The following blog is written by an intern, Johnny Star, a mechanical engineering junior from UC Berkeley that worked with us throughout the summer. Since his perspective is similar to a lot of our client’s in terms of exposure to designing for manufacturing, I asked him to write a little bit about his experience working on one of our projects as I think some of the things he learned are good lessons for many of our readers. The result is below:
My Experience on Working on the 8-Bit Lit Lamp Project
Let me give a brief introduction about the 8 Bit-lit Lamp. The 8 Bit-lit Lamp differs from the usual lamps we see in daily life its shape and the function. First of all, the shape of the 8 Bit-lit Lamp is a sealed, yellow cube which contains LEDs inside it. The switch of the 8 Bit-lit Lamp is interesting. It turns on by hitting the bottom panel via a conductive sensor attached on its inside and outside of the bottom wall. Each time it turns on or off it also makes a ringing sound via a chip and speakers on in internal PC board.
The Design Process
The lamp has electrical and mechanical design features but we were only responsible for the mechanical design which mainly included the cube design while the clients took care of the electrical design. At the beginning, the client sent us a sample they had made which had 6 panels with two different shapes. These 6 panels were spliced into a cube which made up the housing for the 8 Bit-lit Lamp. The panel was fashioned with rectangular teeth that joined together at the sides.
The panels on the cube had two different shapes, one for the top and bottom and another for the sides. Because we found that the sample was very beat up and the clients asked to build a sturdy structure, we found relevant factories and brainstormed with them. We came up with three distinct designs.
From the get-go, the client was expecting to use injection molding to manufacture the cube panel but we realized that this would require opening two molds because we had panels with two distinct shapes. To save money, we tried to design a single panel which could be spliced into a cube instead of two, but, the design was not so easy. We started to exchange emails with the clients in the U.S to discuss the possibility of the one-panel design and discussed the idea of a “45-degree miter”.
After further review with our team internally, a single panel design came out successfully. It was delightful and encouraging. However, the manufacturing process with this design had to be aborted because the client did not expect injection molding tools or the units themselves to be so expensive.
To meet their price point, Greg gave us the suggestion to use a stamping process. Stamping tooling is much cheaper than injection molding and also is cost effective in manufacturing. The tolerances for stamping are not as tight though and no intricate designs can be created in the same way as injection molding. The design is limited to whatever can be stamped vertically from a blade, so we ended up using a very simple design.
Because the design was very simple and the tolerances were relatively large, we needed to make sure the panels would match together well and be able to be assembled consistently. The sample that we received from the client was acrylic. Acrylic is transparent, lightweight and shatter-resistant. It was ideal for the lamp, but it is very expensive and couldn’t meet the price point. We hit a roadblock and had to come up with another alternative.
In our next blog, I’ll talk about exactly what we did, how we went about sourcing other materials and factories, and additional challenges we faced. I’ll also talk about the most important things that can be learned from this project experience, both by ourselves and by our client.
To sign up to be one of the first to get an 8-Bit Lit lamp, check them out here