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20. Project development

The fact that I am writing this part of documentation at 3 AM of a warm summer night is a clear sign I wasn’t the strongest in project development.

I must say that I did arrive quite exhausted to this point in the FabAcademy, maily because I did not expect such a steep learning curve.

At this very moment not much is left to be done in this project: aside from perfectioning my clocks software, all of the structure, system integration, post processing and finishing is completed.

I was quite proud by the fact I did not generate much waste in my processes:

  • the 3D printed joints were only printed twice
  • the button cover was printed 3 times, in order to find the perfect tolerance for the whole fitting
  • the faces were laser cut only once and were already perfect
  • the sides were machined only once, but I could have nested them better on the stock, as the remaining stock was not enough for a medium sized project
  • the screen mask was machined once
  • even if not perfectly milled the first time, I used the first two boards and connectors milled, only using stock cutouts and 1 double sided phenolic paper
  • no buttons, wires, supply or components were damaged in the process

Other things that came out nicely is that my design worked non-taxonomically, so I could continue working on different parts of the system while others were being produced.

What hasn’t worked? Well, once again, my very poor time management: even if I knew the chess clock could beome my final project, I did not start to work on it untill the end of Wildcard Week. This brought me to acculate some left-behind work in terms of documentation, ultimately adding to my already semi-worrying anxiety, nd totally robbing me of time to breathe in the last 3 weeks. My fault nonetheless.

I still need to improve my coding skills. I found extremely interesting to approach coding: it is a almost ludic mental exercise in logic and language, a beautiful synthetic and abstract attempt to portay logic, causality, determinism. As you can imagine by how I speak about all this, I do not have yet the skills to approach coding in a fully functional way: I am at a quite low grade of literacy so far, so just as a kid imitates their teachers and friends speaking, slowly building their lexical and syntax, I am slowly imitating what I see, cutting and patching code examples, experimenting with libraries, sometimes getting lost in unintelligible machine-mutterings, serial communication hyerogliphs, vibrating LED, bouncing signals, that occasinal short cirtcuit, lost commas and nomadic brakets, ninja typos and so forth. Albeit being slow, and often spending far too much time debugging, I get extremely excited and satisfied once, eventually, I get a sketch to work as I wanted.

All other aspects of digital fabrication are a lot easier to me:

  • I love solving the circuit puzzles in boards design
  • I enjoy relaxing and focusing to solder nicely and quickly
  • I found myself quite proficient in adapting to different CAD and CAM softwares
  • I liked remembering and precisely following the specific workflow of each machine

One of the best feelings during FabAcademy was, in this sense, see how during the months I have been improving the speed in which I designed and produced artifacts, I have been gradually reducing the amount of waste generated.

This was very helpful when it came time to approach the final project as I did not encounter invalicable obstacles.

I was very happy that I managed to get pretty much to the level of complexity and amount of feature I had decided: the further development I want to achieve now is addint additional time control modes to the clock.

Documentation was also not always optimised: I prepared a skeleton of documentation early on in each project, and started collecting media each time, I used imagemagick and ffmpeg to rework the original files so to be git-ready, I could have always done more earlier.

In terms of time management, as much as I was very mistaken in starting my final project very late, I am happy that I managed to “tetris” time blocks together:

  • longer machining jobs that didn’t need my complete focus allowed me to find time to design ahead of time parts and componets to be later produced
  • deciding which parts I would have bought (buttons, paint) allowed me to focus more on the parts I was less strong on
  • knowing ahead what was the look I wanted to achieve in my final artifact allowed me not to loose time experimenting, or starting paths I woulnd’t follow

As said before, aside from the 3D printed joints, that determined the sizes of almost every other component, none of the other parts needed the others to be produced, allowing for each segment of process to be treated in parallel at any needed time.

In terms of spiral development, the structure of the machine was designed parametrically so it can easily be modified and expanded, but at the very moment I do like the structure. I would gladly make a portable version, with a much smaller OLED screen, instead of my current 8x32 pixel screen. Most of the consequent iterations would be in the optimization of the code.

The system integration in my project was satisfying: It surely needed a lot of female\female jumpers, but all electronics were hidden inside the box, the artifact is heavy, sturdy and solid, and I am quite happy of the two solutions found to hide the LED matrixes and meeting points in between faces, sides and joints.

The finish quality is not perfect:

  • I did not wait long enough for the paint to dry in between sanding and consequent paint layers
  • I had stuck the vinyl in correct position, but spraying the final coating, the letters did move, but I could not fix them as I would have made a mess with the coating layer.



This is a quick timeline sketch for the last 9 days of the course prior to presentation. I tried to place longer production time processes (such as 3d printing or machining) each on a separate day, so I could use the time waiting for said job to finish in better ways: debugging code, designing further parts of the final piece, testing assemblies and so forth.

Last update: July 9, 2021