I spent 6 weeks on this individual project in my Ceramics for Industrial Design interdisciplinary class. The prompt was to create an object that seamlessly combines mold-making and 3D printing, with an encouragement to focus on relating it to our major.
People worry about their loved ones all the time and want to check up on them. What if there was a way to communicate to those closest to you that you were home safe?
My idea was to create customized keychain magnets that would live in each of my family’s households and light up to indicate who is home. The keychain base was made out of plaster molds in the form of our family name, while the keychains were 3D printed to fit each section of the base like a puzzle, with each piece spelling out the names of each family member.
Our class was given a sheet to fill out, talking about our own aesthetic style and personal interests, as well as giving an idea of what our final object would look like. At the time, my parents were getting ready to move to another country, which would present problems when we tried to communicate because of the time difference. My parents always like to know when my brother and I are home, but our schedules tend to fluctuate and we can’t always answer the phone. I wanted to create something that would help all of us stay in touch.
Before this project, I was working with Particle Photon boards to create IoT devices in another class, so I knew I wanted to use those with this assignment as well. I was originally thinking of using tilt or distance sensors, with the idea that the object would emit music briefly when someone indicates that they are home.
I drew some initial sketches of what the keychains would look like, mostly representing musical instruments that we each played.
However, I wasn’t completely happy with the way it looked, so I brought the sketches to a few of my classmates. They all liked the idea, but one comment I heard was that the instrument keychains reminded them of Fisher-Price toys.
Final Sketches and Mold
As I was showing my sketches around, someone else mentioned that they were reminded of puzzle pieces. This inspired me to go back to my sketchbook and start drawing our last name in block letters, sectioning it into different pieces that could contain each of our first names.
After a lot of sketching and measuring, I was able to start building my plaster mold. I first shaped a model of the “Kim” base out of clay, sculpting it a little bigger than I measure out to accommodate for the shrink rate. I decided to make it a two-part, open-faced mold so it would allow me to have enough room for electronics to go in the back.
While the molds were being fired, I went into Rhino and created renderings for the keychains. I made sure they would fit into the measurements I had gotten from my mold before printing them.
Putting It Together
I ultimately decided to use reed switches and magnets as triggers, as they were the best option for my object. I tried to figure out the codes that would get the Photon boards working, but I knew from previous experience that the boards were always a bit finicky, especially when I tried to connect them to the WiFi.
The final outcome was a display that hung in each of our households. If I were to arrive home, I would place my keychain in my designated spot of the display. This would trigger the reed switch inside, prompting my Photon board to communicate with the other boards that the switch was on. This would inform the LEDs in my parent’s display to turn on, lighting up my spot and letting everyone know that I had just gotten back.