Final Model Making

After testing my first attempt at a full scale model during my latest observation session and seeing how incorrect the scale was, I created a second full scale model and went about adjusting both the size and form accordingly. I created a larger surface area so that the child could fit comfortably on both sides of the form by adding a few inches to both the length and width. I also made both ends a little bit thicker so that there would be more of the product touching the ground. This would ensure that it would more stable and safe when the child uses it at home.

I brought this second model to be tested for scale with another child. She is about 10 months old so her age falls right into the range of my user group. After bringing the second foam model to her home and even having her both interact with it and lay on top of it, it once again became aware to me that the scale was still incorrect. Although she was able to fit on top of it, I needed to increase the scale even further to make sure that it would be ergonomic for children both smaller than her and slightly larger. Seeing it in a real-life context definitely helped me understand the adjustments that were necessary to complete my design.

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Since I was unable to create a full scale, functioning prototype, I realized I needed to find a way to show all of the important elements that my product would have if it were being manufactured. This meant that I needed to create either one model or a set of models to communicate scale, material, and how the three final designs would look as a unit. After thinking about how to do this in a clear and minimal manner, I finally knew how it would be accomplished.

To show how the product would look in its final size, I continued to create a full scale, detailed model for one of the three designs. This model would represent both scale and form, giving others the chance to better see how it would be placed in the home environment. I used the same process as my previous two models, gluing together stacked layers of pink foam that was cut using the CNC router and carefully sanding it into its final form. I then used SolidWorks to create the textures that I wanted to add and 3D printed them on the studio’s Makerbot. I designed the piece to have both cone and bump textures that vary on either end on both sides. After printing four different sets of textures, I carefully sanded them, glued them on to the form and spackled all of the imperfections so there would be an overall clean, smooth finish.

This led to the next stage, which was to coat the entire piece with a product called foam coat. Foam coat, used in the set design industry to create life-like props to be used on stage, creates a plastic-like shell once it is painted on in multiple coats and set to dry. Once it was dry, I carefully sanded it to have a smooth a finish as possible. This was followed with multiple coats of primer, sanded in between applications, and two coats of spray paint.

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To depict all three models together, making them each in full scale was unnecessary. Instead, I used both Autodesk Fusion360 and SolidWorks to create CAD models for all three designs. I scaled them all down to 1/4 scale models and proceeded to 3D print them using the Makerbot. I assembled the forms and finished them by sanding, priming and painting them. Each one was painted a different color using the color palatte that I chose for my final designs. After researching the positive sensory effects that color can have on children with abnormal muscle tone, I chose bright, modern colors that would be both fun and visually appealing. Although the models are not as large as they would be in real life, seeing them all together in three dimensions gives a much better sense of how they would be used both individually and as a unit.

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Lastly, I needed to figure out an approach to depict the final material. The model, made of foam and an exterior shell-like material called foam coat, does not communicate what the product would feel like if it were manufactured as a product for children. Although I was able to give it a silicone-like finish visually, the textures and overall surface are very rigid and non-inviting for a child to interact with it. I decided that what I needed to do was create a set of silicone-molded textured forms to communicate the real-life material.

I purchased a set of textured plastic balls for children to use for my texture and material samples. I ended up cutting each one in half in order to use as the basis for my molds. After multiple attempts at creating plaster molds, I tried to create a mold using silicone caulking. I attached the textured halves to a sheet of glass and used a mix of dishwashing soap and water to slowly layer the caulking onto the textured exterior of the forms. After creating two full layers and letting them dry, I attempted to break the forms out of the silicone mold. However, it turned out that there was not nearly enough release agent applied before adding the silicone so it was impossible to break them free from the mold.

The simplest way I could find to get a clean silicone copy of the textured halves was to simply flip them inside-out and fill them will silicone. I flipped them all this way, applied plenty of release agent to the inside, and carefully filled them with a two-part silicone mixture. After letting them dry and solidify for 24 hours, I was able them from the textured plastic halves, leaving me with very clean silicone textured forms to use as my material and texture references.

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The textured forms are able to be touched and held, communicating how different textured surfaces would feel in the material of a final product. The silicone is rigid yet somewhat soft, as well as non-porous and easy to clean, making it a perfect candidate for a product in which a child would be interacting with quite often. The soft quality makes it inviting and comfortable while the rigidity adds an element of structure and safety to the product.

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