Author Archive

Critical Review: Carvy – A Digital Stylus for Pottery Makers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


How I get there:

I started with a question, people use tools to shape the outside of the pottery piece. But how could the tools help people to craft the inside of clay.


Context and scenarios:

For the first scenario, maybe you are trying to hide something inside a ceramic jar. You need a tool to guide you to shape from inside. And one more use case will be that crafters need a tool to quantify the making process and the material. Under current technologies, they have to build a mould. Creating a mould is not easy or flexible at all. Thus a tool that could measure and estimate can be used to unify the shape of material even the crafters are not in the same place.


A state of smarter objects:

The state of smarter objects haven’t changed the material or the making process totally. Crafter can still use their workflow and material that they are familiar with. But at the same time, they can create a much digitalized relation with the material that they use. For example, a computational tool in ceramics might be a 3D-printer that mixed different soils. An traditional physical tool is the weight tool to measure the weights of soils used in mix a new material. A smart object will follow the mix procedure but also tell the crafter what’s the possible outcomes based on the current mix ratio.


Then the question is, how could smarter objects help the transformative process of making. I would argue that in four directions. First, the smarter objects have limited computation but still, it’s computation. Computation could help shape the material in a much more strict way than human’s hand. Second, the smarter objects help people to learn without touching the material, in this case, the tool could mark a position without touching the clay. But using traditional tool, a physical marker will be left. Third, smarter tools brings extra functionality than the traditional tools. A digitalized brush could change its shape to provide vivid writing experiences. Forth, smarter tools pass digital data. With digital data, material’s shape can be imported to computer, to mobile phones. And the once the data flows to others, the data could be used creatively in generating new material practices. For example, masters can teach their students how to shape a pot remotely with this tool.

That opens possibilities:

I can see the tool be utilized in many area, e.g. Logan’s project; Automatic drawing machine that draw a special pattern from computer; A way to teach and learn; A remoted connected handler; Transform data from the pottery maker or the WWW, the cultural side can be visualized…


Prototyping Process: Carvy – A Digital Stylus for Pottery Makers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


From Machine to Stylus

When I brought the idea of carving tool. The first thing came to my brain was Machines that make projects from MIT. The goal of those machines is to create more machines out of that. They made lots of things look like CNC machines. Then the question became, how did I make that. While I was drawing, a new idea was generated inspired by the 53 stylus pens for iPad.


The First Design

My first thought on the curving tool is a kind of 2D-Printer on the wheel. Two motors will move the pin in Y-Axis ( from top to bottom), and X-Axis (from the left to right, but always starts from the center of the wheel. The bottom of the extension bar has two sensors to detect the distances to the bottom and to the wall. Thus the machine could the vertically placed pin to the wall and start curving.

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Prove of concept for the first prototype:

This prototype hasn’t been activated since it’s over complicated. It requires both customized materials and lots of trials.

Thoughts on the first prototype:

The first prototype actually starts with a hypnosis rather than a real world solution. So there are pros and cons for the first prototype. The down side definitely is the complexity of the system, it’s basically a 3D-printer without Z-axis movements. Another problem that will be generated by this design is the space issue. A low height structure will block user’s vision to the ceramic object. In addition to that, machines can only achieve single direction pock action, which is just a little part of the creative use of the carving tools.

However, the design has lots of benefits that couldn’t be compatible. Firstly, the design could run automatically. User could just draw simple lines in the software then the machine could be able to decode the drawing and transform it on the surface of the pottery piece. Secondly, the design could tell the thickness of the pottery piece’s bottom by moving the pin left and right. Since it has a distance sensor attached, and a fixed height. The differences of values can be considered as the thickness. Thirdly, the process of designing this machine informed me a lot of design principles, such as a changeable connection.


The Second Design

My second design simplified the machine. By changing it to a handheld device. User could be able to use it in a much flexible situation.

Key Approach to the second prototype:

The second prototype uses a C-shape structure to drop the pin in the middle of the pottery. A small led matrix shows the distance got from the distance sensor. The up and down movement can be captured by the distance sensor on the bottom. Another distance sense is used to detect the distance to the wheel. In this prototype the speed control of the wheel is added. The goal is to have a way to project the pin’s positions on the all 360 degrees.


Thoughts on second prototype:

The second prototype validates the way to combine distance sensor to grab the position of the tool’s pin. With data, we can also record a piece of user’s action and then use it as an instruction to help them repeat, or practice. But the device is still large and not easy to use.


Design presentation: Carvy – A Digital Stylus for Pottery Makers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

My Original idea started with a limited space when I first tried throwing on the wheel. When I reached my hand into the inside of my clay piece, I was totally fascinated by the feel of touching. In that situation, I couldn’t see what was happening inside my jar. I have to use my fingers, my fist, and the rotation of the wheel, to estimate the position, to try my next move. The interactive model can be represented like this: We start with the feelings, then we proceed the feelings using our criterias such as the thickness of the wall, the shape of the surface, and the humidity of the surface. Once we gather all the information we need to make a decision, we push our hands again to perform, to change the pottery. Then we start a new round.


Then I’m wondering, is there a way to work from the inside?

Looking at all those images that people is trying to curve the different forms for their pottery, and the ways to do that are creative and novel. And most of them are seeking for duplications and orders in pattern making. But how could people reach the narrow, dark area inside of the the pottery. Also, the design challenge here is that, if you are shaping the outside of clay, the open space is quite enough to stretch your arm, change positions of hands, twist your wrist. But everything can be changed inside, it can be hard to grab a small tool.


The absence of inner pattern

I’m also wondering when when talk about the pattern, includes the graphical painting pattern and the pattern of repeated shapes. Inter patterns are hard to be found even the in the zen culture from east Asia. As the need of ceramic crafting is shifting to a much more personal side rather than production side. I’m also interested in the idea of smashing ceramics. If we can hide information inside of the clay piece and the only way to see it is to smash it. That will be a Erwin Schrödinger’s pottery, which can be quite fun.