of push you to think about how to make the things you want to in the most straightforward way. Using Meshmixer allowed me to shape models more carefully, as well as giving me the ability to analyze them in different capacities and discover problems that might make my models difficult/impossible to print.

The 3D model of myself captured with the Kinect!

I created a small alien model within class using TinkerCAD and a bust of myself using the Kinect and Meshmixer before I even began preparing for the assignment. Unfortunately, I don’t have the best possible pictures of what these ended up looking like because my Epique folder was deleted from the server and I lost the files because of that. But imagine the alien with more detail and horns and imagine the bust being more consistently filled.

Build Process

This assignment was quite the undertaking for me, but eventually I was able to persevere through it and make a prototype for a necessary object that I think is pretty cool. I experienced a lot of technical difficulties along the way, but in terms of my own design decisions (and decisions on what prompt I wanted to take on) there were also some things that snagged my build process.

The eagle I half designed, residing patriotically on his pedestal.

I originally started this project by deciding that I wanted to create a 3D print for the 2nd prompt, creating a cultural artifact. I had started the

A rough drawing of my initial and final designs.

design of an eagle on a pedestal that I planned on adding more shapes and edits to by the time we went to lab for our midterm report in. Around this time, I realized how difficult it would be to print the specific thing I wanted and how much care/time I would have to put into changing up my model. After thinking things over some more I decided to work on a different prompt.

A very rough beginning design for my sketch pad.

I decided to work on prompt #4 at this point, designing a custom-built object from scratch to serve some purpose in my life. A

problem that I consistently run in to is that I want to draw in bed often. This may seem like the type of problem that can be easily solved with a notebook or a hard object to lay paper on top of, but things

My design, a little more fleshed out

aren’t always that simple. One problem I run into is that I like to be able to use a variety of different gauges/colors of pens/pencils when I am drawing, and neither a notebook or a hard object really have a place to lay more pens when in the types of positions you lay in a bed in. I then realized I could create a tray that could hold multiple sheets of paper within a lipped area, allowing me to draw and store some drawings, while also having a surface to work on. This surface would be able to support pressure on it regardless of if it was laying on something or not, making it some what different from drawing on top of a book or something, for example. I also realized I could include a pencil holder and a tray for an eraser, all while keeping this drawing pad extremely light and travel-friendly. Finally, I decided to add the personal touch of writing a message to myself to keep on the pad at all times — appropriately, “Draw More”.

Adding the adjustments to the “Draw More” design

The TAZ crapping out on my 14 hour print!

I, at first, hoped to create this design using the TAZ, as it was the only printer I had access to that could print something as large as a piece of paper (8.5″x11″). After realizing that other people typically use it for larger prints as well (and these take a long time, therefore making it unavailable) and trying to use it myself (and having it fail on me), I decided to shoot for a slightly smaller final product. I created the same drawing pad, but decided to size down the tray so that it would fit typical 3″x3″ sticky notes. All other features were reincorporated into the design, with a slightly shorter pencil holder (my other one topped out at about 6″) in order to make the design printable on the Flash Forges. I also decided on making the “Draw More” come out of the pad in a way that would allow it to be more accurately printed (rotated along the Z axis).

My absolute final design for the sticky note sketcher.

I did all my designing initially within TinkerCAD and then would pull the files into Meshmixer to either slightly alter them, fix holes, or look for structural weaknesses that needed to be fixed. After multiple, multiple iterations I finally found a design that was pleasing to me and a machine that could print it out given its size and accuracy requirements.

Final Reflection

My final product, all printed out and in use!

All-in-all, I had a super interesting experience with 3D printing for the very first time. I obviously ran into a bunch of issues with being able to get tech to work properly, as well as be available enough to troubleshoot all the problems I was running into (I had a large midterm project due the same time as this assignment, along with a bunch of assignments in other classes). I also had a hard time specifying in on what prompt I wanted to take on and I definitely think that was kind of a process of just attacking 3D printing head-on. I understand the ‘iterative’ process behind 3D printing much more thoroughly after this assignment as well. I can see how 3D printing is definitely within the stage of just trying designs out for the most part right now, but I think that those designs, as simple as they can be, can be very successful in solving unique problems.

I think the process of printing itself is actually pretty simple, just time-consuming and hard to access in a way. The design of models and especially the process of refining models can be extremely tedious and is definitely a skill that I think would take some time to develop. I don’t think that there’s anything I would really change about how I attacked this assignment, as it really gave me a broad perspective of the different challenges you can run into with 3D printing and how to take those on in a variety of different ways. This was a really fulfilling assignment to receive a final product for! The link to my final design can be found here, as required by the prompt I chose: https://www.tinkercad.com/things/5Q00ya7LvL3

 

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Copper Tape Paper Circuit Project – Grant Johnson

Build Process

Through our initial introduction to circuits and some prior knowledge, I was presented with a pretty wide variety of possibilities for a final product for this assignment. As per usual, my initial idea was more complicated than feasible — I wanted to use a person’s finger to complete the circuit in order to turn on the LEDs within my pop-up card. I wasn’t able to find much information on how to do this correctly (I did see some designs that said a resistor was necessary?), so I decided to simplify my design.

The initial cityscape which would be both carved and etched on a piece of paper.

I eventually came up with a design for the card in my mind that would depict Godzilla standing in front of a cityscape, at a distance, coming out of the water. I figured with how intricate a city silhouette would be (and how large the LEDs can be stuck through an average sized piece of paper) that I would take the lights and fan them around Godzilla, in the skyline, to both light him up and possibly make it look like he was charging up to fire his energy beam. After playing around with the LEDs some I found that I would need to use multiple batteries per series in order to get the voltage I needed. Using a voltmeter I also noticed that there was a voltage drop after the first LEDs in my circuits, which provided just enough power for the next LED over. I used a series circuit, so I am aware that if one LED burns out then the whole circuit of LEDs will drop.

My finalized circuit set-up for my Godzilla card. Here you can see the copper going down the hinge and series circuit structure I used.
My finalized cut out of Godzilla, as well as the city and the ‘reflection’ on the other side of the hinge.

After deciding on what I wanted to use the LEDs for and how I wanted my card to be designed, I cut out the shapes of Godzilla and a city skyline using Inkscape and the paper cutters. Once I had my cutout shapes and backing for my card, I realized that the best place for me to run my wire to make switches would be behind Godzilla on the hinge pushing him outward. I then ran the wire underneath the other half of the paper to where I had cut switches in the backing that stick out from the bottom of the card.

Everything ended up working pretty well in the end. I think that one main problem I ran into is how certain colors of light won’t work within the same circuit as others. I solved this by just bunching my lights in ways that complimented each other. Another problem was that when I hooked multiple LEDs into a circuit I had to double up on batteries, which made securing the whole thing a bit more difficult, but far from impossible.

…And the right-side lights!
…The left-side lights…
My final build…

Reflection

Overall, I think this project ended up turning out better than I could have even hoped for. The process was a bit hard to conceptualize, but once you take some time to play around a little and try different things, you very quickly realize what the limits are and what you can do.

I think that if I were to redo my card I would try and place the horizon farther up from the hinge of the card because the way mine was cut ended up making that layer structurally kind of weak. Once it was all glued this didn’t matter, but I think it may just give a better quality to the card. I also think that my card would be better if Godzilla was just a teensy bit smaller, he kind of takes up a lot of real estate.

This project helped revitalize a lot of knowledge I had about electronics and circuits specifically, while also giving me the opportunity to use those skills to make something simple, practical, and fun. I would love to make more cards like this for other people — I think they would get a kick out of them.

The hardest part of this project is probably finding a way to mesh both your design elements and the practical elements of things like where am I going to glue parts together, where am I going to run wire, etc. I ended up having to string my wire across the “3d” hinge of my card because I found that the best place with how my background was cut out. Something that is fairly simple is the process of building circuits, but this can quickly ratchet up in difficulty depending on how many lights you want to add, how your switches work, the amount of electricity you’re feeding into the circuit, etc.

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Multi-layer Sticker Project – Grant Johnson

Build Process

My initial design, which helped me get experience with cutting vinyl and using Inkscape

The initial stickers I created for this project helped push me in the direction of my final product in a major way. Experimenting with images that were more complicated than a simple shape or silhouette proved difficult and made me decide that I would take simple shapes to make a greater image.

I inevitably decided on making a Valentine’s Day sticker for my girlfriend because of the timeliness of this project. She really loves chihuahuas, so I decided that a chihuahua on a heart would be the perfect image for her. I also wanted to create an interesting design using simple shapes, so I made a pattern of circles to overlay with a background color to help contain the sticker and extend beyond just being a two shape design.

The design process in this project was without a doubt the biggest time commitment for this project. Carving shapes out and thinking about how layers will be laid out took a while to ensure my final product would turn out both correct and in a way that would layer correctly.

The cutting process within this project is really satisfying to me and it’s super cool seeing exact shapes get spit out by the cutters. Making designs that are easy to extract from the full sheet is definitely a challenge and takes some experience with vinyl in order to pull off.

Reflection

I think one important thing I learned from this project is how complicated things can get very quickly when it comes to multi-layer sticker designs. The first couple ideas I thought of immediately became so difficult to actually try and execute that I had to abandon them. However, it was a lot of fun to try and think of ways to make more simple shapes into more complex patterns and arrangements to make something that looks much more complicated than it really is.

I was also extremely limited for time during this project and I think that if I had more time (or the fab lab was open during different times!) I would have been able to create some even cooler stickers.

Learning more in-depth tools within Inkscape made me realize how similar it is to Illustrator and how it could easily be used as a replacement in a pinch.

I had a lot of fun with this project and it’s insanely cool to be able to create little designs/pictures of your own and put them on everything. I was happy with my final product and I hope my girlfriend is too!

And both of my final, printed-out products on my desk!
My final sticker design, ready to be cut!
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Storyboard Assignment – Grant Johnson

First Attempt

My first attempt, created in class. I was unable to finish, but started generating ideas of how I wanted the app to function.

For this assignment I decided to tackle the challenge of designing an app for the Fab Lab. My first storyboard was very simple and somewhat vague. After creating it and letting other people look at it I realized that I needed to be more clear in the functions and concepts I was trying to explain through the storyboard. I also realized I needed to set up the setting better as it was kind of difficult to understand in my original draft.

Second Attempt

My second, and more complete, storyboard. Notice the very evil looking star man at the end.

For my second attempt I tried to refine my first try and make sure everything I was communicating was succinct and well-defined. I was also able to then think of more unique and helpful features that could be baked-in to the app that would make it extremely helpful and inviting to those that are just learning about the Lab. I made use of a lot of text in this storyboard, but I think it is somewhat necessary for how complicated some of the things I am talking about are to visualize interestingly. In this copy I also tried to set up the setting better and make the flow of the storyboard more organized and easy to understand.

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Laser Name Tag Project – Grant Johnson

My initial design that ended up being the look I carried on

Build Process

Most of the initial design for this project I was able to do within lab on the first day. After being introduced to Inkscape, I was able to take some elements from various icons online and create a design that incorporated both my name and two images.

For the first print-out, I just placed this object in a file where the coffin would be raster and there would be a vector box around it that would get cut out. After seeing that in-person I decided to ramp up my design by adding vector cut lines around the coffin. I also decided to cut out the ‘bottom’ of the coffin as well and place the whole thing on acrylic. From there I got two-tone acrylic to work with so that my raster lines would be very clear in the final product. When cutting that out with the Epilog I created some small fires within the laser printer that kind of scorched my name tag. I think this was essentially because of the bottom piece getting cut out, but maybe changing my cutting settings would have also affected this.

My final two-tone product being cut

After finishing with that, I then cut out another piece of acrylic. This time, I used a piece that had a metallic finish on one side. After cutting all of that out, I then superglued the pieces together to create my final product. Lastly, I attached a magnet to the back so that I would be able to wear the name tag. Throughout the entirety of my project I used Inkscape, the Epilog, superglue, and a bar magnet set.

Reflection

Looking at my final product, I’m mostly pretty happy with my work. I was able to create a name tag using the exact parameters in my head, I think from this point it would just be more of a process of refining what I’ve already done.

I think the two sheets of acrylic give the name tag a really cool sense of variety and depth which I was happy with. I think that it could definitely be cleaned off some more (glue stains worked away, white acrylic cleaned with Tide Pen or something).

Nothing in this project was really exceptionally difficult, but I was able to use a lot of skills that I already know from using image processing software to make a physical product which was really cool. I learned a lot, especially in regards to Inkscape and laser etching/cutting and the process that goes into that.

The front of my final product
The back of my final product
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