It’s a Material Thing (Chloe Coronado Winn)

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Page of material research from my engineering notebook. Original picture.

This week Guppies Group Inc. has begun delving into the world of design. I was put in charge of materials research. It all started before Memorandum 1 was due and I stumbled upon a website called Jack’s Plastic Welding Inc. This website explains and sells many water related materials. This find jumpstarted my interest in our floatie materials.

I then read the Introduction to Materials Selection, a guide that explains how to properly choose materials. I found it to be very helpful; it made me think of things I hadn’t thought of before. I realized that the material needs to float, meaning it must be less dense than water, it needs to have an adjustable strap of some sort, and it should be inexpensive. The Materials Selection guide explained that if we were to need our own plastic made in a small quantity it would be pricey, but it we got it manufactured in bulk it would be fairly cheap. This might put us in a predicament closer to the prototyping phase because we will need a small amount of plastic and will still be unsure of whether or not we can sell mass quantities of our product. I mulled around some ideas for securing the floaties as well. Snaps, Velcro, and zippers would be hard to make adjustable, but for a good fit we need the floaties to be able to change their size depending on the child who is wearing them. I think straps and buckles would be a good option.

I also read more about the uses of the materials on Jack’s Plastic Welding Inc. website. I decided we should probably look into all

This is one of the banned swimsuits made with urethane. This picture was found on www.urethaneblog.typepad.com
This is one of the banned swimsuits made with urethane. This picture was found on http://www.urethaneblog.typepad.com

materials used in water since we are trying to reinvent floaties. Maybe there has been a material overlooked for water flotation devices that would be absolutely perfect. The materials that struck me as interesting choices were neoprene, hypalon, PVC, and Urethane. Neoprene is durable and mainly used in wetsuits. Wetsuits I’ve worn in the past seem to make me heavier because they retain a lot of the water, so this might not be the best option for floaties, because the child could sink. Hypalon is used in floats and rafts (the type used in white water rafting). I assume this is more durable that standard floatie material, but my only concern would be that the material lacks the comfort desired. PVC is used in the siding of aboveground swimming pools. I’m not sure how this would work, but it seems like an interesting, durable option. However, PVC is not environmentally friendly. Honestly, none the plastics I researched are. This is something the Guppies will need to decide on: should our design be environmentally friendly or not? And is that even feasible? Urethane was used in the Olympic swimsuits that were banned a few years back. This really interested me because I remember that the suits were banned due to the extra buoyancy that they provided swimmers. I did some more research into this and the urethane in the suits did make them more buoyant which is something important for floatation devices. I still plan to do more research on this matter, but for now these are the material options I have found and looked into.

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