Tangible Course Search (Part One)

This project is part of a crossover assignment that I am doing between Networked Media and Fabrication Lab. It’s an interactive physical and digital combined interface for sorting through IMA and related courses. For this blog post, I’ll be writing about the physical fabrication of the dashboard.


Sketching

The first step of any project is planning. To the left are the concept sketches for this project, with the rectangle on the left representing the first draft of a physical dashboard and the one on the right representing its digital analogue. There are five different section, which in order from top left to bottom right are Majors, Units, Times, Days, and Locations.

The first step of any project is planning. To the left are the concept sketches for this project, with the rectangle on the left representing the first draft of a physical dashboard and the one on the right representing its digital analogue. There are five different section, which in order from top left to bottom right are Majors, Units, Times, Days, and Locations.



Layout

Next I assembled the proper components (2 dials, 11 small buttons, one large button, and 2 sliding potentiometers) where they would be on the final dashboard. This allowed me to get proper visual spacing between the different areas of interaction and also served as an efficient test area for different components and arrangements, even if I went with my original plan in the end.


Digital File Setup

After getting a sense for the physical proportions and spacing in the last phase, I transitioned the measurements to a digital file. A ruler was used for spacing between components, and a digital caliper for spacing within components and the measurement of screw and button holes. These measurements were then copied over to the digital file, after which the text and decoration were added. The file, right, was created in Illustrator.


Laser Cutting

After so much difficulty in my last couple of laser cutting attempts, I was very hesitant about continuing to laser cut the interface. Unfortunately there was no alternative for this project that allowed for both engraving and cutting, so I went ahead. First I tried using the 60 watt laser cutter but after 40 minutes of engraving and 1 hour of cutting it still wouldn’t fully cut out. So I flipped the sheet over at started over with the 75 watt laser cutter. An hour later, it was fully cut out and engraved.


Assembly

Putting everything together, here is the assembled enclosure for the Arduino and interface components, the wiring for which are housed behind the display. I’ll need to get 3 more black button caps to make everything match, but otherwise it should be all done.

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