Unknown Domain


So the main purpose of this project it to test open source design, by making a vacuum cleaner and finding ways to make it open source to the community, one of the ways this will be open sourced is by providing a set of instructions which are flexible enough to work with the materials that I had to hand but also to allow people in different countries and even different continents to build it with their locally available materials…

When buying a 3D printer last year for the University for the Creative Arts I looked at a number of different options however eventually settled on the machine which was in my opinion the best but also was the most repairable. Repairability comes under a number of different guises, one would be the use of specialist parts, another perhaps the durability of fixings, bosses etc.. as these can wear out with frequent disassembly. The main one is however the accessibility of replacement parts.

Replacement parts are themselves subject to a number of levels of repairability for example how much of the unit is made with standardised parts, belts, fittings, and fixtures like screws, bolts, nuts, washers, etc… Do they use standard sizes, or are they bespoke? Another aspect of replacement parts is availability, its all good and well using a metric size nut but if it is of unusual dimensions it may not be readily available at the local hardware store and therefore is almost as difficult to repair as having an entirely non-standard part.

With this in mind I think it is important to consider this project as more than just a set of build instructions, but more like a template that allows someone to build it using any locally available materials, and with that in mind provide examples of each item required, tools etc, but not to limit the design to a monolithic final design that is iterated over.

In someways having a template design and an example build puts more emphasis on the maker to spend time researching the best parts in their local area, but imparts some of the knowledge over to them on how to build a vacuum cleaner, rather than giving instructions like IKEA: ‘insert 10mm M10 screw (type C) into slot 2A on panel D4’, you say, ‘cut a hole in the side panel of the waste bin slightly smaller than the exterior diameter of the hose connector, then sand larger until the connector just pushes through’, this then enables the users to follow generic instructions and utilise our native ability to interpolate the intermediate steps.

My tutor has today suggested that I need to rationalise decisions based on available items in other countries, and consider manufacturing options that allow the user to go from completely hand made, through to highly polished CNC manufacture. He also suggested having individuals go make their own following these instructions. At present I am still waiting for a motor to retrofit into the non-working prototype made late last month for the work-in-progress exhibition at RCA.

New shopping list

This is another work-in-progress blog post that will eventually probably be entirely rewritten in it’s final form, however for now, in addition to the other items these are new purchases:


Which motor?


Today I finally got somewhere with eSpares regarding which motor unit is likely to last the ages and be available.

I spoke to several people and eventually they determined a Dyson would be best for similar reasons as I had already thought, because Dyson produce one model with many variations each year, while others produce loads of different variations of different models each which are different, also the suggested motor also used in a quite old model and a more recent one, now it’s unlikely that Dyson are going to go back to this in future as they have their fancy digital motor but they are not likely to discontinue it soon, and if they do, similar Dyson motors are available and it was originally made by a third party (YDK) so it is likely to be available else where or as a clone.

The motor is from the Dyson DC07 and Dyson DC14, the YDK YV-2200, eSpares number: ES966646 however it’s not cheap at £42.99 so I am hoping Dyson who previously sent me a vacuum cleaner will be able to help me out there!

Prototype analysis…

The prototype design actually worked really well and came together really well, there were issues I was aware in the design such as the nuts coming loose from vibration but the intention with that was always to glue them, however there were some other issues I will describe below:

Motor location
Issue: Motor housing is at the top making it top heavy, and difficult to empty the bin.
Solution: Move the motor to the bottom and have an external hose or channel that routes the suction the the top.

Motor housing
Issue: The motor housing isn’t safe because it could come open, and the motor housing isn’t strong enough to allow insertion of power cord.
Solution: Investigate alternative materials or solutions to housing the motor and power connections.

Threaded rods jamming on plywood
Plywood layers jam up against the thread on the threaded rod.
Solution: Make the holes larger to allow more room for manoeuvre.

Plywood layers mark on impact
Issue: If plywood layers impact a wall or other object they leave a black mark and dent.
Solution: Sand off laser cutter charring to leave a clean finish that won’t mark and investigate using rubber bumpers along the perimeter edge of the plywood layers, consider making the internal layers slightly smaller to allow top and bottom layers to bump.

Non-working Vacuum Cleaner Prototype Parts

These are the items used to built the non-working prototype

The following is the laser cutting files, click for a PDF: Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 12.27.10

Argos Value Vacuum Cleaner



Today I decided to take a look inside the Argos vacuum cleaner as it will be using almost entirely off the shelf parts, rather than proprietary parts like the Dyson.

After removing a few screws I finally got to the guts and found the vacuum cleaner had a relatively small motor, it is made by a Chinese company called ‘SIP Cinderson Motor Co., LTD’ however other than a lot of online brokerage sites selling their motors they don’t appear to have a website, which is a shame, but shows they are probably just a factory rather than a larger company like the one’s we saw before in the Dyson.

photo 2 photo 1

Strangely considering the cost the product actually has a variable power supply inside, there is a plastic button on the outside which you can press in to turn on and off the motor, but it also rotates to adjust the speed of the motor, or in the case of this unit, how painful the sound is to your ears.

photo 3

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 11.59.29

The dial is attached to a variable potentiometer which drives a BTA12 Triac which is the circuitry that deals with adjusting the mains voltage. There are also a couple of capacitors (yellow & green) and a couple of resistors, however the overall design of the circuit is extremely simple, I don’t know if Dave Jones would like the design much!


Overall there isn’t much to the design of this unit, and the quality of the product is pretty poor so I wouldn’t really expect it to have a long usable life, I was hoping to hack the motor from this to use in the open source vacuum cleaner but I chickened out turning it as I didn’t think I would learn much from it being on and open as the circuitry and everything else is much the same.

Open Source Hardware: Vacuum Cleaner

Design Interactions: Work In Progress - Opens tomorrow at 6pm

Open Source Hardware: Vacuum Cleaner

Our modern lives are dependent upon proprietary technology which few of us could explain let alone understand how it works.

A growing number of people are reacting to this proprietary technology by building their own devices, so called Open Source Hardware (OSHW). This project explores the application of OSHW to the design of every day objects, taking the ubiquitous vacuum cleaner as it’s subject.

Parts: Tools

A real area of innovation for the vacuum cleaner would be the tools, at the first workshop it was suggested that I could text the air exhaust back down to the tool where it would blow it into the carpet in a fine blade just in front of the area where the suction happens, hopefully dislodging the dirt. I would be concerned about over heating the motor and dealing with the push-pull nature of the tools.

Tool sets are available for existing models relatively cheaply online so tools aren’t going to be a focus for this project, however it would be interesting to explore the idea of new tools and attachments. Keeping in mind that this is a vacuum cleaner for makers, it may attract some interesting attachments as it is to be designed for all manner of uses.

Parts: Filters

I have been brain storming which filter materials to use, the obvious thing to do is use what ever eSpares say is the most common part or their universal filters, however more ‘ghetto’ approaches would include car filters, furnace filters, coffee filters, etc… I am not sure how I would test the effectiveness of these. Some people have suggested measuring a pile of flour onto the floor, vacuuming it up, and then seeing how much more the vacuum cleaner weighs after. This would show if its all in the air, or in the vacuum cleaner.

Parts: Chassis

The material for the chassis design is difficult to choose because aesthetically we are used to seeing metal and plastic vacuum cleaners, however they aren’t easy to work with, I prefer a plywood design which allows for easy hacking and potentially can avoid the need for a laser cutter, if the design allows for mortice joints to be substituted with L-brackets and screws.

One issue is the flammability of wood, this may render it unsuitable.