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Week 0: Computer-Aided Design

Bubble Machine

September 14, 2015

Even though I have spent all summer jotting down potential How To Make (HTM) project ideas, I naturally decided to think up something completely different during an early-morning brainstorming session. Hopefully this will not be a recurring theme for the course... I knew that I wanted to make something interactive, and whimsical, and cycled through a lot of ideas involving maps and bicycles (two passions of mine that will definitely resurface in this course). Ultimately, I've decided to make (or at least produce a design for) a voice or sound controlled bubble machine that can modulate the size of bubbles. This past weekend I walked by the "Bubble Daze" event at the Boston Children's Museum, which clearly produced a lot of joy. Also, what better way to relax when stressing about something like your first homework assignment in two years than to watch some beautiful bubbles? The more I thought about this option, the more it seemed to fulfull a few desirable criteria:

I started with a simple sketch of my ideas. Here are some of the components that will be required for this project, a few ideas about how they will operate and how I might make them:

I have very little experience with modeling or CAD software, so I decided to try out a few different programs to build familiarity with them.

This is an .stl model I built in Rhino. Since Rhino models surfaces instead of volumes, I had some trouble getting my objects to look like actual solids. For example, the "bubble solution tub" appears to not have a bottom, even though I thought I added a surface there to close it off. In general, I felt pretty clumsy while using Rhino; I'm still getting the hang of "snaps" and wasn't sure about the best way to connect different volumes after I had extruded them. I also didn't feel like I had the capacity to add much detail other than the broad shapes of the machine. On the other hand, I found out that you can embed .stl files using Github, which is awesome!

Next, I used Antimony to model what the spinning disc could look like. I had fun figuring out how to model the different shapes, and felt like I was able to achieve more regular and precise modeling than when using Rhino. In the machine, this spinning disc would be combined with a layer mask so that only one of the "opening types" (eg big bubble vs small bubble) would be available to the fan at a time.

Finally, I spent (possibly) far, far too long messing around with Blender to produce an animation of what bubbles coming out of the machine could look like. It took probably 2+ hours for me to even figure out how to select objects in Blender, and several more to actually make something interesting. I ended up following a great YouTube tutorial on developing particle systems in Blender. In the end, I ended up stumbling over the actual lighting/ rendering of materials, and the animation isn't quite as crisp as I would like. But, I needed to stop somewhere, and felt pretty good about going from 0 to this animation in less than 24 hours.

TL;DR My biggest challenge from this week was definitely the struggle of trying to quickly acquaint myself with extremely complicated, powerful software. A lot of the time, I felt I was plodding in the dark. My biggest success this week was that, when I put in the concerted effort to follow a tutorial or have a classmate teach me software, I felt reasonably proud of my output. I'm also pleased with my project idea.

Design Files