Visitors to Protospace Fablab Utrecht can access and use different digital manufacturing tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines. On some days these machines are available for rent, while on other days they are made available to the public for free.


Laser cutters can be used for only 15 minutes per person. On crowded days both customers and employees can lose oversight of the queue and time limits.


The goal of this project is to design a physical system that visually shows the time used and remaining for each laser cutter.


The solution proposes the use of a shape-changing system that acts as a timer for both the user and employee. The system is made up of three dodecahedrons where one dodecahedron opens up as each 5 minutes pass. When all dodecahedrons are open, 15 minutes will have passed and the user’s time will be up.


Protospace Fablab Utrecht

On the ‘open inloop’ (open days) at Protospace Fablab Utrecht the small laser cutter can be used for a maximum of 15 minutes per person. When the lab is crowded, both customers and the employees do not have clear oversight of the queue and time limits. The goal for this project was to develop a shape-changing system that could be used as a timer for the users of the laser cutter and for the employees.


The timer was created using three dodecahedrons, where each dodecahedron represents a time duration of five minutes. Initially, all of the dodecahedrons will be closed and open up sequentially one by one, where the opening of a single dodecahedron will take exactly five minutes. This provides visual feedback of the time an individual is using the laser cutter. If all the dodecahedrons are open, 15 minutes have passed and your time is up.


How it works

Elastic yarn holds the dodecahedron closed until it is opened. The opening of the dodecahedron is done by means of a platform that moves downward. This platform attaches regular thread to key parts of the dodecahedron, essentially 'pulling' the dodecahedron open. For the movement of the platform a rack and pinion were used. An illustration of the system can be seen on the left.

visual of initial position

regular thread

the platform that will move down

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© 2020 Petek Tezcan

Exploring shapes

An important aspect of the design is the change in shape. Several shapes were developed to explore how and what shape change would work for the timer. Part of the process is shown in these pictures.