My handheld tinplate object is an ergonomic tension-driven metal accordion. It is based on equally spaced aluminum parts hemmed together and centerpunched in place. In the spaces, long fingers aligned vertically meet and connect at a mirrored half on the other side, which is riveted. The bend of the fingers creates a tension fit that clicks in place, and the ergonomic haptic pads allow for the movement of the parts as they expand and contract. Simple and handheld, this object is the result of an extensive exploration of aluminum’s physical properties, manufacturing constraints, relationships to other materials, and mechanical systems.
Initial Explorations
Upon introduction to aluminum, I sought ways to leverage its thickness to create a connection/relationship between two parts.
Based on the initial experimentations, I sought ways to create a thickness-driven tension fit that could work by vertical extrusions fitting into equally spaced holes.  

After creating a dominant-subdominant part relationship, I began mass-producing both parts and connecting them based on negative space, leading to a fun little contraption.

Second Round of Explorations
Based on the initial functionality of the tension-driven parts, I explored ways to continually apply that information to build an interlocking system.

I made an interlocking handheld piece, exploring ergonomics and movement.

Fidget Rotator in action

Third Round of Explorations
Based on feedback, I decided to explore a hem that could hold the equally spaced pieces and simplify the manufacturing process.

Equally spaced and hemmed connection unit.

Fourth Round of Explorations

Based on feedback, I decided to alternate the length of the end extrusions to allow for more movement.

The result was a negative space geometric rectangular piece. However, it did not move as freely or controlled as I wanted it to.

Fifth Round of Explorations

Using the same model, I was exploring an accordion mechanism to allow for controlled movement.

I sketched a mechanism that could work like an accordion with attachment points. I measured all the lengths/widths, and began the final construction.  

Final Construction

Based on feedback and research, I noticed that accordions were primarily ergonomic/haptic and functioned with a type of tension, so I decided to emulate that to make a handheld accordion.

I followed the same process as prior iterations; bending the hem, and center punching the equally spaced pieces. A bigger, suggested center punch did not work as intended.

I used a hole puncher that could make an indentation that was the same thickness as aluminum, allowing it to slot in. I center punched the “fingers” that would then be bent and connected to a mirrored symmetrical half.

Initially, it was a challenge to get the short pieces in and bent at a 90 degree angle, and then getting rivets to connect them. For this reason, I had a hard time, and I decided to switch gears.

I learned that what was limiting the functionality was the length of the fingers, so I made them much longer. E.g. 2 inches, 5 inches, 8 inches, which would allow the correct amount of area for the 90-degree bend.

Initial bending and insertion. There was a lot of trial-and-error, and I slowly learned from my mistakes in order of operations to connect all the parts.

The riveting and bending was enabled by the longer length of the new fingers. A nice negative space began to arise. The rivets also created button-like indicators.

Final touches; jeweler sawing superfluous parts and a rivet for a triple layer of aluminum that would hold the ergonomic pad.

Final Exports

Lessons
(1) For oddly specific arrangements of metals, manufacturing constraints need to be considered and applied to facilitate the functionality and success of a handheld object.
(2) Some parts of your project might not go as intended, so pivoting at the right moment without getting caught up on your original idea is crucial.
(3) Trial-and-error is an essential part of your exploration of a material’s properties, and with each new mistake, you learn something new that you can then leverage in your design.
(4) The emulation of a material/mechanism may make you have to translate that into a physical equivalent of the desired property for it to work, which is different for each material.

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