(Before you begin, this is the second part of a two-parts blog post . Head to Side A if you have not read it yet.)
The good thing about being back in the university is that you are given the space and time to experiment with ideas and work speculatively. I never expect giving myself a chance to dream about what might be. I enrolled the course with an initial humble intention of hybridizing tradition and contemporary crafts. Successfully taking the shackles off the realistic and pragmatic expectation, I am ecstatic to rejuvenate my brain factory of critical ideas (which was subjugated by the office job) and realize them with commercial aspects.
Brim Lamp is not about distancing from technology. It is about embodying the balance of anolog and digital.
Studying the characteristic of the lamp that I wanted to exhibit in the prototype, I was inspired by silicone molding as a mean of rapid prototyping at the Fablab. Aware of the amount of work and limited timeframe I have, I quickly cad up my model for CNC milling and 3D printing. I was so eager to get it moving once I completed the drawings. I head down to the carpentry workshop, I was in great luck, there were few large pieces of plywood lying in the scrap bin. I was over the moon and ready to get my hands dirty. With my prior handcrafting furniture experience, working with wood has become a natural instinct for me. Measure. Cut. Glue. Layer after layer. Clamp. Done! Left it overnight to dry. I then swiftly moved into the CNC department and inquired about their machine. Sadly, the CNC machine is a basis model and is capable of milling flat sheet, with the drill bit reaching maximum depth of 50mm. I was recommended to check out lathing as an alternative method. (It will take a long time to do and may vary in accuracy, hence I am not going for it). Meanwhile, I proposed chopping my wood block in half for the milling to be done separately. The risk of that is the two parts may not match. (Which is definitely not what I want) Although it is healthy to have some naivety that everything is possible, I should have found out about the processes and its limitations first.
Recalling an induction to advance manufacturing facilities at the engineering school, I decided to check out what they got to offer. I got bad news and good news. Bad news: They can’t mill wood as it is fire hazardous and there is limitation in dust extrusion. Good news: There is an alternative material which they have been using for carbon fibre molding. It is tancast, rigid polyurethane foam. But I have to make some alterations to my drawings to fit the specs and nature of machineries. (No problem, I can do that) Even better news a while later: They can manage to push me forward of the line and have it done within 3 days to catch my deadline. (Perfect!) I went on to spit out files for 3D printing and laser cutting. Have I mentioned that all these that I’m working on for the prototype is free of charge? (Seems like my backtracking plan of my work schedule is working out!)
Once I got my 3D printed parts and CNC milled mold ready, I approached Fabllab for advice in silicone molding. 500grams of 4 to 1 ratio liquid silicone and hardener. Stirred well. Left for 5 minutes in a vacuum box to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible. Steadily, I poured the mixture into the tancast mold before inserting the 3D printed mold to sandwich the mixture. I returned the next day to pull the molds apart. It turned out that I have to hurt the 3D print part. I chiseled into it, deep enough to pry it out but also careful not to affect the silicone underneath. Release agent was supposed to be applied to the mold prior to pouring the silicone.. Lesson learnt for the next one!
3D printing is a great alternative material as much as a method. It is about speed making and make mistakes fast. Second prototype is in its way.