Nuu Box

縫う (nuu), pronounced "new" means sew in japanese

Making With Meaning

Product Realization: Designing and Making - Autumn 2019

Utilize the product realization lab to create a product that is both meaningful to you and displays a mechanical function.

Nuu Box: At A Glance

Meaning

A sewing box that honors my grandma and the tools she used as a tailor

Materials

Aluminum sheet (5053), wood (poplar) 

Processes

Sheet metal pattern making and bending,riveting, woodworking and staining 

Design Goals

To create an item that exists nowhere else and include an element of whimsy 

Challenges

To achieve consistent geometry, precisely plan each folding sequence, ensure all parts fit well together, rivet reliably, work with and finish wood components, and to know when to stop.

Design Process

Brainstorming

When I first approached this project, I didn't know where to start. I had not worked in the machine lab before, and I wasn't sure what the different processes would make possible for me, so I felt uncertain about which direction to pursue. However, this new-ness was also very exciting and after reflecting on the things that I found most meaningful in my life, more and more projects came to mind.

To the right are some of my initial ideas: a mechanical pencil display case and a sewing box - the latter was the project I decided to go forward with.

Design Development

I intended to create the sewing box to honor my grandmother who was a seamstress and a tailor who left her sewing supplies to me when she passed away. I hoped that the box would be a place for me to hold her memory as well as honor her craft by housing the tools she used in a functional and elegant manor.

After going through a few iterations of drawings, I decided to change my design from a standard rectangular box to one with eight sides, as I was inspired by traditional Japanese sewing boxes and wanted the challenge and visual interest of more complicated geometry.

Rapid Prototype

Once I settled on a design, I was excited to realize it in 3D space. I created my prototype at half scale and thought about where the folds and fasteners would end up in the final project as I adhered the cardboard together.

In my model I represented the riveted sections with the folded tabs along the corners.

Functional Prototype

I first pooled all my sewing supplies to insure that the full size box would accommodate everything.

I utilized a heavy paper in order to emulate the structure of the sheet metal I would eventually use. I even joined the box with "rivets" I made from paper.

It was helpful to visualize all of the compartments at full scale.

CAD Model

Utilizing SolidWorks gave me the chance to work through the dimensions of my critical part before I had to cut any sheet metal.

Manufacturing Prototype

I decided to run through the operations sequence of my project to iron out imperfections for the final.

Failure Modes

Inside walls accidentally sheared too low. A lesson in checking and double checking before shearing.

Hem that was cracked and broke off. I learned that the alloy of aluminum (6063, 0.025'') I used for this iteration was too brittle to achieve the tight hems I required.

Riveting gun blemishes. After this I adjusted my grip and support of the box. For the final box I also drilled through all the holes to ensure that they lined up perfectly.

Refined Prototype

Base net

Reworking lid design

Pieces prepped for assembly

Base assembled!

Wooden Components

The inset wooden trays, the scissor holster, the handle added much more complication than I anticipated, but the time I put into making them interact well with the metal components was well worth it as they greatly added to the utility and aesthetic of the box.

Wood resawed and shaved to the same width with the joiner and planar.

Drilling screw holes into the handle.

Setting glued wood for the trays.

Prepping to stain the trays and scissor holster.

Finished Product

Reflection

This quarter was a journey - peppered with moments of stress but also of great excitement and pride. Through the initial stages of this project, I learned about the different processes that I could utilize in the product realization lab. This opened up my mind to the different materials that I could now manipulate, and I was excited to dive into the world of metal, as previously I had worked mainly with fabric and plastics. During the brainstorming process I thought of many different projects that excited me, including metal cylinder seals and kaleidoscope, but ended up choosing a sewing box that housed the sewing supplies I inherited from my grandmother.

As I embarked on the project, I was frozen by the many uncertainties that I was faced with: Would it be best if I utilized 4 side panels or just one long one? How would I attach the lids? What thickness of sheet metal should I use? Although I was initially uncomfortable by all of the choices that surrounded me, I realized that these were exactly the questions that this project was intended to inspire. As I progressed further and had to make decisions and purchase parts, the anxiety lessened as I realized that not every decision I made would be perfect, but my continued reflection after each step would eventually bring me to the right place.

Looking back on my the trajectory of my project this quarter, there are many things that I now realize I could have done more efficiently or could have done without and still had a successful project, but I think I learned the most because of the mistakes, workarounds, and my hardheadedness of sticking to my vision - even if it meant reworking the pattern of my box or troubleshooting my designs for the inset trays until I wanted to pull out my hair. Although this aspect of the journey was not something I would change, I think if were to remake this project I would intentionally budget in materials to use just for practicing with. I found that when I thought the sheet metal I bought was all I would have, I approached the project very tentatively, too afraid to make mistakes, but when I resolved that my first round with the sheet metal would be for practice, I gave myself permission to develop new designs and different ways to achieve the geometry I desired without worrying about compromising my final piece.

Now that the project is completed, I am so excited to see what I can do next. After seeing all of the wonderful projects that my classmates worked on this quarter, I am looking forward to exploring more in depth the other manufacturing processes as well.

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