This summer our team welcomed interns to our group. Their assignment was to collaborate using Fusion 360 and Autodesk 360. The idea for this endeavor came from none other than our CEO, Carl Bass. This is not the first time we have employed interns in this way because Carl once said "'If I ask a Product Manager, can our product do this?' The Product Manager always responds 'Of course it can do that.' I want to know from real world experience what our products can and cannot do. I look to experts who take on special projects that demonstrate the power of what we build and the realistic limitations as well."
Our interns were on the case to put the proof in the pudding. I had 3 interns reporting to me this summer:
Sam is an industrial designer completing his first year in the Master of Fine Arts Design Program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. He graduated from the University of Michigan (Go Wolverines!) with a degree in Political Science and Film. Sam was an intern at Casabella, a company that designs and manufactures high-end cleaning and kitchen products. Sam has experience with design software and is looking forward to learning Fusion 360. Sam's goal is to "create products that are visually beautiful, deliberately designed, but ultimately realized through human use."
Joe is a third-year student working on his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California Berkeley (Go Bears!). Joe is already well acquainted with Fusion 360. He is co-founder of a 3D modeling club and teaches 3D modeling to non-engineers. Next semester he will teach a course on Fusion 360. He has worked as a CAD designer for HoneyBee3D – a retail 3D printing and 3D scanning store.
Mary is a third-year student at Olin College of Engineering working on her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. (Notice there is no Go Mascot! As an elite group of ~500 students, they are not prepared to take on the Wolverines nor the Bears.) Mary's passion is attacking the "tension between what our minds can imagine and what is possible given modern technology." Autodesk already has an employee named Mary Morse, so our Mary is email@example.com.
Our team of 3 completed 2 ambitious projects this summer.
The Asthma Inhaler Project
The first intern project was to imagine, design, and create an asthma inhaler. Sam has asthma and regularly uses an inhaler.
He identified two problems with it.
- The mouth valve is at a fixed 90-degree angle yet the medicine will not flow through the inhaler unless the inhaler housing is facing up.
- The mouth valve is exposed. Since Sam keeps his inhaler on him at all times, each usage includes a blast of dirt (or whatever other residue was in his pocket) in addition to the medicine.
So the team iterated on a bunch of possibilities.
They designed an inhaler with a mouth piece that is closed when not in use. This keeps dirt out. The mouthpiece can rotate a full 180 degrees so that the inhaler can be used while lying on one's back since the inhaler body is still facing upwards. In addition, the user can squeeze the sides to expel the medicine. The team felt this was a more natural way to administer the medicine than pushing down on the top.
They were able to experiment with normal and medical-grade printing materials using a 3D printer.
3D Print Finishing Tools
The next project involved Project Spark. Project Spark is Autodesk's initiative to advance the 3D printing industry. We are providing a toolkit of software to drive 3D printers as well as making our own 3D printer as a reference implementation that demonstrates that the software does indeed work. We are making the software and 3D designs for the printer publicly available for free. But I digress. Well, the interns spent many hours at our Pier 9 office using our 3D printers, and they noticed that it would be handy to have a set of tools to finish their 3D prints, e.g., a scraper to remove supporting materials.
So they designed and fabricated a Swiss Army knife-like set of finishing tools.
In addition to working with 3D printers, the team was able to work with laser cutters and metal.
Embarking on these two projects allowed them to put Fusion 360 and Autodesk 360 through their paces. The interns documented any issues they encountered and were able to snapshot their files on Autodesk 360 so the Fusion 360 team could investigate the issues. Based on their real world experience, the interns were able to make suggestions for improvements to both Autodesk 360 and Fusion 360. It was a summer well spent.
Empirical evidence collection is alive in the lab.