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Jubilee D’Andrea and Evers Design

Twente Youth Symphony Orchestra performing at D'Andrea and Evers Design jubilee - conductor Carl Wittrock wearing Xsens motion tracking suit

Congratulations to D’Andrea and Evers Design for reaching the impressive milestone of having provided the world with their designs for 25 years! It is no small feat for a business to survive a quarter century or more, through a diversity of turbulent societal and economical changes, and is definitely a valid excuse for a party.

Yesterday evening D’Andrea and Evers Design celebrated this special occasion at the Creatieve Fabriek together with a large share of their clientele. To celebrate the closely intertwined values of design, art and culture, the festivities kicked off with an impassioned concert by the Twente Youth Symphony Orchestra. Part of the performance was accompanied by a Star Wars themed live digital animation cloning conductor Carl Wittrock’s physical movements meticulously, made possible by Xsens: the leading innovator in 3D motion tracking technology.

It was also pleasant to see so many familiar faces, a gentle reminder of how connected we all are. Amongst them were past and current clients, lecturers from my old university, fellow designers and engineers who frequent KIVI NIRIA meetings, and supervisors of students I’ve coordinated via Benchmark. It was great to catch up with them while enjoying the excellent atmosphere of the Creatieve Fabriek, the funky music, and the fine food. Cheers to DE Design!

Slight polish

Site impression across devices

It has been two years already since the last update, time flies. A slight site polish was due, so here it is. I have simplified stuff once again and there have been a few customisations here and there.

The Symbionic Games

Banksy, Thug for Life

Cyborgs are in our midst, except they are not as flashy as the DC and Marvel films would like us to believe. Instead they come in the unlikely form of our grandparents, enhanced with (or rather supported by) artificial medical aids such as zimmer frames, hip and knee prostheses, hearing aids, reading glasses, and other modern wonders. The geriatrics are the cyborgs of our time.

In sports we also see adaptations specifically catered to the task at hand, of which the running blades are probably the most (in)famous. Here debate has sparked whether or not the mechanical adjustments have led to an “unfair” advantage as the results threaten to surpass basic human performance. Quite an interesting debate as the enhancements once meant to merely replace or supplement lost functionality now start to exceed existing healthy functionality.

By constantly pushing the boundaries of the human body and mind, sports reward and celebrate (individual) achievement and performance – all intended to be within the confines of a subset of rules agreed upon in said sports. The latter is an issue, as in the blind pursuit of achievement not only the boundaries of the human body and mind are crossed.

As prime example: the Tour de France has crowned its fair share of winners, most memorably Lance Armstrong who has won the tour seven times in a row. Seven times he was celebrated by cycling fans worldwide. Seven times they celebrated a lie, as it turned out years after the fact.

It uncovers a great issue: there is no foolproof method to ensure everybody plays by the rules. There are so many different options of improving performance, from chemical stimulants to mechanical enhancements, that it is simply impossible to detect all of it with 100% accuracy. And where do you even draw the line? Does the placebo effect count?

So how about we just allow it? All of it. We can call it “The Symbionic Games”: a spectacular event featuring humans with mechanical, chemical, and biological enhancements as a true display of symbiosis between man and technology. It at least levels the playing field: makes it fair and transparent. All participants are free to take steroids at will, exchange their human limbs for robotic limbs, use AI to improve their neural performance, improve their DNA, use exoskeletons, however far they are willing to go. Though of course it also helps if they survive the changes.

This leads us back to the start of my rambling: just imagine the resulting stimulus for development in the respective fields and how the acquired knowledge and experience will eventually trickle down into everyday applications. This development will prove valuable to all of us and define the start of a new era for cyborgs. And we don’t have to worry anymore if someone cheated. 😛

Cat scratching poles, meh

Anyone with pets has probably encountered the issue I’m about to describe. Pet related items are not exactly appealing and tend to stick out like a sore thumb in your house. For example trying to find a well designed cat scratching pole may either prove impossible or lead to insane prices.

In some cases you may think you have found the (seemingly) perfect object, but the focus on appearance turns out to have come at the cost of functionality.

The solution here is simple: create the item yourself. In this case we were looking for a cat scratching pole, but could not find anything suitable. To make a long story short: our cats are now hugging and scratching a sheep shaped scratching pole. Not only a cute sight, but also highly functional – and of course the rope coat suits the sheep well.

Medica and Compamed 2015

Medica and Compamed trade fair at Düsseldorf, 2015

Under the auspices of Edwards Lifesciences I have attended Medica, the international trade fair and congress for medical technology, electromedicine, laboratory equipment, diagnostics and drugs. Medica, combined with Compamed, is an annual trade fair that takes place in Düsseldorf and serves mostly as a business-to-business meeting point for suppliers and distributors in the healthcare sector, though there are also some educational talks with interesting keynote speakers throughout the show.

The Düsseldorf Messe is huge and the trade show is spread over nearly 20 halls. With almost 5,000 exhibitors from 70 countries it is the largest medical fair in the world: last year’s edition attracted almost 130,000 visitors. Arriving at Düsseldorf Messe the sheer scale of the fair instantly becomes clear when you park your car and have to take the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the halls. Planning ahead is definitely advised.

Once inside, the contrast with a consumer trade fair is immediate and striking, especially when it comes to the level of integration in the displayed products and of course when it comes to aesthetics and usability. Most products seem to have jumped right from prototyping phase to production model, without iterations or improvements. The latter makes sense considering the investments required compared to the available budget for the often relatively small and highly specialised companies, but it also means there is a lot of room for improvement. Both the product and (production) processes can be improved significantly, reducing costs while also improving manufacturability, reliability, and usability.

The value of design as a discipline becomes markedly clear as you roam Medica, and we haven’t even touched upon user interface design yet. It will be interesting to experience first hand how far the concept of design thinking has permeated a medical multinational such as Edwards Lifesciences. For now, the breeding ground of medical wonder and ingenuity that is Medica has offered interesting insight into products catered to our healthcare sector.

Consulting at Edwards Lifesciences

Edwards Lifesciences Amsterdam - Centerpoint building

Development of medical devices has intrigued me more and more ever since it was once the topic of my master thesis. Medical products often pose complex and challenging problems, not only from an engineering point of view but also design wise; the latter is in part due to the complexity of stakeholders surrounding medical products.

Not only the challenge is satisfying for the mind; developing products that can save lives, or at least improve the quality of life, feels amazing. I’m glad to be able to use my skills for such goals, which is why when offered the opportunity to work for Edwards Lifesciences I didn’t hesitate.

From their office at Amsterdam I’ll be part of a team working on the next gen design of Edwards’ noninvasive continuous blood pressure meter, a product I’m already quite familiar with due to my master thesis. The development project will run parallel with engineering efforts in Irvine, hence our efforts will need to be closely coordinated. I will also be moving closer to Edwards’ office in Amsterdam, as a one way commute from my current location takes around 2.5 hours. Quite a few changes at once really, and I’m excited about them.

High Tech Discovery Tour

After an unexpectedly successful first edition of the High Tech Discovery Tour at Almelo, this year’s edition has returned with a similar recipe.

Twelve tech companies at Almelo opened their doors to the public, and Benchmark Electronics participated as well this year around. Well, sort of, as only the lobby was open to the public. Here various products were displayed that were developed and/or produced at Almelo, hardware production methods were explained, the site’s history was delineated, and children could conduct several experiments.

The event is actually mainly aimed at children, to show them how fun and exciting technology can be to offer context and inspiration for possible future studies in tech. Compared to other sectors the technological sector still has a rather negative image, not to mention the gender gap, that it can’t seem to shake off. It’s a tangent I won’t further elaborate on, though most certainly deserves more attention.

Due to a lack of budget I’ve had to improvise to put together a fun set of experiments for kids. Ideally the experiments would be somewhat representative of Benchmark’s activities rather than be a collection of unrelated little science experiments. I’ve been scavenging the department for parts left over from old projects (representative of Benchmark: check) to see if I could concoct something with those parts.

The parts I scavenged were ideal for preparing wire loop games. A large scale version making use of the logic function of a Fluke 115 Multimeter would be at the centre of it. A bit of leftover foamboard, some playful artwork, and some welding wire, all in conjunction with the multimeter, would form the main impromptu wire loop game.

For the kids I prepared small versions by creating foam board post cards containing instructions describing the experiment. They’d receive a bit of copper wire which they could bend into the shape they wanted, and then stick the ends in the sides of the foam board. The shape would complement the drawing they could make on the post card with conductive ink, which would double as a basic electric circuit. Finally, a small lithium battery and a rigid metal loop with flexible wire would be added to their post card to complete the wire loop game.

As example, and as inspiration for the kids, I drew a plant pot on a post card, and made a flower shape out of copper wire. The flower forms the wire loop game, and the plant pot the electric circuit. The experiment touches all facets of multidisciplinary product design, from sketching to prototyping, stretching their design beyond the demarcated post card shape, integrating functionality with aesthetics.

Children loved being able to craft, and I saw the most wonderful creations pass by: a face drawn on the post card with the copper wire being used to form a crazy hairdo, a tree sticking out from the forest, a robot with an antenna on its head and wires as arms, an elephant with large ears, and more. Their creativity and enthusiasm knew no bounds, which was great fun to see. Perhaps (and hopefully) this day has helped spark their interest in technology.

Glass workshop

Nothing beats raw shaping when it comes to form giving, especially when you use materials that have a distinct will of their own. Each resulting product is unique; a form frozen in time, capturing not only the skill of the maker at that moment, but also the specific circumstances under which the product was made.

Recently I met someone who shares my passion for design and creation, and our mutual enthusiasm truly motivates. Glass working turned out to be on both of our wish lists, and inspired by a recent visit to Glasrijk Tubbergen a workshop was quickly planned.

We drove to Orvelte to meet with Mark Locock; he runs a glass blowing/shaping workshop with the slightly cheeky name “Hot Marks Glass” in this historical little town. The town has been established somewhere in the 11th to 13th century, and the building material for the houses is wood combined with more wood. Not exactly your first choice to place a furnace in that reaches temperatures of up to 1100 degrees Celsius.

After a very warm welcome we got to practise on a bucket of water. The idea is that the molten glass in the oven is transparent and thus it is hard to see its surface. However what is easier to discern is the reflection of the pole in the surface of the molten glass, which is what we practise with the bucket of water.

Moving from water to fire, we first attempt to scoop a decent amount of glass out of the oven, before moving on to trying to work the material into shape. Starting small and simple with icycles, we quickly move on to slightly heavier multicoloured paperweights, ending with our very own glass-blown drinking glass. Or in my case: a tealight holder, because the bottom cracked after I made it too thin.. Bit hard to drink from that without using your hand as a plug, and even then hot drinks are a challenge.

Time really flew as we incessantly tried to improve our skill and experiment with different methods. In the process we learnt about the effect of our actions (and mistakes) and tools. For example we saw the effect of using pigments and exposing those pigments to high temperatures for different amounts of time and we found out how air bubbles get trapped in the glass and how we can use that in our design.

We have to wait one day to retrieve our creations, as they still have to cool down in a different oven – yes you read that correctly: they have to cool down in an oven. Glass really is an amazing material to work with; especially when you see an experienced glass blower at work you realise (and recognise) the artisan craftmanship involved in crafting these unique pieces.

Brand new look

Site impression across devices
The website has received a brand new look, after the current one has served its task well for the past four years (apparently it has been that long already).

The change is more than just a fresh lick of paint but short of a comprehensive redesign. Some of the old content has been (re)moved and new content has been added, all in order to better reflect my current endeavours.

The visual style has changed, with more emphasis on showcasing the individual projects. In addition, the menu structure has been flattened to improve accessibility.

This time around the site is created in WordPress, which with its powerful content management system makes it notably easier to update content. With that in mind the blog has earned its own spot in the menu, allowing me to highlight more work processes and personal interests.

The update will probably require a bit of tweaking here and there over the next week, so please bear with me while I apply and optimise the changes.

Game design

Game design - level sketch

For some time I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a game. Games are a playful culmination of interface design, user experience design, and graphic design, so its appeal to me should not be surprising.

I’m an avid admirer of the indie game genre: a category of games that tends to result in the most creative and beautiful of games. Not being able to distract with graphic might, more focus lies on gameplay or creative graphic feats – the ingenuity is often as surprising as it is gorgeous.

Currently the game is only an idea (though rather detailed) and a few rough sketches, of which one is displayed at the top of this post. The idea features a refreshing mechanic and has a lot of potential, now all it needs is a lot of time and dedication for it to grow.

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My blog describes events from my life related to design and engineering. Hopefully it will give you more insight into my work processes and personal interests.

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