We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

I kind of agree. I would also think about what would help my students get jobs in the end and to become successful designers. I understanding breaking from traditional ID, but if there’s not a need in the market for what you’re producing, your students will fail and just spent a ton of money on being able to use some fun stuff. With that said, I wish when I was a student we got to make $10,000 recommendations, could be really cool if the money is used wisely!

On another note:
Students who can speak intelligently about designing for manufacturing seem to a have a large edge.
So many of the industrial design jobs deal with designing injection molded products so why not equip students to speak intelligently about that.
I have had friends get asked in interviews how a part they designed would be made. While its discussed in school I feel that most students never think about the mfg process when designing in CAD.

Idea for the $10,000 = Get a desktop injection molding machine
Allow students to learn with the actual equipment used for consumer product.
Use it for demos. Learn about draft angle and designing for 2 part molds. Discuss mold design. Allow students to make parts for projects. Design products with real snap fits ect.


This could be interesting, especially since you can 3d print the molds out of plastic and get some shots out of it for cheap. I was blown away when I saw pieces being molded in plastic tools.

+1 on the desktop injection molder, that would solve our having to gently break it to recent graduates that “you can’t really mold that you know”. Didn’t know such a thing existed.

On the electronics prototyping kit - I recall reading some story about Jony Ive and his student telephone project. When he brought the phone to his first interview he could take it apart and show how the components fit. Imagine being able to take some student project gadget to an interview, talk about the surfacing and gesture on the outside, and then open it up and name the individual components on the inside.

ORRRRRRRR you can say that your school has a robot.

A small injection molding machine will still require an in house CNC machine for creating tools, and that’s prohibitively expensive for materials as a student. Students can learn as much about injection molding with a good teacher and a weeks lesson in drafting plus sketches. I would also argue that theres very advanced tooling approaches (we commonly had parts with pulls/slides/cams in all 4-6 directions) that allow very wacky things to be built. Not to say students shouldn’t understand those things, but early on in your career you can also be limited by a smaller amount of knowledge and thinking everything needs to be an A-B tool.

With that said, I had a girl in my ID studio in college design a bucket for horse shit (literally) and then when asked what it was made out of her response was “Carbon Fiber, because it’s light”. Needless to say her ID career never took off. :laughing:

I think that its a super valuable experience for a student to be able to do this and show that they understand the design process as a whole and know how to do real user testing.

I had to make a stud finder for a 3rd year project, part of which was building the pcb for sound, light etc. feedback and a controller so that we could test how usable the design was. Getting responses on a working prototype from people around the uni and making design changes based on those responses made the project far more realistic, and I definitely learnt a lot about making something functional.

On the desktop IM machine ( which I think is also a good idea) an innovation lab here was 3d printing successful tools from Nylon (I think) rather than machining them, but the prints are from a 250k objet printer which puts the material costs outside of what the average student can afford.

Ferrari bucket? :laughing: Reminds me of all the carbon fibre trinkets than luxury car brands sell.

This sounds like a great little project with both educational and real-world relevance. Sparks curiosity about “why does something do that” and recognizes the relative level of complexity in even simple tools and products. Lamps, alarm clocks, remote controlled gadgets, all worthwhile types of projects.

+1 on the photo setup if you don’t have one already. Having a really good camera, a couple softbox lights, and a backdrop set up and able to be used at any time has been really useful at work. Not only do pictures of our final models look great, but it’s really easy to have professional looking photos of everything along the way. And it should cost much less than $10,000 so you’ll have plenty left over for something else.

3D printers would be great if you don’t have them already. I think they help designers work on both form and function and help push their 3D modeling skills. Just make sure the students don’t think their hotshots for knowing 3D printing - it’s not really that hard (at least the usual stuff) and at least for now it doesn’t replace knowledge of mass manufacturing processes.

The desktop injection molding machine sounds great, but I worry that it will take too much upkeep and expertise, besides the cost of molds (which 3D printing can help with, but probably not a sub $10,000 3D printer). If you have a shop manager or other staff member who’s excited to take it on it could be cool though.

The electronics set is also a great idea, and also not terribly expensive. You could make a pretty sweet station for $10,000, and for those who are into it it would be a big help.

Yes, an injection molding machine seems a bit overkill. Agree with Cyberdemon on how advanced injection molding is now a days that a simple machine without a teacher would not be a good investment for the school.

Also, if injection molding is of interest why not create simple RTV molds. Teaches you the basics of molding without the expense. Back in the day we used to have to take Metals, Woods and Plastics classes separately plus Design Methodology and Production Techniques…now it is all combined into one or two model making classes.

The electronics kit may be nice but also a bit misleading and I’m afraid students may focus more on the coding or EE design that they’ll put design second. Besides, if showing how something works in real life or having an working prototype is the goal, you can probably buy a new or used XYZ, open it up and use the same components for your new XYZ. Then you can use your school’s filament 3D printer to print your beautifully designed housing.

Maybe use the 10K for a sponsored project in AI? Have the class design a robot that solves a specific need or helps somebody perform a task better. Use the 10K for materials, prints or guest speakers on AI?

How about a killer sound system for everyone to use? A Marantz receiver, Martin Logan speakers …

Unfortunately it sounds like your chair is looking for some flashy toy to attract students (actually parents…) rather than something that would really help the students grow.

As far as I can tell, most cutting edge tech related to ID would be aimed at masters/PhD work as there is a huge learning curve and they are in active development. If anything, interest would come from professors that are interested and ready to push those boundaries.

In a related field, it seems like architecture is moving really rapidly right now and architecture faculties are leading a lot of the efforts design, CAD and manufacturing/building development and not necessarily engineering faculties. Things like parametric design, use of AI and optimization algorithms, additive building technologies, use of robots in large scale building (3D sheet metal bending, suspended concrete pours…). Lots of schools have classes where they get their students to play with these new technologies and implementing by get their hands dirty building physical pavilions. Architecture has a history of academia but it seems like lately they are hub for a lot of technological development that would have typically happened in engineering faculties. It seems like on the flip side, ID faculties are much more focused on craft and professional development and there are not many places like the MIT Media Lab that create a bridge between ID and other disciplines. Yet most of ID and the success stories of ID were in very interdisciplinary settings.

Back to your 10k$ burning a hole in your pocket, I’d agree with Sain. If your school doesn’t have one, a photography/videography studio would be great. Even better if who ever’s showing the students how to use rendering software shows them how to light and compose a shot with a camera. It’s way faster and intuitive to learn by moving lights and modifiers around than it is to move points around on a computer and waiting for things to clear up…

As others have mentioned getting students to build things physically is great but can get very expensive very fast. I studied mech eng but in my final year, we had a design class where among other design tasks we had to build a physical prototype. We could invoice the school a few hundred bucks in material and had full shop access, training and more importantly super skilled trades that worked the shop and were used to explaining and working out manufacturing problems with student. You get a very different appreciation for manufacturing limitations when you’re personally faced with them…

Absolutely, any of these would make for a good student project. It also weeded out the bullshit for those who didn’t bother to actually test anything when the final design didn’t relate to the research.

You got some great advice here.

I agree on the safety of the robot arm of course and imagine you can put up some off-the-shelf fencing system.
I was just thinking in line with the showcasing potential for the faculty, this is quite important for any school.
At my university there is a lightning generator that isn’t directly useful for anything but demonstrations really, and the 250k Objet printer was not absolutely necessary but it does show people things that aren’t possible anywhere else and some potential uses.
If you’re talking about workshops, electronics are absolutely fundamental in design schools. They are common now here in Europe so I don’t classify it as anything near cutting edge. From almost 10 years working as a student in electronic labs you learn that this is the place that vacuums up your budget very rapidly, so a good policy for part acquisition is fundamental.
Good students will learn to design for injection moldability as well as other processes without any need for demonstration, factory visits are a better way to get an insight into the industry and usually don’t cost much if anything.

A great middle way can be to develop ‘experimentation platforms’ - develop some basic robots that students can use to program interactions and movements, even convert into a machine of their own design by having it act as the frame for their design.
Similarly, you can establish a materials laboratory where people can get a sense for all kinds of materials together with all current know-how.
For product testing and photography, having a simulated environment is also a great idea. A single order from Ikea together with some cameras and other sensing technologies can bring you all you need to develop your own living room lab. The in-context photos students can make there are also great PR for the faculty.

For $10K, I’d give 20 students a $500 budget (or however you want to divvy it up) to spend at the local 3D print house.

Buy a printer, you are stuck with 1 material. One size does not fit all.

Or make sure you restock the consumables for your shop. Saw blades, xacto blades, pliers, wrenches, hot glue guns, ren shape, balsa foam, foam core, tape, markers. I could blow that $10K without breaking a sweat.

What I don’t understand is the need for any specialty item. Maybe I am an asshat who wants you to get off my lawn, but your sole purpose is communicate solutions. Specialty items only narrow your focus, you should broaden your focus if you want to be successful.

As a freebie, for IM designing for manufacture, 1. Uniform wall thickness; 2. No undercuts; 3. If you violate 1 or 2, actually talk to someone in the molding business. It ain’t rocket science.

I think that is a good idea iab. When I was in school we did something similar (albeit more lowtech) We went and visited an aluminum sand caster to see the process. Then we all went back to the studio and designed something for sand casting that was no bigger then 6x6x6 and we all got to cast it. It was a great learning experience and the school of course showed off the results.

Experiences over toys. Experiences you can take with you, the toys stay at the school.

I agree some of this may very well be the “Show students massaging virtual 3d models so prospects give us their tuition money” mentality.

I doubt most school administrators would just give students credits to use for their projects. Even when I’ve seen school run equipment, anything consumable was always charged or student provided and even if that benefits the students, who cares. What’s next, giving them free text books? :wink:

Thank you all so much for this discussion. You’ve all shared some great insights. Thanks!

What did you end up getting?

We’ve been on winter break the past month. I’ll check in with our dept. chair for an update and get back to you guys.

Thanks again for the thoughtful discussion and suggestions!

In the meantime, I want to reply to some of you who already contributed suggestions.

Many of you suggested using the money towards electronics (i.e arudino). I’m happy to say that a couple years ago we began an electronics lab with a course dedicated to thoroughly learning circuitry, Arduino, and even some Raspberry Pi. Many of us who have completed this course have continued to use electronics in our prototype models as we’ve progressed through the program.

We spend a lot of time in the shop and are all well versed in constructing prototypes and model making.

I agree it does get expensive, but unfortunately, we cannot buy consumables with this money. And as I mentioned earlier, we already have FDM and SLA Printers.

The photo booth idea is cool and many of you +1’d it. Some of us have soft light boxes that we share and that seems to be working very well. Not everyone knows how to use a camera, so this one might be further considered.

I personally like the suggestion of an injection molding machine. I think manufacturability knowledge is an area where we can improve, but as many of you mentioned the die and upkeep can pose a problem.

Once again, thank you all for your suggestions. I hope we can figure this out soon :slight_smile: