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Hot Wire Foam Cutting Tool


The goal of this project is to:

  • To combine molded and casted parts to create components of physical prototypes.  

  • To design a device that requires the combined use of materials with different functional characteristics to perform its function  

  • To determine the shape and dimensions of mechanical components based on ergonomic principles.

Thought Process

Working in a team of three, several designs were developed: A cutting board with a vertical wire, and two pens. From these design ideas that each of us came up with, we ruled out the cutting board since we favor a pen due to its potential when it comes to multipurpose. As a result, we quickly decided to make a pen and proceeded to further discussions about the docking feature. Initially, we intended to create a set of retractable legs on the pen so that it could be used standing. However, my colleague proposed another idea which is a dock. After discussing which feature could be used to make the pen stand vertical, we decided that the dock would provide a better stability compared to the legs.

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Design Process

Most of the time in working on this project was used for the initial design sketches. We came up with several components so that the pen could be used in two different ways: writing and standing mode. Firstly, we spent a good deal of time to figure out how the pen would stand up straight while the foam passes through the wire. Two options were considered for this particular part: retractable legs on the pen and a docking station. After some discussion, it was decided that the docking station would provide more stability for the pen when it comes to having the foam passing through the wire. Furthermore, the rotating part of the pen was designed in such a way that the power cord would be attached on the side of the pen rather than other conventional pens where the power cord is attached to the bottom side of the pen. With this design, it would be possible to keep the power cord on either side of the pen while it is rotated when used, therefore minimizing the need to adjust the cord position. It would also make it possible to place the pen on the docking station. Last but not least, the pen body, along with other components were created in an online CAD software using sweep. The top part of the pen was made diverging to provide a grip, thus minimizing the chance of the user’s finger to slip into the nichrome wire.



In this project, 3D printing was used to create the physical model of our tool. Multiple prints were done since the switch did not fit into its designated hole, as well as some design improvements that were required to allow access for the electrical components. The final printed parts were collected in-person and evaluated in terms of the ergonomics. I found that this tool might be too large to be handled like a pen, while on the other hand I found it necessary to have a large body to improve stability when the tool was placed on a dock. This trade-off would be something worth considering for the next design process. I also found that the diverging part at the top of the tool was actually redundant for protecting the user’s finger from slipping into the nichrome wire. Because of that, I think that this part should be made a little smaller to prevent blocking the user’s sight of the nichrome wire.

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This project could not have been accomplished without the knowledge acquired from pre-requisite classes such as Introduction to CAD (ME357) and Manufacturing Processes (ME358). It also provided me an opportunity to learn a new CAD software called Onshape, which was a web-based application. This software brought us a tremendous amount of benefit when it came to creating CAD models and drawings, thus overcoming the barrier of working from home. Finally, communication and collaboration among team members were crucial to creating a cohesive design. I was very fortunate to have two other brilliant team members who also came with excellent ideas, and to work with them in considering pros and cons of each of our designs and other possible designs and solutions.

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