Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Forming a Plan

Recently, the CAD team had been trying to come up with a fresh and sleek design to set out printer apart from those that already exist in the market. After a few sketches and weeks of CAD design we finally settled on what we believe combines all of the best ideas we came up with. However, with the completion of this challenge, a new one arose. The design calls for essentially a rectangular prism, with two of the sides joining in a sloping curve instead of a simple edge. Because this would have to be made out of acrylic, we had to decide how we were going to tackle it. We looked up the cost of having our part custom-made, and upon seeing the price we decided that we would task ourselves making the piece on our own. We knew the process slightly: we would need to heat up a sheet of acrylic until it was at a point where it could be shaped without being completely melted, and then place it on a mold for it to form to. It didn’t sound very difficult, and we had watched a few videos demonstrating the process. However, we all knew that nothing is ever as easy as it looks, not to mention none of us had any experience with type of molding process, known as heat-forming. Luckily, we had just recently taken a tour of a GE facility, and met many engineers who did have experience heat-forming. So, we called one of these engineers up and he was able to give us a step-by-step process of what to do, complete with cautions about some common mistakes and potential errors that could occur during the forming. So after a little brainstorming, we decided we’d make the curve out of layers of laser-cut wooden parts stacked side by side. The engineer did warn that the acrylic would mold to whatever shape we pressed in against, though, so we decided to place a smooth piece of vinyl on the mold so there wouldn’t be any unwanted ridges or bumps. We have already made the curve to our desired dimensions, and once we attach the straight pieces to each end we will be ready to mold.