New Making Projects

Computer waste toolset

The Edinburgh Remakery is a project in Leith that aims to educate and encourage people to repair their belongings. By offering the facilities and expertise they hope to start a revolution in changing people’s perception of the life of a product and how many things we throw away can be easily repaired or re-purposed. Our task as students was to demonstrate this vision with our own interpretation. Early in the brief we visited the Remakery warehouse and met Sotiris, an employee at the project. He showed us around the warehouse and explained the existing practises they have in place to recycle some of the old things donated. There was an array of different things kept at the warehouse. Large amounts of furniture were held and a large selection of electrical goods like old PC’s and computer parts. We were given the opportunity to select something interesting here and use this as inspiration or the basis of our project. I left the Remakery with a few things but most importantly I had found some old plastic PC cooling fans. They were 12 volt and relatively powerful but had, like many of the things in the warehouse, fallen victim to obsolescence and no longer had a purpose.

The potential of the fans being used as motors steered me towards a modelling tool, inspired by the tinkering I do at my desk. I would use the fan stripped of its casing and fins and find a means of adding a sanding disk to this. The tool was to be powered by the cells I had retrieved allowing it to be recharged and mobile. Early iterations followed the conventional shape associated with a Dremel or multitool, the batteries being housed in the area that was to be held. The goal was to design a series of STL parts that could be downloaded and be accommodating for many different computer fan sizes and types. this would then form an Instructable type guide. The problem again with this was the function of the object. It stood little chance up against a conventional powerful Dremel and although it uses recycled parts, a lot of it required large 3D prints adding to the waste problem but not creating anything new or unique.

Feedback when presenting and more research led me down a different path. Having a passion for making and being a frequent visitor to the ECA workshops I am forever being told by the technician Alan to sand my work on a hard surface to conserve energy. In certain situations, for more organic work I enjoy holding the piece I am working on. It allows me to monitor my practise and to feel and engage with my work. The opportunity to exploit motor size and this desire to have a more physical sanding and modelling experience dictated the form and function of the final product.

I began iterating, using the 3D printer to quickly print prototypes to test the way the motors would be housed and held inside the hand. The ergonomics were the driving force behind the project. The tools had to be passive.
They needed to assist the maker in forming and finishing but not be a distraction or a hinderance, An extension of oneself.

There were three different iterations with two looking at using the space between fingers to grip the device. These were ultimately made as small 
as possible but were still too big to sit comfortably between fingers. The third and final design opted for a ring that went over the finger. This would allow the motor to be cradled within the hand and the user could hold work with the other offering a very physical experience.

The different tools rely on a male female adapter system. The power bank I created houses the batteries and has the switch and the female adapter. The three separate tools have a male adapter. These are easily interchanged saving the user the time and hassle of having to change cutting disk or drill bit like in conventional multi tools. The power bank control station is made from the outer casings of the fans. I aimed to repurpose as many of the parts as possible in the design. The laptop batteries fit inside the body and a spring contact system inside the bank allows them to be taken out and recharged when required.

The end result is a series of tools that help the designer or maker in model making. They are able to feel the form of the object they are sculpting and make live design choices based on its physical form. The designer can embrace their work and shape and form the model based on physical feeling. The function of the parts has been changed completely and zero waste created. The old computer fans now have a new life in aiding creation.