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Personal Statement : Reflecting on what I’ve learnt

Whilst I was trained in Autodesk Fusion 360 during my undergraduate degree, meaning that my CAD knowledge or skills haven’t necessarily improved, I have learnt a surprising amount considering my familiarity with both product design and 3D printing.

When I first started the project, I was quite daunted, despite the simplicity of the brief, since I had never even touched a Raspberry Pi before, let alone knew how it worked or what was required of an enclosure. I did some research into the way it functioned and the way that they are used, this was difficult in itself, and I didn’t learn a lot from what was required of an enclosure. It was only when I did some market research into existing designs, that I gained more understanding, since most of them had common features that Informed some of the requirements of my own enclosure. I was also able to analyse these examples which informed my initial design direction and, in turn, my final design. Even after looking at these however, some of the technical specifications in the brief still confused me. After a few days, I remembered that some of my best work in the past had originated from not knowing where to start, as obvious as it seems. So, I simply began to ideate and design, and everything seemed to fall into place as the project progressed. From this, I re-learnt that I will/should never already have the solution to a design problem and I should just allow my ideas to naturally flow and manifest in a sketch or rough CAD model, before worrying about technicalities. Whilst it seems obvious, this is something I have found easy to forget in the past.

A lot of my projects in the past have been 3D Printing based, warranting my belief In my familiarity with the technology, Fused Filament Fabrication in particular. I have worked on at least three products in the past that have required close attention to tolerances between parts that fit together. However, the parts in this product needed to fasten together securely whilst being easy to separate, preferably without the need for extra components. This mainly required some educated guessing/estimation and a fair amount of trial and error, but I learnt more about the relationship between the technical setup of FFF 3d printing (including layer heights, nozzle sizes…etc.) and how this affects tolerances determined in a CAD program.

I also discovered some of the new tools in Ultimaker Cura, despite my 3+ years of experience slicing my STL files with it. This included how to configure PVA interfacing between support material and the desired model/part itself, enabling tree supports, and the advantages these have over the regular structures, and how to inhibit the production of support material to specific areas. Most of these lessons came from either my peers, or YouTube tutorials, rather than independent learning, but they built on my skills and experience none-the-less.

Finally, I’m not sure if blogging is classed as a skill, but the requirement for regular posting of progression updates has certainly helped me to better manage my time. During my undergraduate degree, we were often given much longer-term goals, and were advised to fill our timetables with the tasks required to achieve these and meet the deadlines. However, during this project, I have discovered that I am far more motivated by short term goals that contain a smaller amount of tasks, since regular blog updates were required as part of the assessment, enabling me to define what needed to be done, as and when it was required. Whether this will be facilitated in the future, or if I will have to organise myself this way, I have managed to find out that I work best in a far more immediate, incremental, manner (day by day, or week by week), with distant commitments and deadlines in mind of course, rather than planning my time meticulously, multiple weeks/months in advance and adhering to the resultant schedule.

Overall, I have both enjoyed and learnt from this project a lot more than I thought I would. I now have a final design that I am proud of and a product that will make a nice addition to my portfolio.

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