Nate Duxbury's Blog

Make all the things!

Altoids Tin Project

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Travel Configuration for my portable clothesline in an Altoids Tin.

Travel Configuration for my portable clothesline in an Altoids Tin.

With the start of my final college year, I started my engineering capstone course. The specific course I am in is called “Introduction to Product Design.” During the first week, we were assigned a one week project to help teach us about constraints. The project was to build a project out of an Altoids tin.

Project Guidelines

The project guidelines were fairly open. It was an individual project and required that you meet a few requirements:

-must use the altoids tin in some way

-must remove material

-must add material

-must use at least three materials

-item must be useful

These requirements made for a TON of different possibilities. Altoids Tin projects are a fairly popular thing, with tons of instructables out there for things ranging from survival kits to guitar amplifiers. I really did not want to do something that someone else had already done, so some creativity was required here.

Google Images hits for "Altoids tin projects"

Google Images hits for “Altoids tin projects”

My Ideas

At first I thought that I wanted to do something with electronics. An Arduino uno conveniently fits into an Altoids tin. One of my first ideas was a mobile electronics prototyping kit. The idea would be to have an arduino, a breadboard and some jumpers all inside so that you could prototype your electronic projects on the go. This wasn’t so much a product, as a kit that fits inside an Altoids tin. Still, it was my backup plan if I couldn’t get my other ideas to work.

Solidworks Render of what I dubbed the "ProtoAltoid." All of these models already existed online, so I was simply using them for layout purposes.

Solidworks Render of what I dubbed the “ProtoAltoid.” All of these models already existed online, so I was simply using them for layout purposes.

My second idea was to use an arduino micro and a 16×2 LCD to display little messages. I thought about making it a mobile life counter for the card game Magic The Gathering. It would have simple buttons to either add or subtract life points from each player. I knew it definitely had to be battery powered and easy to use. I was a little unsure I could coordinate the physical design of the device AND design the program for it from scratch. I also know that Apps exist for this already, but it would still have been neat.

The idea that I ended up using was one that my roommate gave me. He talked about how it would be nice to have a clothesline that is effective, but also easy to store and travel with for things such as camping. I thought this was a pretty good idea. This is the one that I ended up building and presenting for my Altoids Tin Project.

SolidWorks Render of my final idea.

SolidWorks Render of my final idea.

My Design

The end plan was a portable clothesline that fits within an Altoids tin and also winds up to store cleanly. The way I chose to do this was to design a spool that I could print on my 3D printer. The spool had to be printed in two parts to avoid use of support material, so I had a hole pattern in each side in order to screw both sides together. The top side of the spool has a small raised section where the tiny handle attaches to. The handle is likewise printed. To attach the handle to the spool, I used a cotter pin that I had laying around. To attach the spool to the Altoids tin, I drilled a hole in the center of the bottom piece and used a cotter pin to hold it in place.

Render of my spool that was to be printed.

Render of my spool that was to be printed.

The bottom side of the tin. The cotter pin holds the spool in place, but still allows it to rotate.

The bottom side of the tin. The cotter pin holds the spool in place, but still allows it to rotate.

With the spool in place, I needed to drill a hole in the side wall to allow the clothesline to actually pass through. The line I chose to use for this project was Spectra braided fishing line. This stuff can take fairly high loads and is extremely thin, meaning I could fit a lot of it inside. I had to glue a section of a straw to better guide the fishing line from the exit hole to the spool to keep it from tangling up. On the exposed end of the fishing line, I tied in a key ring and clipped on a carabiner to clip it to things. Back on the Altoids Tin side, I needed a way to clip that somewhere to be hung as well. What I did was glue in a metal ring on the opposite side and clip on another carabiner. This carabiner doubles as a way to clip the whole package to your backpack.

The carabiner ends that allow the line to be clipped onto things.

The carabiner ends that allow the line to be clipped onto things.

The line is extended by simply pulling on the line. Once you’ve extended the length that you want, you can flip the handle to the locking position and then clip the line to wherever you can. To retract the line, you lift the handle up and turn it to draw the line it.

Spool handle flipped into the locking position. The handle is simply an interference and holds very well.

Spool handle flipped into the locking position. The handle is simply an interference and holds very well.

The carabiner on the line can fit inside the tin with the spool for travel mode. This makes the only the only difference between this project and a regular Altoids tin the single carabiner it is attached to.

Extendable carabiner fit inside the tin.

Extendable carabiner fit inside the tin.

Final Thoughts

This project was difficult to complete on time. It was one of the first weeks of class and I was still getting my shop tools setup. My printer had issues when I first tried to print the spool and that took a long time to get sorted out. I ended up working late on the night before it was due to finish it up.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how it performed. The carabiners meant it could clip to a lot of different places and the braided fishing line meant it could hang heavier clothes. I did test it by hanging some wet towels, and it held up just fine! I only tested a small span, but for something portable, a small span is probably ideal.

When everyone else in my class presented, I was very impressed with all the different ideas that people had. It was very cool seeing what everyone else came up with. Their ideas ranged from a cookie warmer to a potato peeler. This class should be very interesting to participate in!

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