Engineering Thursday - 3D Challenge


A while ago, SparkFun released the S.H.O.V.E.L. If you missed it, the S.H.O.V.E.L. is an open source eating utensil. For the most part, it was just a fun way to prove that you could open source ANYTHING.

SHOVEL - Original

The S.H.O.V.E.L.

Below is a paraphrase of something Mel Gibson once said:

“We created our own version of a spork. No we don’t plan to sell a lot of these. This project was intended as more of a figurehead exercise/example of open-sourcing EVERYTHING. We design a spork, we open-source that design, and then that’s it–the design of the spork is public domain…forever. That’s the point we’re going to try to get across: if someone designs something and open-sources it, it now belongs to everyone. The reason we (read: Nate) chose the spork is that it’s such a ubiquitous but still unique item. Everyone has used a spork, and there is likely some company out there that has a patent/trademark/copyright on the spork of which they are to some degree protective. We’re going to open-source it. It will belong to the people! Don’t you see?! Chaos! Dogs wearing hats!

In the end this is an out-of-the-ordinary attempt to show what open source ‘really means’ to humanity and business. I’m pretty pumped for it."

Okay that wasn’t Mel Gibson, that was Chris Taylor from Engineering. Still inspiring though.

If I remember correctly (okay I looked it up) we paid $1,300 for the stamping die. To date, we have sold about 800 of these guys. These numbers multiplied by math and divided by the fact that I am on vacation right now point to one thing: We can, or at least should, fork the spork. Don’t scoff, we almost made tee shirts that said that.

Nothing is perfect, right? Except for maybe a piece of paper. It just sits there and does what it was meant to do. The S.H.O.V.E.L. though, could be improved. Here is your chance. Create your own spin-off of the S.H.O.V.E.L. and submit the design.

How many times have you been assembling/using something and thought, “What on earth was the designer thinking?” Imagine an open source world where you get fed up and submit your improved design to a company and it gets incorporated into the next release. Wouldn’t that be awesome!? I think so.

Look, I have already improved the S.H.O.V.E.L.! I added holes to the spoon portion to help drain off unwanted cereal milk. Boy do I love cereal, but all that milk per bite? I don’t think so, buddy.

SHOVEL - Moded

Could this be the next SHOVEL? No. I mean, just look at it…

Here are the rules I have arbitrarily made.

First: I haven’t cleared this with Pete (my bee oh double ess) yet. Although I am certain that if there is an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this he can’t say no, assuming the new S.H.O.V.E.L. does not include a portable helicopter or something else unrealistically expensive. If the cost can stay nearly the same, I’m sure we’ll be good to go.

Second: This is months out into the future. We would first need to sell our current inventory of S.H.O.V.E.L.s, about 600. Instead of ordering a new batch of the old version, we could then roll out the next model.

Third: Try to be reasonable. Remember: The more complicated the design, the more it will cost to manufacture. We sell these for $10 right now, we want to maintain that price point. The best design is not the one that incorporates the most features, but is the one that incorporates the most features for the lowest cost. If the mould cost is $85,000, you can bet your design won’t be the chosen one.

Post your design as a 1:1 scale STEP or IGS file to this repo. Use this naming scheme: SHOVEL_yourGithubName - for example: SHOVEL_PAULSMITH-SPARKFUN

I’ll let designs pile up for a month or so and then take a look. How about November 15th? Yea…sure. November 15th, have your designs in by then!

Well that’s it I guess. If you’ve always wanted to design silverware - now is your chance. My intentions here are to have fun. Let’s just have some fun with this, deal? :)


Comments 36 comments

  • Drain off unwanted cereal milk? Have you gone MAD?! If in fact you are that nutty, consider eating your cereal from a colander so the rest of us can enjoy our glorious cereal milk. :-)

    As for me, a proper S.H.O.V.E.L. shall be on my next order and I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to put one on my last order.

    Now where on my bench did I leave that cup of Cocoa Puffs? Oh, there it is!

    • I always like draining some of the milk so as to save a bunch for the end as delicious drinking.

    • Yes this feature will totally screw up the milk to cereal ratio.

      Now I know some cereals require more or less milk per bite so I suggest to make the hole size and number variable. Wouldn’t take too much work. Just a servo that would move some sort of sliding aperture control, a pro mini, maybe a barcode reader so it could get the proper settings just by reading the code on the cereal box. Oh and a wireless and or cellular network connection for config updates and social networking posts. (RobertC just ate a bowl of Lucky Charms like! )

      I thought maybe GPS to allow for any variations in altitude but lets not get silly. :-)

  • So, when we were shooting the video for the SHOVEL, we found out that the bottle opener is pretty lacking. In fact, it took several takes to get it right, and we ended up just loosening the cap off-camera, and then just kinda faking it on-camera. So, if anyone wants to improve the bottle opener, go for it!

  • Careful now, the Sparkfun Spork is a classic design. Of course it could be improved by adding a couple of gunsights and a ‘328 processor, but that’s obvious. The bottle opener works great for me; although the bottles I open are mostly screw top type so I dunno if that means a lot. But seriously I do like Blueblast88’s idea of adding some engraved ruler markings; other than that, it’s often unwise to mess with a classic design unless there’s a really significant improvement that can be made.

  • You know those holes are probably small enough that milk would not drip through because of surface tension, right? Which gives me an idea… with an array of different hole sizes, you might make an instrument for estimating the surface tension of milk. Or whatever else you are brave enough to S.H.O.V.E.L. Along with a graduated cylinder and an hour glass, you could also estimate viscosity (flow through one of the holes per unit time).

  • Holes in the spoon part of the shovel?? What if you’re eating soup?

    • That was what I thought too. So I started thinking of a double-layer hole array, so you could nudge a tab with your thumb to open or close the holes. Then I made the holes triangular, to give the open/close curve the slope I wanted. Then I added supermagnets, so you could filter out ferrous debris in your cereal. Then I made that adjustable too. After a few more hours of this, I had seven molds ($684,000 total), a swaging step, 14 screws, welding, peening, and several different materials. On the upside, you can now pull the paracord on your shovel to run a built-in generator, which powers a flashlight, radio, and Arduino. Then it occurred to me that you’d have to keep pulling to get continuous power, so I started on a pull-start steam engine…

  • How about a Taser Spork, so that you can defend yourself during breakfast, or give someone a shocking surprise when scoop too little/too much milk with their bite of cereal.

    “High voltage and cereal. What could go wrong?”

  • “I’ll let designs pile up for a month or so and then take a look. How about November 15th? Yea…sure. November 15th, have your designs in by then!”

    I think you accidentally a month or two.

  • How about a metal tube stamped in the length of it for use as a straw to suck the remaining milk out of the bowl so it doesn’t run down your neck. Would also be useful for ICEEs.

  • “Everyone has used a spork, and there is likely some company out there that has a patent/trademark/copyright on the spork of which they are to some degree protective. We’re going to open-source it. It will belong to the people!”

    So, I understand the open source movement and generally support it (I like Sparkfun), but is Sparkfun advocating the theft of patented ideas here? Whether you support the patent system or don’t (I know where Nate is) supporting the theft of ideas is wrong and unhelpful to the movement.

    • I’m pretty sure they got that covered. Not a patent lawyer but there are totally legal work arounds.

      Just found this.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spork#History

      • Work around or not- that sentence advocates for the theft of intellectual property - not the open sourced creation of it. Again, whether you support the patent system or don’t supporting the theft of ideas is wrong and unhelpful to the movement.

  • just spot weld the spork end onto a bit of measuring tape and make a slap bracelet you can eat with or cutlery you can wear! You could make some die mods and then just get bits of measuring tape:)

  • Add bluetooth. Everything is better with bluetooth… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61a0qHFcQE4

  • Since this is ‘open source’, Can someone suggest an open source (free) software program that can create an igs file? Thanks in advance…

    • HeeksCAD or HeekksCNC (HeeksCAD + tool path generation). I have found this to be more intuitive than FreeCAD, but I just downloaded the latest version, and am going to give it another try.

      For everything else I use Blender It has: 3D modeling, animation, rendering, motion tracking, video editing, FX, built in Python, game engine, physics engine, etc.

    • I highly recommend FreeCAD.

  • Actually I have imagined an “open source world where you get fed up and submit your improved design to a company and it gets incorporated into the next release.” and it looked a lot like the portal2 perpetual testing initiative.


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