The first step is to sketch the design. The whole making process can be divided into several parts: i. design the structure; ii. design the mechanical structure; iii. programming. We use illustrator to design the structure and decides to laser cut it. The box is to no one鈥檚 surprise, but we need to leave enough space to store everything we want to inside it. We use some special cardboard which is really firm. This box design somehow reminds me the birthday cake I had with my cousin last week. We spent quite a while to design the anchoring part of the box. We jtest the length of sloth and design the following pair of shapes as a match. The box has to be stable. Otherwise, we will have trouble in accuracy when the secret hand actually moves. One can see ten holes in two pairs on two sides of the box.
This is the place where we set our guide shafts through the holes. The three buttons are set as follows with equal amount of length between each pair. We drilled a hole on the top of one side for the setup of our power.
There is something that I want to emphasize here. We use press fit for the anchoring of the corner. One can see how we avoid a difficult situation. Our press fit is not a good design because the space of the sloth is bigger than it is supposed to be. We insert some extra small pieces into the spaces in the middle to complete the press fix design.
In order to complete the controlling system of this ultimate useless box, we use several things that are quite crucial for our project. Lead screw is our key to actualize the movement of our secret hand. On the end of the lead screw, we use one motor to generate the action of pushing by the secret hand. The controlling system based on the PCB board took us hours to complete. We used what we learned in the previous two weeks. We made two boards, and used an Arduino to complete the whole controlling system. The two boards correspond to the two motors. Arduino is for the central controlling.
The programming has a lot of technical details that we need to deal with, but it has no real difficulty that is hard to conquer. The Stapper Motor is good at measuring the relevant distance, but it cannot measure the absolute distance. One can deal with this situation by setting zero each time when we open the Stapper Motor. Then we keep moving the arm until it touches the switch. Then the arm will move itself to return the switch. This algorithm can be found in our documented file.
n the end, I want to make a comment on the relation between our box and the philosophy by a famous Chinese thinker, Chuang-tzu. Once, Confucius told Chuang-tzu," I have a big tree. People call it E. It is big and cannot be made into ropes. Its branches are small and do not follow any regularity, so that carpenters don't see any value in the branches. Today, you tell me that it is big and useless. Shall we just simply get rid of it." Chuang-tzu responds, "Today, you have such a tree, and you are worried that it holds no value. Why not place it in somewhere in the middle of nowhere? Somewhere really grand and huge, just as it has no boundary. One can always enjoy oneself and sleep under the tree. The tree does not need an axe, and nothing can hurt the tree. Since it is useless, why should bother to worry about it?"
What this story wants to tell is that whether a thing is useful or useless should not be thought of in any black-and-white way. A useless thing might hold no utility on the practical level, but it may transcend a traditional boundary and hold value on a meta level. Just as the useless tree mentioned in the story of Chuang-tzu, the ultimate useless box is such a thing that only holds value in the meta level. It reminds people the value of being isolated from any practical function. If one rids oneself from the traditional thinking of practicality, one can then see the core of life. Through observing how the ultimate useless box performs its action, we four from Shanghai Fablab eventually see the meaning of digital fabrication.
Although the design is nothing more ordinary, the documentation is great. I especially like the philosophical layer underlying this project. Good job anyway.