Prototyping a self-watering flower pot

Last week we presented a group project for the course in Advanced Prototyping. Wanting to keep the plants alive for those having the standard “busy-week, got no time” was the inspiration for this self watering flower pot. We wanted to make this a waterfall where the calming sound also comes with the package. The prototype could be seen as a proof of concept, made in about 4 weeks. It utilizes an Arduino connected to a soil moisture sensor which will trigger the servo, which moves our acrylic tap over the planter box. However, this has many practical dead ends, ideally one should use a computer i.e. Raspberry Pi to log the data, and water this predictively. However, we are very happy with the result.

Reverse Engineering – Custom insoles

We did a pretty nice project for a course on prototyping, and I wanted to make a short breakdown of how this can be done. A short description that can serve as a rough guide.

Firstly, the equipment used: GoScan!, Rhino CAD software and an Ultimaker 3D printer.

By using the scanner we are able to obtain a cloud point (geometries) of our foot. This we want to extract this information in terms of curves. It is important to adjust the scanned foot to the correct angle along all axis first. We start then by marking an outline of the foot, and adding some vertical lines which will be the mesh we project on the foot. As seen in pictures 1-3 below. We need to offset the outline inwards to ensure we capture the foot when projecting lines. After we have obtained the projections, the curves can be extended beyond the foot’s outline. This ensure that a loft function can be used to generate a surface(picture 4). This surface is later trimmed by the original outline(picture 5), and we finish off with offsetting the surface to create a solid. Now we can fillet the edges, add some ventilation holes or initials.

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3D Printing Spare Parts

This post is just a quick demonstration of why desktop 3D printers are hopefully going to be a major part in reducing waste. I’ll stress the fact that its desktop 3D printers that is going to lead this front, as the name suggests you can have them at home without requiring too much space, thus reducing thresholds and barriers of use. It’s the access to the technology that is the innovation.

So, I will dive right into the issue that arose few weeks back. The fridge shelf at home, consisting of a piece of glass supported with six plastic hooks that slide above and underneath the glass and into the interior wall of the fridge. As with most things wear and tear does lead to failure. So, two of these hooks broke. Resulting in the shelf being not supportive and more of a a see-saw, pivoting around the middle support.

Fixing this would require buying spare parts if they are held in stock. and they were not. Now, how I went forward in fixing this is by simply modelling a replacement in SolidWorks where I started out with the critical dimensions of the glass: Thickness, depth of the “pocket” in the fridge wall and other surfaces that were in some way constrained. (Instead of modelling this I could also 3D scan the functional parts, but I don’t have a scanner, yet) With the software Cura, I imported a .STL file for generating the tool path for the Makerbot (3D printer). After test printing a few versions, alterations were made to the 3D model, and finally I printed 6 new spare parts. All in all the time spent from holding the broken piece to having the printed spare part in my hand was 1,5 hours or so. Mostly due to the print time, as each were about 6-8 minutes each, about 10 prints in total.. you do the math. You can see in the top right photo attached, how the print quality was poor with exception of the right most print. Mainly due to temperature of the nozzle being to high and plastic dripping/smudging/getting everywhere The filament(plastic polymer) is a PLA polymer which is easily recycled. so zero waste!

I am confident that as society realises that waste is a major issue we are forced to think in the ways of reuse, recycle and repairing. If you by any chance have a part that is broken, or a pen cap that’s missing from your favourite pen, comment and I might just get time to do this for you too.

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The Ugly Indian – An example of work revolution

Firstly, I recommend watching this TEDx talk before reading onwards, not because this post is solely on the project. But because it is challenging perceptions we all have about why and how we do work . I’ll allow work to be a fairly loose definition as of now, but will touch on volunteering to some extent later. If you want, watch the video now (17mins). If you really can not be bothered, “too-long-didn’t-watch”: The Ugly Indian is simply a movement where a group of people anonymously goes and clean up public spaces, posting a before and after photo for the world to see.

So, what I want to state in the beginning is that this example of result oriented work culture is lacking, in my opinion. I think society has its large inefficiencies that goes by many names. To solve these inefficiencies we are having a rise in ways to challenge and beat the system. Simple examples (which I may elaborate/discuss in later posts); Uber as a taxi service, ZipCar on car ownership and Taleris on aircraft engines.Tim Orily put it brilliantly; “jobs aren’t disappearing, they are changing, and there will always be a need for people to do work”. Google thinks so too, regarding the way we work as an area of of improvement. It seems we need to change the way we work, in line with the fact that jobs are changing this may be challenging. A few weeks ago I stumbled across the phrase Meetnapping. Having no corporate life experience, I still find this amusing as I can relate to pointless group meetings, again I bring up Google. I believe that we are steadily progressing towards a work culture where one’s ability to complete a task is valued more and therefor we can discuss the validity of the 40 hour work week. Which of course Tim Ferriss famously targeted in his book: The 4 Hour Workweek.

So, if The Ugly Indian is such an effective method of working towards solving problems, what can we learn and hopefully take with us to another place of “deployment”. Especially considering that the problems being solved seemingly never had any functioning or viable solution from before. Volunteering can’t be sustained as nothing is free. But how about commission? A pure reward by output model?  I doubt it. Having worked in such an environment before I can safely say motivation and quality of work becomes a far too easy to sacrifice. Which I would say is why The Ugly Indian has its principles as it mentions in the video; no money, no identity and no talk. Meet up get things done and move on. To close I’ll quote Harry S Truman. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”. (Almost as amazing as Truman’s middle name is S, and does not stand for anything. )

TransferWise needs to work with Airbnb

Airbnb is a fairly known start-up. Making anyone a kind of hotelowner, providing a platform for short term rental of rooms, houses, apartments or castels. They are growing rappidly. Transferwise has also entered as fairly large, with Sir Richard Branson’s investing in them. Essentially a service that makes international money transfers “fair and cheap”, the simple solution saves money for people who do international money transfers at any scale. Watch how it works here. Typically, the bank will firstly make you pay a fixed fee depending on which country you are sending money to, then they will use an exchange rate that benefits the bank at a few percent charge. It all adds up, and is not very transparent.

However, why these two startups are not integrated with each other I hope is only a question of time. Because, as I recently used Airbnb for the first time I really missed the transparency of Transferwise. I was required to pay a sum in Euros with my Norwegian card. So consequently I was charged 3% comparing Airbnb’s rates with Transferwise. This adds up. So thinking aloud, I would like to see a future where Airbnb uses Transferwise to conduct its payments. Essentially it would require some reworking of how Airbnb does its authentication and cancellations. But there are clearly many benefits of partnering with each other.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs

I have reflected over work and readings that I’ve been doing lately, and thought I should put them down on paper.

Firstly these remarks are made from observing the work at Innovation@altinn since early September, both in Oslo and in Tronheim. Combined with reading ‘Great By Choice’ a book by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen.

The book explains choices and behavior “10x-companies” have. These companies have beaten the stock market by at least 10 times, so called 10-xersSouthwest Airlines, Microsoft and Intel are repeatedly used as examples. Highly recommend reading this book, one chapter at a time to fully see the case studies and the concepts. Innovation@altinn is on the other hand, is an innovation program focused on creating working prototypes based on ideas sourced from participants of the program. It is a living example of Open Innovation [1] in the public sector. What the program specifically aims to do, is show how government can be digital[2]. Using the national IT platform Altinn, the citizen of the future should enjoy better services and improve communication with government via this platform. Currently this platform is underused, where most Norwegians are only aware of Altinn when they do their taxes online. This has already saved Norwegian businesses  estimated to above one billion kroner per year, just from time savings[3]. But there is a capacity for doing a lot more.

My reflections that tie these two together:

In the program, it is surprisingly well aligned with the book. Using open innovation techniques, it is easy to have a mindset that “we know what the customer wants” due to incorporating as many points of view as possible. But to have ongoing testing / Q&A / probing is essential. To make sure a “full fledged cannonball” becomes a success, the tuning and validation from bullets are needed. Backed and calibrated from feedback is the only way to have a grasp on what problem you’re solving. The book has in its numerous examples found that firing cannonballs, often identified as expensive and distracting tasks need a proper backing of empirical data and validation. For the bullets, however, they can be seen as the opposite, a Minimal Viable Product [4] to some extent that allows to correct mistakes early on. Book standard project management, but complicated due to having an increase in parties with certain ownership of the idea.

You can read more about Innovation@altinn at , and if you would like to read the book,

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