Research at Kyushu University

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Recent Studies at Faculty of Design

We make "toys" but they are not just typical playful ones.

Department of Content and Creative Design, Faculty of Design
 Professor TAKENOUCHI Kazuki

Studying machine elements and design methods, we often come up with ideas for objects with interesting features, which make simple use of the principles of mechanics and mechanism. In my laboratory, we design such objects seriously by use of digital modeling, simulation and optimization, and make them using digital fabrication. This is a STEAM project that you hear a lot about nowadays. In our case, however, it is "sTEam" with capital T and E based on mechanical engineeing.

Shown below is OJIGI TOKURI, a self-tilting sake bottle. Traditional Japanese sake bottles are made of porcelain or ceramic, so you cannot see how much remains inside. We then designed a functioning bottle that would tilt in stages depending on the remaining inside, and fall on its side when empty. We have 3D printed it to make sure that it behaves as we planned.

OJIGI TOKURI - Self-Tilting Sake Bottle(THE FEATURE OF MAKING THINGS, e-book, Autodesk)

Cross-Section of OJIGI TOKURI

In order to implement the function of changing the posture of the bottle while keeping stability at each tilting angle corresponding to the amount remaining and generating restoring force at larger and smaller angles than that, it is necessary to optimize both the external shape and the shape of the internal partitions, being as time-consuming as normal engineering design. Designing something that looks like a toy may seem easy, but it takes a lot of ingenuity and effort. 
For its appearance, we had an option of completely hiding the shape that gives this behavior, but we decided to show the mechanism by open carving the shell over the partitions that make the inside asymmetrical and by cutting through the balance weight on the other side.
When designing such an object, we do not use any kind of programming, but use general-purpose calculation tools such as spreadsheets. We call this Designer CAE.

Computational optimization of functional shapes on spreadsheet

Another one is an ornithopter, a flapping machine, designed based on an idea sketch from the Codex Atlanticus by Leonardo da Vinci, replica of which is one of the valuable books in the Design Library on the Ohashi campus. In fact, the original sketch shown at the upper left corner does not work because of an insufficient degree of freedom of mechanism, but in some books, it is animated and moves in a wrong way. The lack of degree of freedom was compensated by spherical bearing, which were not found in the Codex Atlanticus, and some necessary modifications were added. The appearance of the machine is based on a swan, which would have interested Leonardo da Vinci when he made his sketches.

Ornithopter based on an idea sketch by Leonardo da Vinci

When you look at them casually, they are "toys". But if you look at them with basic knowledge of their relevant fields, they can become a small archive of knowledge. We will create sTEam works that can be intellectually stimulating for adults.

Department of Content and Creative Design, Faculty of Design
Professor  TAKENOUCHI Kazuki