The Autodesk Sustainability Workshop is a free and vast online resource that aims to teach sustainability strategies, from micro to macro. The simple, easily-digestible series of strategy videos, tutorials and case studies can help students, educators, designers, engineers and architects not only learn about sustainability, but how to directly apply it.
Core77 asked 5 students to take it for a test spin, investigating the workshop and using Autodesk software to incorporate what they'd learned in a re-design of a commonplace object. In the third installment of our series of Autodesk Sustainability Workshop projects, we look at 21-year-old David Markus (Savannah College of Art and Design, BFA in Industrial Design, Fall 2012) and his net-zero energy lamp inspired by the "Liter of Light" project.
David, tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina before moving to Savannah, Georgia for school. I turned 21 this year.
What made you decide to study industrial design?
I grew up in a pretty technical household; my mother was an engineer and my father was a computer programmer. As a child I was fascinated with taking things apart, though putting them back together generally wasn't in the plan. These days, however, I love to build things. I've turned into a bit of a shop geek, and have spent countless hours making contraptions and toys. Since I enjoy making things, Industrial Design gave me the opportunity to combine a lot of my passions and helps me to explore my ideas.
Where did you decide to study, and why?
After visiting Savannah, the decision was easy. SCAD has some incredible facilities, and Savannah is one of the most unique cities I've ever visited. The ID department at SCAD was especially impressive with the amount of digital fabrication equipment students had access to.
What areas of industrial design are you interested in focusing on?
I've always loved digital technology, and see it gaining even more importance in the future. Digital fabrication technology and equipment is becoming more and more affordable and sophisticated and I'm interested to see the way it affects design.
Tell us about your project.
The idea was to utilize sustainable manufacturing practices to create a net-zero energy lamp. This is a concept that I've had in the back of my head for a while, and it was reignited by a recent article showing used soda bottles being filled with water and installed into houses in third-world countries. The bottles captured a significant amount of light, and I wondered if a more industrial and refined version could be designed. Natural light has always seemed superior to any kind of artificial light, and I wanted to create a system for gathering and dispersing the light into a home or building using flexible fiber optic cable.
I've always been amazed at the properties of fiber optics. They're incredibly efficient at what they do, and can carry a tremendous amount of data over huge distances. The reason behind this is due in part to their flexibility. By utilizing the properties of total internal reflection, we are able to manipulate the path and flow of light with minimal loss.
My project's goal was to utilize optical fiber to create a hybrid lighting system for an indoor space. The first part of my design is a parabolic collector lens, which would be installed on the roof of the structure. Larger lenses could be used to sustain multiple units. The lens would focus the light through UV and infrared filters and down through a multi-mode fiber optic cable. The flexible nature of the cable and the low-loss properties of the optical fiber would allow for a significant distance between the lens and the receiving light.
The light is then routed through the fiber to a hemispherical dispersion lens at the bottom of the lamp. For this I designed a modern hanging lamp that could be used to disperse the light. A glass sphere is used to disperse the concentrated light into the room below. At night, light is produced by a array of LED lights beneath the shade. The shade is constructed from two pieces of opaque injection molded plastic, which hold translucent facets. Electricity is transferred down through the sheathing of the optical fiber.
Why did you decide to work on this particular object?
I've always had an interest in working with light. The refraction and diffraction of light creates some very beautiful patterns based on basic scientific principals. Lighting also accounts for a huge percentage of energy use, due in part to the use of incandescent bulbs.
What background do you have with Autodesk products, and how were you first introduced to them?
I started using Alias early on after taking a class at SCAD. Since then, I've also experimented with Sketchbook Pro/Designer, as well as Mudbox and Inventor Publisher.
Please describe which Autodesk products you use or used for this project, and what you like or dislike about them.
I used Inventor Publisher for this project. I liked how easy it was to use it for exploded views, but disliked my ability to export those disassembled models. Animation was simple to do, and the software transitioned well between snapshots. However, I found the annotation feature had some issues when I tried to export.
What things did you learn from the Sustainability Workshop that you didn't know before?
The workshops helped to reinforce a lot of information about sustainability that I'd heard in separate places. Calculating energy efficiency was definitely one of the most interesting sections for me, as it can be surprising how much energy is lost throughout a complex system.
Which of the "Improving Product Lifetime" elements from the Sustainability Workshop did you use?
I focused on whole system design. The biggest downfall of this system is the high cost of production. By thinking of my design as a system rather than simply as a solution, I can determine its feasibility.
Please describe any significant technical details of your project that the Sustainability Workshop helped you to resolve.
It helped me to come up with a lot of new questions to ask when designing a sustainable product. After identifying some key points in the videos I attempted to design a solution that offset running energy costs by harnessing energy from the sun.
What's next for this project? Is it complete, and was it undertaken for a client or for learning purposes?
This was just an exercise, but it was a good learning experience and [the results] work well in my portfolio. For now it's just an elaborate concept, though it's possible one day I'll have the engineering knowledge or connections I'd need to move forward!