Saturday 22 March 2014

FAB Velo - Mark Richardson

The FAB Velo project by Mark Richardson was initiated through a PhD at Monash University Faculty of Art Design & Architecture (MADA). Mark had worked previously in the Automotive industry for a decade and he became frustrated with the lack of thinking behind sustainability, manufacturing, materials and vehicle end of use. These thoughts prompted Mark to address a design that allows a person that can't afford a car or who doesn't want to use one the opportunity to transport themselves in a peddle powered, lightweight modular constructed vehicle.

Mark did the PhD part-time over quite a long period of time. March 2005 was the start of the journey and he has just finished it March 2014. But it sure did pay off.

The project included 3 different types of DIY products. 

    ‘FAB Velo’ velomobile            The ‘TeMoStruder’ 3D printer             ‘TeMo ST-175’ table                                                                                  

These three products can be assembled with scrap materials, readily available off the shelf parts and coupled with 3d printed parts. All these particular parts can be put together with typical household tools and can easily be bought at the local hardware store. Its all about access, the design of this project heavily stipulates that the construction of such a product can easily be done without heavy tools that are expensive and hard to access such as welding or highly expensive tooling such as injection molding.

When it comes to sourcing waste materials, there is one factor that stands in the way which is the inconsistency in the dimensions and thicknesses. But as mentioned later in the story, the 3D printed parts have been designed to allow for such standard variation. Genius. And the other parts can be easily adjusted via the digital 3D part file and printed to suit.

'The project takes the position that ‘product longevity’ can be achieved through modularity, where components are designed up-front for multiple lives and uses rather than as singular finite entities'. - Mark Richardson.  Mark really sums up the purpose of his project in that without designing to allow the product to have multiple lives the product instead hits a dead end in its life-cycle. By doing so we can avoid every single product having to be recycled or even worse sent to the tip. And instead being re-purposed thus saving energy, time and money for all.

The corner blocks evident on the ‘TeMoStruder’ 3D printer and ‘TeMo ST-175’ table have been designed with built in adaptability for the frame components spanning from 6mm - 25mm. Whilst the modular joining components allow for components spanning from 6mm - 12mm. In contrast the FAB Velo couplings are singular dimension only in which the person can update the 3D file to suit the inner diameter of tube and print. Overall the product design allows for variation in material length and shortening of compression and tensile elements.  

Now it's time to dig a bit deeper into this project. Nothing today is original they say, in that everything has been done before. Or maybe that there is always room for someones interpretation on something. Not everything has been done before, yes there are so many product designs out there accumulated over hundreds and if not thousands of years of development leading to this point in time. Evolution is the key to progression in design and to the human race. Mark stated some really interesting influences and inspiration for his project. 

In these respects, I have been inspired by the work of Ken Isaacs and his DIY Living Structures, Paul MacCready’s Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross, Renny Remaker, Marcel Wanders and Tom Dixon’s works of bricolage and redesign, Adrian Bowyer’s open source Reprap 3D printer, Thomas Lommée’s Open Structures product design system and LEGO. These together encapsulated the project’s aspirations for DIY, lightweight, upcycled, modular and open design. - Mark Richardson

The vehicle design itself was influenced by projects such as Charles Mochet’s Velocar, Tristan Kopp’s OpenCargoBike, N55 Studios’ XYZ Spaceframe Vehicles, and the Facet V1 by Jeff-o ( These precedents increase accessibility not only to the products themselves but also to a means of production, knowledge transfer, skillset development, and transparent information about product functionality.  - Mark Richardson

The initial stages of any project are the building blocks for how the whole project unfolds. Ideation, Development, Refinement allow a design to be explored, improved and finalized. Below is some simple experiments using timber dowel and tensile compression cords to hold the components together. These models are a perfect snapshot of the whole construction method in such a raw way.

Frame experimentation

Frame experimentation

 Below are some pictures of Marks sketching which gives a look into his thought process.



Making a 1:1 scale mock up as seen below allows Mark to understand the structural integrity of such a design. A lot of trial and error would be involved in the lengths and tension of the cables.

Frame mock-up

Velo initial concept

User positioning render

Velo side render - structure concept

Velo side render - Final
Velo side render - Outer skin Final

These images show the progression from the initial framework mock-up. To a more styled exterior without the detail of cables, wheelchair wheels, bicycle rear frame. To the occupant positions render showing the user in use of the Velo. The skinless renders show the structural make-up of the Velo. And finally the last photo shows the Velo with its shell that protects the occupant from the weather and gives them some crash protection.

Upcycled parts and materials that are used in FAB Velo

As the materials and its use is quite important a description from Mark elaborates on the sources, uses and why they were chosen. Also inset in the above picture is the Velo couplings that are mentioned previously.

'Simple tensegrity structures require few materials and components (which was also a key enabler for upcycling). The primary components are compression masts usually made from tubular materials, tensile elements from wire rope, and an assortment of connecting components. The compression masts came from a number of products; the longest from whipper snippers and the shorter ones from an assortment of walking frames, deck chairs and disability aids. The running gear and rear wheel were sourced from two discarded bicycles (ones that were unlikely to ever be remanufactured due to their poor condition) and the front wheels from a wheelchair. The rearmost compression mast was made from bicycle rear stays with an aluminium pole fixed into the seat tube to extend the frame above the head of the rider. The steering knuckles were adapted from children’s scooter handlebars with 3D-printed bushings and off-the-shelf bearings inserted into them.

'A number of materials were used in the development of the skin, including paper, cardboard, tent canvas, trampoline skins and umbrella fabric; however the final construction used only tent material and clear semi-rigid PVC from a discarded advertising lightbox.'

'Using these materials kept investment costs low, given some waste products were sourced from local transfer stations and others were found in hard rubbish collections and in skips on the side of the road.' - Mark Richardson.

So whats next for Mark? He's got some interesting plans ahead. Keep posted on the developments in the near future.

'MADA I am keen to explore how Open Design could facilitate networks of distributed production through domestic-scale manufacturers. I feel that 3D printing and generative design have big parts to play in this future, as does end-user innovation. In the short term I still have some work to do with the FAB Velo and TeMoStruder, but I am keen to extend the principles I’ve explored to include a range of different products.
I am also keen to see design moving towards product systems that deliver zero waste; not just upcycling materials from waste, but designing for reuse as a top-down imperative.' - Mark Richardson.

Overall Marks project combines the idea that design can facilitate the reuse of materials and give a product which will encounter its end of life a second chance in a new product, thus extending the use of the material. With the notion of DIY (Do it yourself) to build and construct by means of easy to access tools and materials. Majority of the time this allows for the reduced cost, impact on the environment and most of all a sense of self achievement and satisfaction. Open source communities are the future of design, what one designs can be shared to people all over the world. These communities share, improve and make. This accelerates the evolution of design and doesn't lock design into big corporate companies.


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