TECHNICAL - DES. + ENG. + PHIL.
These are a few ideas and opinions about how to make sure
projects actually get built. Thoughts and suggestions, particularly
from people who have built something, and have learned stuff in
the process, are particularly welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Philosophy of Invention
It WILL Happen
Simple, really: It will happen. With your buddy's help, or without. With the grant, or without. With the
free sample, or without. With enough knowledge, or without. First time, or fifteenth. In the
machine-shop, or the bed-room. Using a plasma-cutter, or a nail-file. In a day, or a year.
There's No Right Way
To quote a genuine conversation with the owner of an over-priced machine-shop (which will remain
"No, there's only one way to do it, the right way. Check out this custom frame - that's about
15 grand right there..."
"Nice. What's it going into?"
"Well, it was meant to go to Bonneville this summer, but the guy can't pay for it."
Paying the shop to build it was the right way? The frame wasn't even that nice: loads of grinding to
disguise messy welds. The right way is the way that gets it done.
So, Why Should I Bother?
"Haven't had as much fun since my granny caught her tit in the mangle."
- Daley Thompson, unbeaten in the decathlon for 9 years, after winning his 2nd Olympic Gold
...and nor will you.
You've Already Got Two of the Best
Your brain, and the internet. There has never been a tool as useful as the internet. Ask and ye shall
receive, especially if you ask Google. Download their toolbar. Someone out there has done
something similar, or using the same material, or has done the maths for you, or written a shareware
program. All designs for the RIOT wheel were done using (sadly, no longer free) CAD software from
PTC., and there are many, many others. Engineering tools abound - I thrive on Engineering Power
Tools. You can and will learn an unbelievable amount in a very short time, because, bless them,
people are sharing their knowledge and lessons learned, often very eloquently.
Design What YOU Can Build
If YOU make it, will it work?
"The very best is the enemy of just good enough." - Voltaire, quoted by Kalashnikov, via Kirk Brown.
The sad truth about Kalashnikov's notorious machine, the AK-47, is that it is an amazing design.
Why? Because when it is built badly, it still works. Technically, there are wide tolerances. Whatever
you design, always think about how YOU will make it, and whether it'll work if it's slightly too long, or
slightly off-square. Precision is expensive and time-consuming. Sloppy joints usually need to be
stronger, but they often work better, especially when filled with dirt. Clearly some things just must be
done right: bearings on high speed parts probably DO need to fit, for instance.
Oh, and if the success of your design will be measured in lives taken or messed up, find something
else to do instead. Plenty of bad ideas would never have got off the ground if the engineer hadn't
taken the job in the first place, and just being intriguing, exciting or difficult, justifies nothing, IMHO.
ARE YOU MAD?
You've got an idea, and, to be honest, it's not the first idea you've ever had. But this time you really do
want to build it and see if it works, maybe show it off, or sell it, or play with it. There are, however,
several very good reasons why you can't - you haven't got the time, money, space, tools, knowledge,
or skill, just for starters. All in all, you'd have to be mad to try. So? Ever heard the phrase "mad
inventor"? They didn't start that way. They started off just like everyone else, with an idea, and became
mad, because that was the only way to get it built.