Pod evolution

As I iterate through different designs for the pods that will be used for the Where the Sky Widens workshops, I’m gradually becoming surrounded by more and more prototypes and I thought it might be useful to chart their evolution so far…

Here’s where it started, two years ago:

Wax pod: difficult to photograph, but very touchable

Wax shells cast in plaster of Paris moulds. Wonderfully fragile, lovely translucency, warm to the touch and, well, utterly impractical for housing battery-operated electronics.

Cutting the wax pods in half proved to be somewhat tricky

Different blends of wax were tried, but this was going to be a fundamental challenge…

[time passes…]

After deciding to use the pods in a new guise as part of a workshop series, I had to find corresponding new construction method and materials. The design brief is now to design something that can be assembled from (flat) kit form by a participant over the course of a couple of hours. The pods need to be in two halves to allow access for placing the electronics inside them …and also strong enough to carry the weight of those electronics. Ideally they’d also retain something of the fragility and the translucency.

Time to learn 3D CAD.

The original plan was to design a (curved) two-part clam armature. Participants would then fill in the gaps in the lattice work. Unfortunately a series of delays meant I had to shift the game plan again.

Plan C: folded and glued paper nets:

Working first in Rhino and then the papercraft software Pepakura Designer I (with a lot of help!) modelled a sort of crystalline version of the pod and then converted this into an opened-out net.


Here’s the first test print done onto several sheets of A4 copier paper:

First test printout of paper pod

… and a laser-cut version out of heavier stock:

The double wall gives it a nice thickness and also increases the strength

I really liked the double wall, however it was taking far too long to glue it together, so I had to revert back to a single wall. I kept the edge around the parting line, though, and that gave enough strength for it to do what it had to do.

The single-walled version

I increased the size a little too, to give more room for the circuitry. Shame I couldn’t get my brain around the software and three dimensions though – nice design, just the two halves didn’t match each other at the seam!

That’s better!

Phew! The next version was large enough, strong enough and both halves fitted together! Some tactical paperclips also did a nice job of keeping both halves together…

Putting a few LEDs underneath the top part also suggests it’s going to work well with internal illumination, too.

Two white LEDs, one red LED and the blue power LED on the Arduino

Here are all the versions together:

Next I have to refine the assembly process: focussing on construction instructions for the participants and how I’m going to present the pod in kit form. Fortunately no allen keys required…