This class explores the possibilities for the do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing of electronic products. The increasing accessibility of low-volume digital fabrication processes like laser-cutting and 3D printing makes it feasible for individuals to design and produce objects in small quantities. In contrast to traditional mass production techniques, these processes do not require expensive tooling or other large initial investments. Similarly, electronic components and printed circuit boards are available in small quantities to individuals. Further, there are a number of free and low-cost computer-aided design (CAD) programs available, enabling the digital design of a product’s electronic circuit and enclosure. Together, these trends making it increasingly feasible for an individual to design and manufacture products without the need for large capital investments or big teams of people. Whether they craft each product by hand or outsource the fabrication and assembly, individuals can maintain direct and complete control over the design and resulting products.

In this class, the students each developed an electronic product over the course of the semester. They designed and prototyped the electronics and enclosures (or other structural elements), developing both the form and function of their products. The students’ projects are designed to be produced in relatively small quantities using digital fabrication and other low-volume processes. In addition to designing and prototyping the products themselves, the students also developed plans for manufacturing an initial run of their devices. This includes consideration of the materials, components, and processes required as well as the equipment, labor, and skills necessary. In theory, each student ends the class ready to make and sell their product.

Instructor: David A. Mellis
Faculty Sponsor: Leah Buechley
Collaborators: Marcelo Coelho, Mark Feldmeier, Nan-Wei Gong, Dimitris Papanikolaou, Nadya Peek, Amit Zoran