Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of Open Source

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Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of,Open Source Consumer Electronic Products. David Adley Mellis, Submitted to the Program in Media Arts and Sciences. School of Architecture and Planning on August 5 2011. in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of. Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences at the. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, This thesis explores the effects of digital fabrication on the design. production and customization of consumer electronic devices It does. so through a series of three case studies a radio a pair of speakers. and a computer mouse that combine a custom electronic circuit. board with a digitally fabricated laser cut or 3D printed enclosure. For each case study the thesis describes the construction and. prototyping of the product and a workshop in which participants. modified the design and made the device for themselves This. customization was enabled by the sharing of the design files for the. products following the principles and practices of open source. The case studies are used to draw practical lessons about the. application of electronics the laser cutter and the 3D printer in the. digital fabrication of consumer electronic products Implications are. drawn for the open sourcing of each of these elements and for the. software tools used to the design them The case studies also. illustrate four modes of production that digital fabrication enables for. electronic devices one off artisanal kit and a hybrid mass custom. production Additionally they shed light on the types of. customization and the human roles that digital fabrication implies for. consumer electronics Three main themes emerge diversity in design. and production personal connection with devices and leveraging of. the power of software for the making of hardware,Thesis Supervisor Leah Buechley PhD. AT T Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of,Open Source Consumer Electronic Products.
David Adley Mellis,Thesis Reader Neri Oxman PhD,Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Sony Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Massachusetts Institute of Technology,Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of. Open Source Consumer Electronic Products,David Adley Mellis. Thesis Reader Simona Maschi PhD,Head of Programme,Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Acknowledgements, Thanks to my advisor Leah Buechley for many interesting.
conversations and good ideas To Neri Oxman who provided insight. and reassurance at crucial moments To Simona Maschi who has. taught me much about many things And to Neil Gershenfeld whose. work enabled and motivated much of this thesis, Thanks to Hannah Perner Wilson a source of constant inspiration. and criticism over the past two years To Emily Lovell for all the. encouragement and commiseration To Dana Gordon and Jean. Baptiste Labrune for their collaboration and support To Sean. Follmer for all the suggestions on my research and writings To. Nadya Peek Jonathan Ward Amit Zoran and Peter Schmitt my. mentors in digital fabrication To Nan Wei Gong and Mark. Feldmeier for their help with electronics To Jie Qi Ed Baafi Bonifaz. Kaufmann Edwina Portocarrero and the many others who have. made High Low Tech and the Media Lab a great place to be. Thanks to Alie Rose Vinay Venkatraman Anders Stensgaard Kirsti. Andersen Nanna Norup and everyone else at CIID for making me. feel at home in Copenhagen and for their understanding when I left. twice To the other members of the Arduino team Massimo Banzi. David Cuartielles Tom Igoe and Gianluca Martino for teaching me. about open source hardware and tolerating all the time I spent. avoiding them to finish this thesis To James Tichenor Nicholas. Zambetti Aram Armstrong Haiyan Zhang Ana Camila Amorim. Oren Horev and the rest of the Ivrea crew for lessons about design. that I m only now starting to appreciate, Finally thanks to my loving family and especially to my brother. whose combination of technology and craft is very different than mine. but an inspiration nonetheless,1 Introduction 13,2 Background 15. 3 Related Work 22,4 Case Studies 27,Case Study 1 Fab FM 28. Case Study 2 Fab Speakers 35,Case Study 3 3D Printed Mouse 44.
5 Lessons Learned 51,6 Modes of Production 60,7 Discussion 63. 8 Conclusion 66,9 References 67,Appendix Circuit Schematics 70. 1 Introduction, Digital fabrication is changing the way we make things New. technologies like laser cutters and 3D printers make it possible to. produce one or more instances of a physical object directly from digital. design files To make another object you send another file to the. machine and it can be different every time By eliminating costly. time consuming tooling digital fabrication removes the need for large. up front investments and the high production volumes required to. recover them This promises new possibilities for one off or low. volume production Digital fabrication technologies work with a wide. range of materials from wood to metal plastic to fabric glass to. paper offering possibilities for forms and aesthetics beyond the. ubiquitous plastic of most consumer electronic devices. Despite their small volumes these digital fabrication processes are. not based on the same manual labor and individual skill as traditional. crafts Because the object is produced directly from a digital file. anyone with access to the file and the fabrication machine can make. a copy of the object They can also modify an individual part of the. object s form without having to recreate the entire design In a sense. the design file is the object s source in the sense of source code and. sharing these files with others can be seen as a as a form of open. source This open sourcing of physical objects offers potential for. distributed production for customization and personalization and for. learning about the construction of objects by studying or making their. This thesis explores the possibilities that digital fabrication offers for. the production of consumer electronics It asks a number of questions. about how this technology will affect the people and processes. involved How can the circuit and enclosures of electronic devices be. designed for production with digital fabrication processes How will. digital fabrication affect the makers and consumers of electronic. products and the relationships between them What kinds of. customization are enabled by the flexibility of digital fabrication. What implications does digital fabrication have for the overall. landscape of electronic devices, I explore these questions through a series of three case studies each of. which combines a custom electronic circuit board with a digitally. fabricated enclosure Two of the case studies an FM radio receiver. and a pair of portable speakers use a combination of laser cut. plywood veneer and fabric The third a computer mouse is housed. in a 3D printed plastic enclosure These devices were not intended for. commercial production and sale but rather to elucidate the general. principles and practices that underly the application of digital. fabrication to consumer electronics The design and building of the. products tested the feasibility of various constructions and processes. For each case study I conducted a workshop in which participants. customized the products and made them for themselves This process. yielded information about the skills and motivations underlying the. customization of devices and the ways of doing so, Case Study 1 Fab FM Case Study 2 Fab Speakers Case Study 3 3D Printed.
Overall the case studies offer many lessons for the digital fabrication. of consumer electronics Some are practical related to the specific. processes and tools involved Others are more theoretical potential. methods for wider production and distribution of devices using the. technologies In general they suggest possibilities for alternatives to. today s mass production of consumer electronics and provide examples. of what that could mean for both the products and the people involved. in their creation and use, The following chapter provides technological background for the. thesis The next chapter describes related research work Then for. each case study I detail the structure and composition of the product. the design and prototyping process the workshop and a potential. model for the broader dissemination of the product The subsequent. chapter discusses the best practices challenges and difficulties. brought out by the case studies This leads to a chapter outlining the. new modes of production for consumer electronics that are enabled by. digital fabrication Then a chapter discusses the broader implications. and themes of the work The last chapter concludes with a brief. sketch of how these processes and products affect the broader. landscape of consumer electronics,2 Background, A number of technologies and practices provide the context for this. thesis They include digital fabrication electronics production open. source software and hardware and online communities which. together raise broader questions about the nature of making. Mass Production Craft and Digital Fabrication, Digital fabrication is challenging the assumptions that underly mass. production It enables individual variation but of a different kind. than handcraft A comparison of craft mass production and. fabrication raises deep questions about the relationships between. human and technological capability questions that form the broad. intellectual background for this thesis What does it mean to make. something if the object is produced by a machine How does the. variation of handmade goods differ from that of digitally generated. objects What is the value of human labor in a product How can. objects be tailored for their specific context of use and production. These issues are skillfully analyzed in two books Abstracting Craft. McCullough 1998 and The Alphabet and the Algorithm Carpo 2011. In the former McCullough discusses the creation of 3D digital models. as a form of craft involving the hand and eye manual skill and. iterative construction While the final file can easily be copied. McCullough notes the difficulty of recreating it any other way. stressing the importance of the human skill and labor in its creation. Carpo emphasizes the differences between craft production and digital. fabrication while contrasting both with mass production He. discusses the ways in which the separation of design and production. enabled by industrialization strengthened the notion of authorship of. objects identifying it with the maker of the design not of the final. object Both craft and digital fabrication blur these distinctions by. allowing for the gradual evolution of a design through the work of. many people Carpo also discusses seeming paradoxes in the nature of. the reproduction of objects and digital information The former can be. mass produced stamped from a single mold each with slight but. almost undetectable variations The latter can be copied exactly with. no loss of detail but with easy opportunity for large or multitudinous. This thesis explores these issues through concrete examples the. design and construction of three case studies and the process of having. people customize and make them In particular it provides some. examples of the relationship between digital design and physical craft. and the skills tools and processes associated with each Still in large. part this work only reinforces the many questions raised by digital. fabrication and its relationship to craft and mass production. Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of Open Source Consumer Electronic Products David Adley Mellis SB Mathematics Massachusetts Institute of Technology June 2003 MA Interaction Design Interaction Design Institute Ivrea June 2006 Submitted to the Program in Media Arts and Sciences School of Architecture and Planning in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of

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