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making stuff up as you go along….

In my day job (programmer), we’re pretty ok about diving into something and ‘spiking’ something out to see if an idea’s got wings or if it’s just dumb. It’s easy to do this with something like programming as the cost of change is really low. In other words if you spend a couple of hours working on something only to come to the realization that it’s really stoopid, then you can just roll everything back and start again as if it never happened.

All you’ve lost is that two hours. In fact there’s a pretty strong likelihood that you’ll have learned a significant lesson there somewhere so you can put it down to education.

With manufacturing or construction or pretty much anything that requires investment in materials and anything that can’t be easily ‘rolled back’, this concept of ‘spiking out’ is usually called prototyping and far from being being cheap, is usually very expensive. Usually at this stage, techniques, materials and tooling costs more than the production equivalent. This in turn means that without significant investment and without a good deal of risk, it’s hard to just play around and see what comes out.

I’m kind of rambling now but what I’m getting at is that I’m pretty fastidious at producing quality specs and plans before doing any kind of fabrication work. I’m limiting the risk mostly. The negative impact of this is that as well as limiting risk (and cost), I’m also limiting imagination and in turn, limiting creative design.

So recently I’ve decided to go against convention and just make something up as I go along. The something in question is the incredibly cool and inspiration bottle trolley. Normally my oxy/acetylene tanks live inside a wooden frame that’s fixed to the ground. While this is safe, it makes it real pane to move them around. So if I’m welding or brazing, the work comes to the torch and not the other way round.

While I could throw caution to the wind and go out and spend about £20 on a bottle trolley, I thought I’d build one. In order to limit the risk and negate the ‘cost of change’ penalty, the main criteria was that I need to be able to build said trolley out of crap laying around the workshop.

I’ve made a start on this and work will progress over the next few days when I’ve got a couple of odd minutes to spare (I don’t want to invest any quality time in this). Stay tuned for further fascinating updates

Currently playing in iTunes: Cowboy Song by Thin Lizzy

posted by steven - March 21st, 2007