In our last article we introduced the Melbits POD, our upcoming project about the Melbits. As you may know, this mixed-reality toy is designed to spark imagination and creative thinking and it has been created with a true maker spirit. In this article, Ivan Expósito, CEO and founder of Melbot Studios is taking us through how the Melbits POD is made, using 3D printing and assembling it one by one.
Which came first: the game or the egg? How did you get inspired to design a toy about the Melbits?
None of them! The first was the experience, In fact at the beginning it wasn’t even an egg. Together with David we wanted to create a toy that goes from the digital to the physical. Let’s say that we wanted to acknowledge that nowadays kids play video games in mobile devices, but at the same time we wanted to build on top of that to bring back the joy to the kids of using surroundings when playing.
Then we thought about the right age for kids to be playing with this kind of toy, also though on how fascinated by fantasy and creatures are the kids during the first years of primary school... and not much later the whole idea of making an egg for Melbits came to life.
How many iterations were necessary for the Melbits POD so far?
We have done several hardware iterations until we have started talking with manufacturers. As far as I know we did 3 iterations on PCB design and at least 4 different iterations on Industrial and mechanical design.
After the first explorations it was pretty clear that we were dealing with “a stuffed egg” and that fact had its own challenges. What I want to highlight in this process is how important was to define, form, function, PCB, firmware and software all at the same time. This allowed us to create something that, when you think about it, is pretty damn abstract... and have a working prototype in a few months. From then It’s all been iteration and refinement. All the team`s amazing performance and expertise has been key to this. Being able to develop this kind of product in a bigger company, with more compartmentalized teams could have been nearly impossible.
What excites you about 3D printing technology?
I know it’s a cliché but personally I’m in love with the short lead times: going from my mind to something I can hold in my hand in a matter of hours is phenomenal. I think it’s somewhat a new form of digital craftsmanship, besides with the new techniques and printing materials coming up, 3D printing is starting to be a viable option for even some production parts.
What are your thoughts on the maker movement?
Love it, I feel part of it, but honestly, it always has been there!. What to me is getting really exciting is the possibility of connecting with other makers and the possibility of monetizing your creations. All this micro-economies being built around being creative and putting to market your own short batches of stuff and advertising them… makes me happy, I find it very renaissance.
How is the process from design the Melbits POD until getting it printed?
We get our PCBs mostly assembled from a supplier in China and we do final soldering and burn the Firmware ourselves, this always has some little debugging to do. At the same time we develop and print all casing parts, starting with creating POC parts and positives with our own FDM 3D printer and slowly trying to move to more industrial processes with the help local suppliers. We use them for things we need to validate with final materials that can’t be printed, like vinyl or industrial grade paints.
At the end what gives richness to the prototyping we do at Melbot it’s always that hybridation in which we combine all we have in hand in a true maker spirit.
If you want to sneak peek more through Melbot's design process, Ivan is creating a thread on Twitter showing insights about the studio. Also, if you want to be part of the journey along the Melbits and stay tuned about the upcoming Kickstarter campaign that will take place soon, subscribe to our newsletter. Thanks for reading!