Design for extended use

A highlight of my time in London so far has been my growing involvement with the RSA's Great Recovery. One of our on-going projects is a program called Fab Friday where we open Fablab London to anyone in the public for an afternoon discussion on a specific theme as it relates to the circular economy. We have hosted Fab Fridays on food, textiles, and how to utilize maker spaces responsibly.

To better explain these photographs of our maker space event, I'll share Head of Programme for The Great Recovery, Lucy Chamberlin's words:

"Into the midst of this thrown-together network, Fab Lab’s Andrea Coens introduced some practical and simple ways in which she had used Fab Lab’s facilities to extend the life of some of her things – tying in perfectly with The Great Recovery’s inner-loop design model around longevity.

There was a camera tripod, which we decided was made from steel, aluminium, plastic, rubber and brass, probably imported from or via Taiwan, China, Australia, Iceland and the Middle East, and which had a broken part in the neck. Several other people in the room owned tripods – many of which hadn’t been used for upwards of ten or even twenty years – and when we talked about what would usually happen to these in the event of a broken part, responses ranged from ‘charity shop’ or ‘husband for repair’ to local dump, dustbin and ‘no idea’! In Andrea’s case, she had used a micrometer to measure the broken part precisely, had designed a new part using CAD software – actually improving the original design in the process by lengthening the threaded section to give it more strength – and then had 3D printed it at the Fab Lab.

Not only that, but she had then uploaded her new design to the website Thingiverse, an open source Creative Commons repository of designs for 3D printing, making it free for all to use and share. Within a couple of weeks, 16 other people had downloaded her design!

Andrea also showed us her ‘Fitbit’, a device for measuring steps and calories – fitness – and which had a small design fault in its attachment. Using Thingiverse again, Andrea had downloaded a ready-made design, printed it out in around 15 minutes, and instantly solved a problem which, though small, could have led to the product itself being wasted prematurely."

We designed these events to raise awareness of opportunities related to that theme and to allow others to network in productive ways. Our overall aim is two-fold: to encourage individual action in the short term and to identify wider impact that could be made with corporate or government policy. Planning ideal worlds is a good exercise but we also want to be proactive and set a good example while we wait for systemic change.