It's been a long time hasn't it? I do have to apologize for not posting more regularly - the semester always gets super intense near the end, and I barely found enough time to scrape together my application to the MIT Medialab, and four final projects [including my thesis defense - a big event at Products of Design where the 2nd year students present their work to the faculty for second semester]. There was even a stretch of time where I didn't sleep for 39 hours straight. Three finals, one thesis defense, one 145 page thesis book, and one week of rest later, I'm back! But... I'm flying to India later today for a 3-day tourist vacation in Agra and Delhi and a 2 week stay with my family in West Bengal. I'm going to try to queue up some scheduled posts today, so that the blog can update while I'm gone. I typically have a ton of downtime when I'm with family in India, so hopefully I'll get a lot of reading and design work done, and I'll have an update ready when I get back from India.
To whet your thesis-related material appetite though, I'll post some feedback I got on the rollable ramp from Boris, one of the awesome staff at the Visible Futures Lab [which is, if I forgot to mention earlier, the graduate student fabrication lab at the School of Visual Arts]. One of the things that I've been kind of worrying about for my thesis is that it really blurs the line between engineering work and design work. A lot of my products need to be figured out on a purely functional level before I can even begin to think about the user's interaction with the products, or aesthetics, or any of a number of other design criteria. The feedback that I received at my thesis defense and at check-ins throughout the semester reflected this - reception was really positive for my thesis at the defense, but an instructor noted that I had no images of my products or apps or services with actual people in them.
The feedback from Boris illustrates this tendency of my designs in a different way, in that it focuses on the actual engineering side of the problem and not the design side. I knew this all along - that design is informed by engineering and vice versa, and you can't [or shouldn't?] successfully create a product by engineering first, and designing later as a matter of pure aesthetics, or do the reverse by designing completely fanciful objects that could never be executed in real life. That's why I've been applying to design engineering programs, in the hopes to shore up my ability to at least understand engineering on a basic level. I guess I still need to figure out how I'll merge design and engineering in the process of creating products for this thesis.
Without further ado, feedback from Boris:
For that type of design, I don't see a way to cut down on costs [note from Souvik: the prototype of the rollable ramp that I made was really expensive, and wasn't even built at scale, so this is why I initially contacted Boris]. You can go with thinner tube, but that'll probably be minimal savings. You can try to redesign the entire thing: longer sections, folds up instead of rolls up, and you can then use some aluminum sheeting and tubing/angle for support (I guess something similar to how attic staircases fold up). This may help make the ramp longer, while still allowing it to be compact when folded, and cut down on some of the weight by substituting tubing with sheet material.
Also, I'd recommend using diamond plate (http://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant.cfm?pid=1251&step=4&id=78&gclid=CMSJrsTi28kCFdQYHwodwfUF8g) textured material for better grip than just raw aluminum.
The other thing is you should be careful about is using wire rope like that. You're putting a lot of tension onto small sections of it, and worse yet the stress points are sharp-ish, this will cut into the wire rope, especially as weight is applied to the ramp, and eventually it will fail. Some sort of rubber grommet in the hole of the aluminum tubing, protecting the wire rope will reduce this wear and tear, and it should help distribute the weight more evenly, as it will cause the pieces to 'float' on the wire rope (this may not actually work in practice when adding 150+ lbs, but seems to make sense in theory).