Bringing the 21 metre tall Nike Ballman to life in Jo’burg

Published 25 June 2010

Posted by Tanya Weaver

Article tagged with: design, engineering, structural engineering

You would have to be living on a different planet to not realise that it’s the Football World Cup at moment. There is football frenzy everywhere (well, here in the UK at least) with flags being flown, football songs being chanted, pubs bursting at the seams when England is playing and not to mention vuvuzelas being blown (yes, some have made their way to our shores already!). However, the most breathtaking exhibition of the ‘beautiful game’ has to be in the Carlton Centre Mall atrium in the centre of Johannesburg where Nike’s Ballman has taken up residence for three months. This footballer is 21 metres tall, weighs 4.75 tonnes, is made up of 5,500 Brasil skills balls and is strung together by more than 10km of cable. If Nike’s ambition was to create an impact and draw attention to its brand, it certainly has achieved that.

However, when the concept for it was conjured up by Andy Walker, global creative director of Football Nike, and his team over at Nike Brand Design in Amsterdam they were told by a number of people that it couldn’t be done on such a huge scale. Walker then turned to Mike Ratcliffe, the design director at Leicester-based design agency Ratcliffe Fowler Design, who he had previously worked with on a number of projects in the past, who instantly said that he could take on this challenge of bringing the gargantuan sculpture to life.

The initial 3 metre tall prototype was scaled up and pre-built at Magna Science Adventure Centre in Sheffield before being shipped to South Africa. “Magna was the only structure in the UK that we could find tall enough to actually hang it in,” explains Ratcliffe. As the Carlton Centre has its own rigging structure, the designers had to build a substructure to go under that. “We built our own rig which is then fastened to their sub rig and on top of that sub rig is effectively a football pitch size (20 metres square) aluminium sheet and in that is laser cut a hole at every drop site, and there were about 570 drops. So, effectively you have a 20 metres square rig with holes that relate to the plan view of the Ballman himself,” adds Ratcliffe.

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A look inside the new book ‘Product Design in the Sustainable Era’

Published 18 June 2010

Posted by Tanya Weaver

Article tagged with: design, sustainabililty

I was so pleased when the postman knocked on my front door this morning to hand me a package from the book publishers Taschen with a review copy of Product Design in the Sustainable Era inside.

I often feel wrought with guilt when I think of how the choices I make as a consumer affect the planet. I mean I try and buy locally and even grow my own produce (although my three strawberries I picked earlier today is hardly going to sustain me), I always reuse my shopping bags at the supermarket, switch off the lights when I leave a room, try to buy products with the least amount of packaging as possible (in fact, just this week I bought a bottle of wine made from PET) and will even opt to buy one brand over another if I know the company has a sound environmental policy. However, I can try and be as green as I like but unless I am given the option of purchasing sustainable products then I can’t really live up to my full ‘eco warrior’ potential. This is where, I think, designers step in and create desirable products that we not only want to buy but are good for the environment too.

This book is a celebration of just such sustainable design and is filled with over 100 projects - whether research projects, concepts or finished products - that are all helping to shape a new era of product development and consumer behaviour. As the book’s author, Dalcacio Reis, a Brazilian product designer, says in his introduction: “We are living in a time of transition. This is a time when people are becoming more concerned about and more conscious of the repercussions of their everyday behaviour, such as turning on a tap, switching on a light or even a quick trip to the supermarket. The choices we make, especially now, can directly or indirectly influence an enormous chain of events which, in turn, could have a negative or positive impact on our planet and on our lives.”

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HDR - the key to quick, dirty and effective lighting

Published 16 June 2010

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, rendering, keyshot, luxion, visualise, luxology, modo, hdrlightstudio, lightmap, hdr

Ok - so I wasn’t all that quick with the update to this series (first part is here) - magazine deadlines and trips to Legoland got in the way, along with an all too brief spell of sunny weather that just itched to be taken advantage of. Anyway, back on the subject of rendering - and what I want to talk about this time around is HDR images and their use in rendering.

If you want Wikipedia’s version of the truth, it’s this:

High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight. Source:

To put it another way, in my own words:

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, in opposition to Low Dynamic Range images, or pretty much every graphics format out there. The difference between the two relates to the amount of data the image file stores about the intensity of the light in an image. Whereas standard image formats capture a scene based purely on colour, HDR images also capture a lot of information about the intensity of the light at each pixel, as well as colour. While they’re used in photographic circles, their use has become widespread in computer graphics technology because they can be used to capture and reuse light in a much more efficient manner. They’re most commonly used in combination with spherical panorama style images which capture a full 360 degree image of a particular situation or scene. Source: Me.

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A Scottish product design company is now offering its services to the renewable energy sector

Published 16 June 2010

Posted by Tanya Weaver

Article tagged with: design, industrial design, renewable energy

In the UK, the renewable energy sector is big business: a great deal of money is being ploughed into the construction of both onshore and offshore wind farms not to mention the development of wave and tidal devices to be deployed off our coasts.

In fact, according to RenewableUK, the trade body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries, 2009 saw the total of wind energy projects with planning approvals rise to 7.3GW, taking the total of homes powered by wind within the next few years to over five million. The sector also has full support from our new government as Chris Huhne, the new energy secretary, has recently been quoted as saying: “My in tray is heavy with two massive responsibilities - cutting dangerous carbon emissions and ensuring secure and reliable energy supplies.”

As this is an industry that relies heavily on innovation to drive it forward i4 Product Design, a product development company based in Edinburgh, has announced that it will be offering its product development services to European companies operating in renewable energy. “We have a highly creative, talented and innovative team with over 120 years mechanical and industrial design experience between us. The same core skills that we use to develop consumer, medical and communications products can be easily adapted to projects we undertake for the renewable energy sector,” says i4’s managing director Brian Combe.

i4 have already secured a contract with an international wind turbine company to design and supply two product solutions and so far have come up with the conceptual designs, created detailed engineering design and also managed the logistics of manufacture and product supply. “One particular solution involved retrofitting our kits to turbines that were experiencing a cable insulation wear issue at the entry of the pipe at the yaw room platform. The solution saved our client somewhere in the region of £50,000 per turbine in downtime and cable replacement costs,” comments Combe. 

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Advanced technology meets fashion design in United Nude’s new Lo Res shoe

Published 14 June 2010

Posted by Tanya Weaver

Article tagged with: design, design for manfacture, 3d scanning, 3d modeling, shoe design

When United Nude launched its last range of quirky shoes called Eamz DEVELOP3D was hot on its heels (mind the pun) and featured it in the magazine and website. Well, this international shoe brand, which was founded by Dutch architect Rem D Koolhaas in 2003, is back with a new offering called Lo Res and a brand spanking new store in which to launch it in.

United Nude has always prided itself as being a brand at the intersection of design and fashion and the interesting thing about these shoes is that they are developed using advanced 3D scanning technology from INUS Technology, the developer of Rapidform software. Technology not usually found in the field of fashion design. The Lo Res, or Low Resolution, is part of a new semi-automatic design method by United Nude in which an object is digitally scanned into a 3D model and regenerated into various resolutions. One of the most important factors is that when lowering the 3D resolution, the original shape must be maintained. In order to achieve this United Nude turned to Rapidform’s polygon decimation function. So, when the designer enters a target number or a certain ratio, Rapidform XOR automatically decimates the polygon model preserving the original shape and boundaries.

I managed to catch up with Koolhaas, as well as the founder of United Nude he is also the creative director of the company, and asked him a few questions about the new Lo Res shoe and his company’s use of Rapidform. So, why does he choose to use software and technologies that are more commonplace in engineering than fashion design? “My background is in architecture and I studied at the technical university of Delft so I have always applied an engineering point of view to the work that I have done, even when it comes to shoe design. Where other shoe designers won’t use this kind of technology or software in order to create a shoe, for me it’s natural to use this kind of instrument in the creation process. I think it would be unnatural for an engineer to have a non-engineering approach,” he explains.

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The genius that was ‘The Genius of Design’ on BBC

Published 09 June 2010

Posted by Tanya Weaver

Article tagged with: design, design for disassembly, genius of design, design for manufacture

Over the weekend a friend of mine asked whether I had watched the ‘The Genius of Design’ programme that was broadcast on BBC on Friday night. She was disappointed to hear that I had missed it and proceeded to tell me how interesting it was especially the whole idea of ‘cradle to cradle design’. Although I had missed it (but have since watched it on BBC iPlayer) I was so pleased to hear someone who has never shown an inkling of interest in design before speak so rapturously about the subject. How great is it that this five part series has really opened up people’s eyes to design and not just design in general but product design.

Friday night’s episode was the last in a five part series that tells the story of design from the Industrial Revolution through 1920s modernism, the swinging 1960s, the designer 1980s and up to the present day. The final episode - entitled ‘Objects of Desire’ - explored the ‘designer decades’ of the 1980s and early 1990s. We started off in the Phillips de Pury Auction House in London where Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge, which he created in 1986, is sold for £950,000 making this probably the most desirable piece of furniture in the world.

The programme then features work by other designers who have shaped modern life including Ron Arad, Ettore Sotsass, Michael Graves and of course the design superstar himself Philippe Starck who in 1990 brought us a beautiful object for our kitchens that was by no means practical - the Juicy Salif lemon squeezer. Produced for Alessi and made from polished aluminium, it is considered an icon of industrial design and takes pride of place in many a kitchen, never to be used but only to be adored. As the narrator says, “For over 30 years Starck has been delighting an adoring audience who couldn’t care less about the old fashioned notion of form follows function.”

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Autodesk launched Project Krypton: Is the search for simplification a good thing?

Published 09 June 2010

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, autodesk, autodesk showcase, moldflow, green design, autodesk labs, sustainabililty, automation, cost efficiency, design for disassembly

A couple of weeks ago, Autodesk launched its latest labs experiment for the Inventor community, entitled Project Krypton with the goal of giving “Get real-time feedback on a plastic part design’s manufacturability, cost efficiency, and environmental impact.” What this appears to boil down to is the collection of a number of technologies from the Moldflow acquisition and the beginning of integrating some of the more esoteric features and functions from that product stack (those which perhaps lie outside of the immediately obvious use of Moldflow) and applying them in new and novel ways. The name gives away another of the interesting points, with as all us comic book geeks know, Kryptonite is the chink in Superman’s armour - the link being that the set of tools are available for both Inventor and SolidWorks. I took a while to play with the tool and had a quick chat with the development team behind the product, so here my thoughts.

Once you’ve got it downloaded and installed (it works with the 2010 releases of both Inventor and SolidWorks) and start a new part, you’ll notice three small dials to the bottom left of your screen. From left to right, these represent Manufacturability, Cost Efficiency and Environment Impact of the Material. As you start to design a plastic part, you’ll notice that these dials update in real time to give you an indication of how the part is performing against a number of checks within each category. As you build the part, the dials change (they all too briefly also display a vector for improvement or deterioration of the results. Should the tool find serious problems, it’ll flag up with a warning triangle and give you more information. Let’s explore what each does.

For manufacturability:

Basically, this is running a draft angle and under cut analysis on the part. With each rebuild of the part, the system is performing an analysis of the part, finding the most appropriate direction of pull and basing the calculations of the basis of that. As soon as you build in something that matches these features, it’ll flag and give you a list of the errors. As you can see below, the system also includes a visualisation option, so the model greys back and the undercuts or non-drafted faces are presented in red.

Cost efficiency:

This looks at a couple of things - namely, the size of the part (with the system working on the principles of a small, medium and large moulding machine - bigger machine, more cost) and the complexity of the part - will the tooling (remember, this is for plastic part design only) required complex features, such as slides, lifters and other actions to create the geometry you’ve designed. Add more complex features, the cost efficiency dial winds up.

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