Why this project?
My love for art began many years ago when I took my first jewelry class as a freshman in high school. I considered going to art school because I got a full ride scholarship. Because this class offered so much freedom, I knew from the start I wanted to do jewelry. I immediately thought of a piece I received several years ago. My knowledge of gear design from my engineering classes really made this project possible and allowed me to be very creative.
How did the public react?
The public was originally weary of my project. In their eyes, the pieces seemed fragile so they were hesitant to touch the pieces. Once I encouraged them to play with the pieces, they had very positive feedback. However, their favorite pieces were my least favorite pieces which was surprising. Almost all the people commented that I should look into selling these on Etsy. My pieces were unique and would definitely fit an engineering girl niche market.
What did I learn? What should I have done differently?
I have only used CAD in a few environments. In all of those situations, I was creating a part that interfaced with pieces that were already fabricated. I therefore had little freedom in terms of dimension and shape. I had also never design gears from scratch before. So the freedom to decide the overall arrangement and the gears themselves. After many failed attempts to create gears, I learned to use my resources. Rather than creating the gear teeth entirely from scratch, I took the dimensions off of gears that were already created. Looking back, I would spend time playing around with the SolidWorks gear program. I also learned about the importance of tolerancing with different manufacturing methods. My gears did not successfully integrate when the teeth were too small. So in order to compensate for the material removal from the laser cutter, I ended up increasing the size of the teeth. I had also not used the laser cutter since freshman year. Unfortunately, I melted several of my pieces because they were so small and the power was too high. After using it several times, I mastered the art of cutting pieces without melting them by using a low power and time and repeating the cut several times. In the future, I would like to play around with using several different materials. Our school laser cutter is limited in terms of usable materials, but using a water cutter could allow me to use different materials.
What’s next for this project?
This is the end of the road for me with this project. While I would love to produce this project for personal sales, I do not have the personal tools to make that happen. Fortunately, one of the directors at the ITLL, Christine, will be taking this project forward. She loves the idea and would like to make it a product for SWE (Society of Women Engineers). Their logo is gears and this would be a great product for them to sell. Christine is making her own designs but is using my process to create the pieces. I am excited to see how they will turn out and hope they are successful.