This article first appeared in BTS Issue 3.

By Tanvi Ravindra Thombre, Junior (Class of 2020)
Engineering Product Development

Ask any EPD student, “What is your fondest memory of Term 5?”, and you’ll get the same answer — “Grinding it out in the Fabrication Lab (lovingly called Fab Lab) for 30.007 and ending work just in time for Macs breakfast.” Okay, I kid, but truly, the Fab Lab is every EPD and ASD student’s second home.

Overview of SUTD’s very own Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab) 

30.007: Engineering Design Innovation (Term 5) is a compulsory EPD module which is a step above the 03.007: Introduction to Design (Term 2) course all SUTD students take in their Freshmore (a #SUTDent in their first three terms) year.

It is a course which combines engineering and design in the way SUTD is famous for and allows us to apply all our hands-on skills to produce a prototype we can be proud of.

My group for 30.007 was a group of four girls and I must say I am proud of where our hard work brought us, despite bring one of only two 4-member groups. With my teammates — Ang You Shan, Foo Shi Wan and Tan Yi Xuan, we designed and fabricated a Smart Self Cleaning and Clearing Table for food centres to reduce the burden on elderly cleaners and cut back turnover time.

Introducing, our Table Kosong. It has both a table top which clears the tray into the centre hole and a tray stacking mechanism below it that stores trays.

Stage 1: Building of the aluminum frame at the Machining section

In our very first prototype, we built our table’s frame using Scrapyard wood (Pro tip: you can always find spare materials donated by fellow schoolmates here) band-sawed at the Woodwork section and drilled using the screws on Level 2 (Pro tip: the friendly Fab Lab staff can even lend you a drill). However, our hands-on experimentation revealed that the wood was too uneven and weak to be a frame. We decided to use the Assembly Space to store our large prototype from start-to-end as it had easy access (and AC!).

Wood frame 

For our second iteration, we decided to plan out the design using Computer Aided Design (CAD) on Onshape and Fusion 360. Using it as a reference, we cut 2020 Aluminium Extrusions at the Water-jet Machining Centres and attached them using T-nuts and L-connectors (Pro tip: these are popular at the Fab Lab, also easily available at Lian Fu Metals trading), tools from the essential toolbox every EPD student gets when they first join.

Aluminium frame 

Stage 2: Laser-cutting of medium density fibreboard (MDF) and acrylic

After the frame had been built, we laser-cut MDF to form the top and bottom of our table-top as it was light and strong. We also laser-cut acrylic circular and rack-and-pinion gears to increase motor torque and attach to an Ikea sliding rail. The laser-cutter is definitely my favourite Fab Lab machine — it has allowed me to make many artistic gifts!

MDF tabletop

Acrylic gears 

Stage 3: 3D printing

We used the new Anycubic printers (Pro tip: take the training course before you use them) to print spirals for our vending-machine inspired tray mechanism, and to print inner table supports.











Table supports (in white) 

Stage 4: Electronics Lab

Once our table had been set up, we had to test it with all the electronics. Using the switches, capacitors, H-bridges and wires from the E-lab, we connected our motors, WSB2812 light strip, sensors and buttons to the main Arduino. Now we could press buttons to “chope” our table!

Final look

After combining the above mechanisms and branding it (Pro tip: the Fab Lab has a Composite and Painting room for spray painting), we were ready to finally present our interactive table.








CAD renders of prototype 

Final product 

As a #SUTDent, the Fab Lab gave me the opportunity to bring to life anything I could dream up. With help from the staff, we brought to life serious projects like design and UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme), and passion projects like an infinity mirror and laser-cut tags. The Fab Lab is only limited by one’s own imagination and efforts. So, what will you grind out at the Fab Lab?

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