I have a work space in Hamilton's excellent and eclectic Cotton Factory where I do my more messy work, making anatomical models and the like. I do a lot of mold making for parts, going from soft modelling clay to silicone, rubber or rigid part. I'm in a space with the artists: talented painters, quilters, a fantastic book binder etc. Across the hall is a video production company and a landscape architecture firm. As I write this, there's a Netflix series filming out in behind the old factory. A few weeks ago Joe and Amin, a couple of young engineers, came in looking for help making molds for a thing they were working on. One of my studio mates pointed them in my direction. "You want to talk to that guy!" So they started to pick my brain to see what I knew and what I could do.
Joe and Amin were developing a better component for wind turbines. It turns out that the blades of turbines generate static as they move through the air. I would have thought they discharged that static with little tails like you see on the trailing edge of aircraft wings, but what do I know. They need to discharge through the nacelle to the ground and, they told me, the current components that get installed between blade and nacelle are pretty clunky things, bodged together with hose clamps, electrical tape and heat shrink tubing. They could do better, they just needed a bit of help making a pattern from which they would over-mold their assembly and make a tidy, professional looking component. Could I make a positive from which they could make a mold, and could I help them sort out their over-molding problem? Yes. Yes, I could. Easy.
I did a couple of quick sketches to see which one they wanted their component to look like, what features we could add or subtract, and they choose the nice rounded one.
With the form chosen I went to work on the CAD. First I measured the assembly as well as I could. I added some variance to give me some more space than needed as I didn't want to make a pattern from which any of the stainless steel components would protrude accidentally.
The CAD done, I exported it to my pre printing software, gave it 2mm thickness and made it hollow inside so as to not use $200 worth of 3D printer resin. Then it got sent to the printer and 6 hours later a lovely perfect print came off. We reconvened to see how I had done. Excellent, except neither Joe or myself were convinced that the pattern I had made was big enough to consistently contain all the stainless steel guts. The nice thing about CAD is that, if you plan it right, you just have to go back to some of your original dimensions and change them to change the whole design. Sort of. I wasn't quite that perfect, but I was pretty good. A longer and fatter pattern emerged a little while later. 6 hours after that, the right pattern emerged from the printer.
While this was happening, I was thinking of how to make a good reliable and consistent two part mold with which to contain the device and do the over-molding. And, once Joe and Amin had finished trouble shooting a couple of little material and process problems, they came up with the lovely specimen below! I half joke that I do a lot at the kitchen table. Joe and Amin also worked at their kitchen tables. We collaborated because of our shared workspace in a 100 year old, formerly derelict cotton mill that now buzzes with new life. You just never know where things are going to get made and businesses are going to start. I was super happy to help these guys out and it was awesome to be part of a successful Cotton Factory collaboration. Made in Canada, indeed.