Portfolio of Work
Royal College of Art and Imperial College London
Superform: The Saddle Chair (2020)
In this project, we were given four weeks to design and build an innovative new chair, thinking about the furniture user interface or FUI. I decided to try and re-think the way we interact with chairs by changing the way we sit on them. Drawing inspiration from the idea of sitting directly on the floor, particularly thinking about Asian cultures where people regularly sit directly on the floor rather than use a chair, I created the concept of the saddle chair. This chair provides a hybrid between kneeling on the floor and sitting on a chair. This takes weight off the knees allowing you to stay in the kneeling position for long periods of time without discomfort, whilst also encouraging a healthy posture which is believed to help with back-pain and ease digestion.
During the design process, I quickly starting experimenting with different seating positions, using simple items like cushions and polystyrene blocks to create extremely low-fidelity models of my chair designs. I then swiftly moved onto creating full-scale models of my chosen design to experiment with form to maximise comfort. Using these prototypes I developed my final form for the seat-portion of the chair, which I then 3D scanned to form the basis of a CAD model for my final chair design. This involved learning how to use the surface design features within SolidWorks. From my prototypes I also learnt that the height of the chair was extremely important, it had to be set right to successfully take weight off the kneels whilst not feeling uncomfortably high. I therefore decided to incorporate a scissor jack mechanism into the final design to allow the user to adjust the height to their liking. I used parts from an existing scissor jack due to the short duration of the project, but modified the jack with my own base, top and handle to improve the function and aesthetics of the chair.
The final chair featured a plasma-cut mild steel frame and base, which included slots for easy assembly and welding, a curved plywood laminate seat base, foam padding sculpted to produce a compound curve shape, wet-moulded and hand-dyed leather upholstery, parts from a car scissor jack, and a 3D printed handle for height adjustment. I was extremely pleased with the final chair design as it was comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and finished to a high level. Our tutors felt the chair could easily be developed into something suitable for sale to the public, or that the concept could be pivoted into an offering for workers who spend a lot of time near the ground such as mechanics or tilers.
Gizmo: Jumping Popcorn Robot (2019)
For this project, we were given two weeks to design and build an interactive mechatronic object and were encouraged to make something without a useful purpose. Working in a group of two we made a robot inspired by a popping popcorn kernel. The robot used a motion sensor to detect when someone passed by and in response would jump into the air and start rapidly inflating, mimicking a piece of popcorn. The 3D printed jumping mechanism used a high power gear motor to wind a miniature winch which compressed a powerful spring; when the jump was triggered a self-designed clutch would release allowing the spring to rapidly extend, launching the robot into the air. Meanwhile, a ducted fan, powered by a brushless motor quickly inflated the custom-made popcorn-shaped inflatable.
With some further development, we imagined the robot could be made to fully reset itself - such as by using an elastomer for the inflatable shape that would shrink back down to it's starting shape when deflated. A group of these robots could then be placed in a room and as visitors passed through the robots would be popping around them.
This project allowed me to use the mechanical design and prototyping skills I have developed on previous projects to create a very satisfying outcome in very little time. A large amount of problem-solving was required to produce the designed functionality in a way that we could build in two weeks, and to overcome problems that we encountered during testing.
EXP: Experimental Design Approach to Surfaces in 2030
In this three week project, we used an experimental design approach to develop thoughts about the future of surfaces in 2030. We developed a series of hypotheses about the role surfaces would play in the future and used these to create research questions which we investigated with short experiments. During the project we performed more than 30 experiments looking at the behaviour of materials, testing ways of rapidly creating surfaces, investigating people's responses to changes in soundscapes, and recreating noise-cancelling on a large scale. Our final proposal was for a tile which could measure and create sound waves using an electro-active polymer. We initially hoped this could be used to perform active noise cancelling on a room-scale, with the tiles producing complimentary sound waves that could cancel out some of the noise produced by other people in busy shared work-spaces. However, we found that for a 2030 context a more realistic use-case would be using the tiles to completely control the soundscape of a room, allowing different people within the room to experience different sounds and to create experiences such as someone whispering over your shoulder or a lion roaring in the corner.