Cardboard Modelling

Prototyping is probably my favourite part of a design process. In order to improve myself in prototyping and to learn ways to apply prototyping earlier in the design process, I followed the course Cardboard modeling. This elective teaches students basic and advanced skills in working with foamboard and cardboard in order to be able to make working and good looking prototypes.

When working with cardboard it is important to work very carefully and precisely. This was something I had a bit of difficulty with, in the beginning of the course. The slightest inaccuracy in one of your cuts can have a big impact on the final result. After working more with the material and gaining better control over the blade I managed to improve my models quite a lot. At the end of the course, the quality of the models I made was good. What I struggled with most in the beginning of the course was cutting circles, in the end, it was one of the things I liked doing most.

Cardboard model camera

Vintage camera

Every week we had to make several models. As the course progressed the assignments got more complex and we often had to design working interactions. The midterm assignment was to make a showcase of several motors controlled by user input. For this exercise, I made a mock-up of an old film camera. It is the model I am most proud of and it is the one shown in the picture. The model features a spool for the film, a lens and a door on the left side. All of these features are actuated and work based on a slider on the side of the camera.

When the slider is all the way up, the camera is off. When you slide it down the camera will start, focusing the lens. After this, the spool will start spinning and you start recording. By adjusting the slider you can adjust the speed of the recording/the spool, this also determines how far the door on the side is open.

Course reflection

During the course cardboard modelling, we learned the basics of modeling with foam core and cardboard. Both for fast exploration, and higher fidelity modeling. I have quite a lot of experience in 3D printing and laser cutting, and these are my go-to prototyping tools. I decided to do cardboard modeling to expand my prototyping skills, and to have a possibly easier method of prototyping.

The course started off a bit rough for me. In the first week, I had surgery, and it took a week to recover. Because of this, I had missed the first assignment. This added to the workload of the next week and made that I was behind for a few weeks.

Before the course, I did not have any experience with cardboard modeling. At the beginning of the course, I had some difficulty with my build quality. Everything just did not fit the way it was supposed to. The hardest thing for me was cutting circles. They just did not come out nice and round.
Over the course of the semester, as I got more experience and confidence the quality of the models started going up.
Despite the struggles I had while cutting circles, I wanted a lot of circles in my models. At first, this did not help the overall quality, but after a while, I got quite comfortable with cutting circles, and the circles turned out better as well.
The hardest part for me was changing my build speed and quality. I find it very hard to work faster on a lower fidelity. I just work and nice and fast as I can, and for some reason, I cannot really change that.
A reason for this is probably the way I work and prototype. In order for me to be able to build something, I need an idea in my head of how it should generally look and work. I can make changes while building, and figure some things out as I go, but I do need a clear idea of where to start.
This also reflects in my explorations. I find it very hard to focus on just one aspect of a model, for the same reason as I just gave.
For me, a model or product isn’t just the sum of all the individual parts, but it is more than that. I always think of all the parts together, and how they relate. When exploring I work on the complete model and not on all the parts separately. This takes more time, and thus for fewer explorations, but I think the overall quality justifies this.

I made two versions of the motor exploration. When building the first version I had a hard time integrating the electronics with the foam core. I just did not know well enough how to work with the material to integrate the electronics.
When building the second version I felt a lot more comfortable with the foam core, and I had a much better idea of how to integrate the electronics.

Towards the end of the course, I started to feel much more comfortable with the material and the tools, and I started enjoying working with the foam core way more.
What I had not realized before the course was the amount of time cardboard modeling takes. You really have to take some time, a few hours, to work on your models. So, it is not something that you do when you have five minutes to spare.
I do feel that I have achieved my initial goal to learn another prototyping skill. During future courses and projects, I will definitely use the skills I have learned during this course to start prototyping early on in the design process.