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Hello, Inov3d community! Here is the new whiteboard dry-eraser, Skribe. Please read on to find out more!
The story of Skribe
My name is Saeed Zadeh, and this is my story on how I used my 3D printer to turn my idea into an innovative product. When I first saw a 3D printer working, I was mesmerized and soon bought myself a Zortrax M200 printer. As I learned more about the machine, I started remembering a business idea I had on developing a whiteboard eraser that scans the writings on the board while wiping. I realized that my 3D printer could help me bring my idea to life. Here is a bit of background and how I went about pursuing this idea.
The idea of a whiteboard eraser capable of capturing the writings on the board was born out of need. I am a professor of Electrical Engineering and my courses involve a lot of writing on whiteboards. During my lectures, I noticed that my students continuously take pictures of the board to minimize note-taking. As a result it is distracting for other students and myself. I always felt that if my eraser was able to scan as I erase the board, I could easily share the scanned files with the class online and archive it in cloud storage. No need to take pictures and no need for taking excessive notes, hence better focus on the topics covered.
With my new 3D printer at hand, I felt empowered to start designing prototypes and testing the feasibility of the idea. It took my partner and me two years, numerous prototypes, and a lot of trial and error but we finally made it work! Here is a brief video showcasing our eraser.
We thought to share our journey with you all so you might be encouraged to do the same with the ideas you have. After all, if you are anything like me, you are probably itching to find the next thing to print. Why not make that print be the first step in your journey to bringing your very own product idea to life?
Research and Development of Skribe
The first step for us was to brainstorm the fundamentals on how we can make an eraser scan the board. Our idea was simple; take pictures of the whiteboard at a high frame rate while it is being erased and use some motion sensors to register the movement of the eraser. After collecting the data, our software can stitch the individual pictures together based on the recorded movement of the eraser.
As easy as that might sound, implementation was quite challenging and complex. For instance, to capture a sizable portion of the board, the camera needed to keep some distance from the board. Because of that, the earlier prototypes were quite large. However, over subsequent iterations of prototyping. We were able to adjust the design to something that resembles the form factor of an ordinary whiteboard eraser. We went through dozens of prototypes, each one slightly better than the previous, iteratively improving our design and functionality as we went. The first image below shows just a handful of those prototypes, primarily from the early to mid-stages of the development process.
Before 3D printing, such an iterative design process required hiring a 3rd party company to do small scale manufacturing of the prototypes and resulting in an expensive and time-consuming process. Having a 3D printer at hand allowed us to print a prototype overnight. Then to test it the next day, adjust the design, and repeat the process. Having a background in electrical engineering helped with designing the core electronics, but most of what we did was not an exact science. The aforementioned iterative process allowed us to slowly but surely. Over numerous adjustments, turn a sloppy mockup of our idea into something that resembles a professionally designed product.
Not The Only Tool That Is Used
To produce these prototypes, our 3D printer is not the only tool we used. We quickly found that, while our Zortrax M200 was fantastic for making the enclosure of our device. It was not so great at making the precision parts we needed. These include the perfectly flat base to mount our motion sensors and precisely cut mounting plates for the camera and the mirrors we used inside the eraser. For this, we used our Glowforge laser cutter.
Laser cutters are yet another tool which was far too expensive for most of us to own just a few years ago. Recently, though, startups like Glowforge have made it possible for everyday people to buy one for themselves. We have communities like Inov3D to thank for the popularity that made such startups so successful.
Ultimately, all it took was an enthusiast-level 3D printer and a laser cutter. Some engineering know-how, and much trial-and-error to bring our idea to life. These are tools that we know everyone in this community possess. So, we encourage you to take your first step.
A functional prototype of Skribe
Today, we have a fully functional prototype of our product and are gearing up towards completing the final few steps. We need to get it to the hands of those who can benefit from it. If you have any suggestions for us on how we can improve our product or have any questions, please reach out to us. We would love to hear from you.
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