Project: Smart Bat
Processes: CNC, Vacuum Casting, Painting, Chrome Plating, Pad Printing
Materials: ABS plastic, HDPE plastic, Soft Rubber Polyurethane (UPX8400)
Lead Time: 10 days
Quantity: One Unit
Cost Estimate: 1500-2000 USD
This was a unique project for Star Prototype. It was created by a UK university industrial design student as a thesis proof-of-concept. It is meant to address the epidemic levels of obesity and poor fitness among school students. (Fitness and obesity were one of the major design challenges as determined by the University.) The bat contains accelerometers to measure swing speed and position, while an embedded wireless chip connects to a wearable sensor that allows each student to monitor their performance, upload stats to a mobile app, and collect prizes as determined by their school’s incentive program.
Designer and Project Specs:
The designer of this smart bat, Nyasha Chawora, is a 4th year MDES (Masters of Design) Consumer Product Design student at Coventry University. He is a passionate product designer and hopes to carry on the skills and experience gained at University and his travels in China. This particular project’s title is “Childhood Obesity! How can design help children be more physically active?”
Nash is a Masters student in the UK and like most students has limited funds available to him; I was therefore amazed that someone so young would take the time and expend the energy to come all the way to China to visit his prototype supplier. I was so impressed with this budding new designer that I offered him a job. Whether he accepts or not will remain to be seen after he graduates. Nonetheless it heartens me greatly that my fellow countrymen are thinking so internationally at such a young age. Later this year my daughter, who is the same age as Nash, will come and live full time in Zhongshan to teach English. These young people are the future and should be celebrated. I raise a glass of Weihenstephaner Dark Beer to you both as I write.
How the Part / Individual Components Were Made:
The body of the bat was machined in two separate halves from a solid block of ABS plastic, which is lightweight, strong and easy to work. Once machined, the halves were cut free from the base substrate and glued together. The now single body was carefully hand sanded to remove any parting line, then given a coat of primer to seal the surface. Later it was chrome plated to provide the distinctive metallic look.
Ring, Sleeve, Guard, & Caps
The ring and sleeve were made from soft polyurethane UPX8400. First, master molds were made using stereolithography (SLA), a 3D rapid printing technique.
The SLA masters were hand-sanded until smooth.
These masters were then used to make a vacuum casting out of silicone rubber.
Once the silicone cures around the master, it is carefully cut free in two sections and the master removed, leaving behind a void with is the exact negative image of the desired finished piece. Into this void is poured the polyurethane. Silicone molds of this type are inexpensive and are robust enough to make 20 or so perfect copies of the original.
The design student had created his own logo, which was later pad printed onto the ring.
To finish the project, we created an end cap machined from HDPE (high-density polyethylene). The bat handle and knob were also machined from HDPE and painted yellow to match the color of the guard.