Creating Prototype projector lights, Kreios G1 for Osram

Building Prototypes of  the Kreios G1 Gobo Image Projector for Osram.

In 2012 Cambridge Industrial Design approached Solve 3d to undertake a special project for their client Osram. We were tasked to produce a set of 4 prototype projector lights, to reference level that would perform safely & reliably at a lighting exhibition. The prototypes were to allow Osram to confidently demonstrate the unique features of the product.

Project Criteria.

Running continuously for 8-10 hours per day, the high output projector generates significant heat. The heat is dissipated through the aluminium body where the increased surface area provided by the vanes allows greater airflow. The airflow of course, acts to cool the surface and maintain a working temperature, essential when plastic parts are in close proximity. In a prototype, safety and reliability has to be guaranteed.

In manufacture, the choice of materials and processes is dictated by the function & aesthetic of the product. At prototype stage however, there is no pressure die cast, extrusion or injection mould tooling. Prototypes of this nature are not just ‘Look/See’, they have to perform as the final product. Not only are they to test performance, they have be an accurate reference for the final product. These prototypes served as a powerful sales tool enabling Osram to take advanced orders, with customers believing that the product was already available.

The heart of the product
The Projector Light produces 800 lumens of output with a low power consumption of 25w.

 It starts with CNC machining.

CNC Machining Heat sinks.
CNC Machining Heat sinks.

The aluminium end caps of the G1 were pressure die cast in production. For the prototypes they were machined and the extra deep and narrow vanes posed challenges that called for an unconventional approach. It is possible these days to 3d metal sinter these however the amount of finishing and the cost would be prohibitive.

Technical stuff!

If we were to machine conventionally, using long reach 2 & 3mm cutters, the process would tend to create rogue resonances that could lead to cutter and material deflection. This tends to result in gouges and an inaccurate part. The material resonances would ordinarily get worse as the space between the adjoining heat sink becomes unsupported. We solved this by pocket machining alternate ribs. By machining only one side of each rib, we left supporting material & regulating cutter feeds and speeds we minimised the resonance. Final finish cuts using a waterline path left perfectly machined sides with no gouges or vibration marks.

We then coated the machined surfaces with wax & poured fast cast polyurethane resin, filling the voids. The resin acted as a support for the ribs during the next stage of machining. Using plenty of coolant during machining the resin stays firm and supports the ribs perfectly. A perfectly smooth sided 3mm rib with 2.8mm gaps to a depth of 35mm was achieved. The next stage was to refill the machined side with resin, face cut the whole billet and then flip the billet over , locating it on 4 accurate ground indexing pins. The rest was reasonably straight forward machining’s.

The main body was a simple form and created using a more traditional machining process. This was the easier of the two main body parts and represented what became an extrusion in production.


Representative extruded body
Representative extruded body




Final Machined components.
Finished Machined components.

The Plastic Components.

The plastic components needed to be heat resistant and self coloured. A paint application was too risky for the show so the decision was made to create master models with the requisite production finish and then to create silicone tooling for vacuum casting. Finishing an SLA was considered but in the end we decided to machine the masters from acrylic to ensure  concentricity, and accuracy. In the past we had found that round SLA parts built on their side or at an angle ended up slightly oval rather than round due to cumulative discrepancies in the build layers.

The machined acrylic parts were more robust and required less finishing than would an SLA consequently controlling the cutting strategies, the total clean up time of the masters was around one hour. In the program we created a paint allowance of -0.15 mm. When the final VDI finish was applied the parts were acurate to within 0.05mm.

Following the application of the final finishes, silicone tools were produced and the final components were vacuum cast in self coloured polyurethane. A heavy mineral fill was added to give the castings greater resistance to the latent heat at the outer limits of the product.

Components ready for assembly.
Prototype Projector Light Components ready for assembly.


Once the aluminium components had recieved an even bead blasted finish, a coat of high temperature etch primer was applied. This was followed by a high temperature top coat, that was post cured to creat a heat resistant shell. The more traditional route of powder coating was deemed to be too heavy duty for these prototypes.


Fitting the light source and controller.
Fitting the light source and controller.
Dry fit and test.
Dry fit & bench test.

Bench Testing.

After running quick test to ensure that everything was working correctly then all four projector lights were mounted to a test bed & were left to run for 10 hours. The units ran quite hot but when the temperature stabilised there were no issues so we were satisfied that the units were safe and ready to ship.

Projector Gobo Fitted
Projector Gobo Fitted
Completed Project
Four Finished Projector Light Prototypes.

The Big Show.

Great Design & Engineering by CID combined with well-managed multidisciplinary prototyping, resulted in the projector light prototypes running flawlessly & safely for the entire exhibition.  Clear communication between Osram, Cambridge Industrial Design and Solve 3D resulted in a very successful design & development project completed in less than six weeks.

This Red Dot award-winning product continues to sell successfully sold all over the world.

The Engineering & Modelling of Airline Seats for the Business Traveller

Establishing a Track Record.

We first cut our teeth in the world of design and development for the airline industry back in 2005 when we embarked on the second generation sky bed for British Airways. Working with London based design consultants Tangerine, between 2005 and 2007 we built no less than 8 reference stages of development. I remember the first was a baptism of fire. With only 6 weeks to turn around a center double configuration and two window seats. Showing full CMF, they also had to demonstrate a level of user functionality. At this stage we were working with basic 3D cad and a lot of sketches ‘alluding’ to engineering solutions.  It was left to us as model makers to design and implement these engineering elements. Basic levels of Design engineering have been accepted as part of the model makers skill set since well before I started back in the early 1980’s.

Centre Quad's with single aisle & window configurations, almost completed in the workshop.
Second Generation BA Club World models nearing completion in the workshop.


Completed and installed in the BA Cabin Development Centre.
Completed and installed in the BA Cabin Development Centre.


Back then, the engineering requirements for these models were fundamental. Moving forward a few years, events such as the Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Expo demand far greater levels of functionality and robustness. These showcase events rely on hard hitting concepts to generate real sales and interest in future developments.

CNC Machined and Laser cut engineering components ready for assembly.
CNC Machined and Laser cut engineering components ready for assembly.
More Components
More machined and fabricated Components

The Complete Model Maker.

Engineering solutions that more closely reflect production values, places demands on the model maker. Emerging technologies certainly serve to narrowly focus the skill set of newly trained model makers where the pressure is to use these technologies as the solution to everything. Traditional model makers of more than 10 years experience, tend to draw on  a more compelling pallet of skills. A good understanding of materials and their appropriate use is a fundamental starting point. The most appropriate process to deploy for each element of the build is the logical next step. The ability to technically execute is a must and a clear plan of approach, essential.

GRP Body structure is dry fitted to and engineered pallet.
GRP Body structure is dry fitted to an engineered pallet.

Thinking Ahead: Good Planning

In my view, the single most important element of good model making , happens to be a fundamental element of good project management. Planning a build may seem like an obvious requirement but the ability to think 20,30,50 steps ahead, then work back from your endgame is one of the most difficult skills to master, many don’t quite manage it leading to stressfull late nights and “all nighters”. Since I started out in this industry back in 1985, the principle of the “PD” or Pseudo Deadline has driven every project I have undertaken as both employee and employer. First introduced to me by my boss Dick Grant during my 3 years at IDM(Now IDEO), I discovered it worked.

The Pseudo Deadline & why it works.

Business Class Airline Seat Prototypes are complex projects and tend to range from 6-12 weeks. Whatever the case, the team work to a date one week before the true deadline. Set in stone, we stick to it and achieve four main goals.

(1) The project starts at a pace and most energy is deployed at the start rather than panic at the end!

(2) We create a time contingency for unforeseen events (These nearly always occur).

(3) The client has some time to change details.

(4) Mid stage client viewings always kill workflow and at least a day of build time.

Dry Build at Primer Stage.

This is fundamental. Allowing tolerances for paint, laminates, coatings and fabrics, Oh… and the function of moving components makes sense right? On my countless tours of the halls in Hamburg I never cease to be amazed at the number of poorly constructed prototypes that overlook all of these factors. ‘Attention to Detail’, is often used as a strap line but is far more than a strap line. Unless the user experience of a potential customer is flawless, it is very difficult to recover!

A Dry Build at primer stage is essential.
A Dry Build at primer stage is essential.

Checking Function

Checking Function
Checking Function



Applying finishes
Applying finishes and checkint Fit.

Detail & Electrical

Testing the function of ambient and directed lighting.
Testing the function of ambient and directed lighting alond with other electro mechanical functionality.

Completion and Installation

Completed and Installed into the booth in Hamburg.
Completed and Installed into the booth in Hamburg.
Ready To Go
Ready To Go

State of the art Prototyping.

It is extremely difficult to explain to people how the function of traditional master model makers not only requires them to  seamlessly cross and deploy the skills of several professions, but the necessity to master them all.

Cabinet Maker, Engineer, Machinist, Coach Trimmer, Additive Technician, Finisher, and Designer? So many requirements from highly skilled, single individuals. Often undertaken under the pressure of a significantly compressed time scale and at the end of a long process.  By this time, there is nowhere to run.


Model Making in Card: An Effective Tool for Design Evaluation.

Model Making in card: An effective tool for Large scale Design Evaluation.

Building card models is one of the most basic starting points for the development of concepts. In this case the task was to evaluate an aircraft business class seating arrangement for London design consultants Tangerine. The purpose was to define layout & the relationship between passenger comfort, usability  & a pre-defined area. Not all Design Consultancies have the time to produce these evaluation models in house, nor do they necessarily have the space to give up or wish to make a mess in the studio. Tangerine are one of the few consultancies that make early concept models in-house, however occassionaly they require something slightly more refined. This is where Solve 3D can offer a high quality and cost effective solution.

Card, a speedy & effective medium for large scale concept models.

The Automotive Industry has clay, a traditional process still the mainstay of automotive styling & useful in its ability to be shaped quickly & easily. Card has similar appeal & certainly puts a traditional spin on rapid prototyping. For a start, the material is cheap, it provides a fairly even & neutral finish, & in the right hands can achieve a clean & precise result in a short space of time.

It starts with MDF

In this case I started by creating four dimensionally acurate structural MDF seats, demonstrating 3 critical positions during flight. To create ‘card’ models that are strong enough to support an adult would have taken too long to engineer & build. These were later clad with foam bolsters & squabs.

Four Structural MDF seats built in a day, demonstrating alternative position.
Four Structural MDF seats built in a day, demonstrating alternative position.

The Card Bit!

Development nets have to be calculated from 2d drawings, plan, elevation & a little mathematics. Model making has always been about understanding the order of construction, brain work & planning 5,10,20 steps ahead. When you have been doing it a few years it becomes instinctive & you can work on the fly.

From 2D drawings & a little mathematics to calculate the development nets.
From 2D drawings & a little mathematics to calculate the development nets, score & cut.

Forming over laser cut templates.

The laser cutter is one piece of technology that is invaluable for creating formers & braces very quickly. By using 6 mm corrugated box card, I utilise the direction of the corrugation to control the structural properties of the model. By double skinning with PVA glue I built the ‘pre formed’ wall thinkness to the correct thickness & forced the card to hold its shape.

Creating card shapes over a quick laser cut former.
Creating card shapes over a quick laser cut former.
Double Skinning holds the shape.
Double Skinning helps to hold the shape.

Joining Sections & Hiding Edges.

I used a combination of 3 methods to hide edges, join sections & build thickness. Matte brown tape, Fast PVA glue & hot melt glue. Carefull application of these adhesives & tapes to keep the model looking good is essential. It is important not to overwork the model.

Chris Neatly Joining sections.
Chris Neatly Joining sections.
Sections Starting to hold their structure and look good.
Sections Starting to hold their structure and look good.

Accurate Form, Structure & Neutral Aesthetics.

Gradually, during the build, the structure became stronger, with each adjacent sub-structure adding strength & creating a robust evaluation tool. Exercising care in construction ensures a neat finish & maintains the neutral aesthetic. In this way the designer can better evaluate the key requirement of space, usability and overall proportion without the eye being drawn to poorly executed details.

Robust Sub-Structures are light weight but strong & hold the form accurately.
Robust Sub-Structures are light weight but strong & hold the form accurately.

Card Structural Model






Time Efficient Solution & Value for money?

Four seat business class interior space model completed in 7 working days at a cost of £4.75K, including materials.

Solve 3D Ltd Accepted Into the Guild of Master Craftsmen

Solve 3D Ltd & The Guild of Master Craftsmen

We are delighted to announce that Solve 3D Ltd has been accepted as a corporate member to The Guild of Master Craftsmen. Membership serves to distance our offering from that of a Bureau & continues to emphasise our fuller skill set as both model designers & craftspeople.

Solve 3D Ltd achieve Corporate membership of The Guild of Master Craftsmen
Solve 3D Ltd achieve Corporate membership of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Throwing off the bureau tag.

Because of Chris Hill’s 30+ year association with product design & development, Solve 3D has in recent years been inadvertently slotted into the same category as rapid prototype bureau’s. This has been detrimental and resulted in general & poor quality enquiries that don’t take advantage of our range of skills. What we offer is unique & quite different with a strong emphasis on a highly creative, ‘artisan’ based skill set. This is fundamentally different from the mainly ‘technology’ based offerings. By being able to display the Guild Mark we hope to emphasise our ability to service a broader field of specialist project genres.

Museum, Heritage & Bespoke.

Since moving to our Yorkshire studio & workshop 2 1/2 years ago, we have experienced significant changes in the nature of our work. We have undertaken some very specialised projects in the luxury products sector, while transport work has kept us busy on the engineering side of things. The majority of Solve 3D’s work has been in areas such as Bespoke Furniture, Museum Exhibits (static & interactive), Scale Yachts, advertising & display & luxury packaging. As experienced and resourceful craftspeople, we have been engaged to undertake some more unusual restoration & heritage work.


Working in this location is inspirational and a real privilege. I believe this has a significant influence on the nature of the projects we seek & agree to undertake. For me, product design & development for the mass market lost its spark around 2008 when ‘time to market’ became the preeminent driver, rather than good, well-conceived products. Our diversification into more creative, artistic & artisan driven project work is certainly revitalising enjoyment in what we do. The Guild Mark is a real benefit and reinforces our intentions for the future.

Living & Working in the Yorkshire Wolds
Living & Working in the Yorkshire Wolds




Traditional Design Models: Tableware Study for theDivision.

It’s been a while since I posted anything in News & Views. I am pleased to say we have been extremely busy with some very interesting museum models. In general, 90% of my work is shrouded under a cloak of secrecy, very occasionally I can show a project.

New Work for theDivision
I am delighted to show these reference models of a new range of houseware for ‘theDivision’ design consultants. The models were created to demonstrate the exact form & finish expected of the final product.

Design Evaluation for theDivision.
Design Evaluation for theDivision.

I have worked with UK product designer David Tonge since 1992. At that time I was immersed in making concept GPS handsets, white goods & general consumer electronics.

David is a keen advocate of traditional model making as a serious tool for design evaluation.  Of all the designers I have worked with, only a handful truly understand that traditionally made models still represent the benchmark for 3D design evaluation.

The value of traditional model making is very much underplayed in this age of ‘rapid’ additive technologies, but I would argue that the skill is as relevant than ever. Having the knowledge & experience to select materials & processes most appropriate to each task, model makers are more able to produce models of consistent accuracy, form & finish. A significant number of our models have served as a reference for many years.  I know of models I made back in 1986 that still exist in the archives, but it was only when seeing models made by Le Corbusier on a visit to  MoMa in New York 4 years ago that the importance really hit me. Longevity is important, it reinforces evaluation & evolution, it serves to provide a clear reference point, & we learn from history right?

Form Finish & Materials
Traditionally made model demonstrating form finish & materials.

The Value of Traditional Skills in Design.

I am fascinated that the automotive industry still predominantly use clay modelling for their concept work. There are very real reasons for this but in my view, the major reason is having a ‘hands on’  understanding of the form and developing the subtleties on the fly. Ultimately, physical human interaction through every stage of design development generates emotional responses. Whether negative, positive or indifferent, understanding what triggers them throughout the process is an important function of good design. Form, texture, ergonomics detail & materials are such important elements that it is vital they are appreciated at all stages. Reference models put everything in context.

Machined & Finished High Density Epoxy. Oiled English Oak, Polished and Satin Stainless Steel.
Reference models machined & finished in high-density ceramic epoxy, oiled English Oak, polished & satin Stainless Steel.

The need for Model Makers to be Masters of all trades.

Reference models such as these, require mastery of a number of key skills. Every project requires mastery of different skills. In this case, precision metalwork, woodwork, CNC machining & finishing to perfection. An eye for form, how the light picks up on details & have those details been executed with sensitivity. I hope you agree we have hit the target?

CNC Machined model in authentic materials

Handmade – Richlite Clocks for Surface Matter


I was  recently Commissioned by Surface Matter to design & make a pair of quartz clocks to demonstrate the versatility of ‘Richlite’. As one of a number of ‘Artisan’, created pieces, they were exhibited  at the launch of their new showroom in London.

Typical Applications for Richlite

This bonded paper product is typically used in architecture, interior applications &  some very exciting furniture creations emerging from a small number of exclusive makers.

Material Characteristics

I have worked with this material on smaller scale products for some time and have developed a fascination with its it’s decorative properties, in particular its lack of uniformity when used for smaller objects. This simple design is hand made using ‘Rainier’ & ‘Diamond Black’  with brushed copper detail. The face presents a simple elegance while the reverse reveals a decorative surprise. The Richlite is finished with a furniture oil.


‘Richlite’ Hand Made Candle Holders by Christopher Hill

Reworking a 26 year old design, I happened upon the perfect material while making a lighting product. I noticed that it’s durability and machining characteristics were complemented by it’s unique aesthetic. Although the paper product Richlite has been around since 1943, it was not widely known outside the USA. The characteristics of exposed layering & discoloration add a unique visual character to the material, particularly when enhanced by the application of oil to the surface. While the boards are consistently manufactured to offer uniformity at larger ‘architectural’ scales, Richlite’s lack of uniformity when worked at the smaller scales delivers a truly unique character. Customisation includes the use of either precious metals such as 18K Gold or Platinum or base alloys such as bronze or naval brass.   The addition of the peelable silicone wax catcher offers both a practical & aesthetical, fully customisable solution. Each pair is hand made in England carries my makers mark.

‘Jaz’ is one of a series of  hand made Bespoke Editions. Demonstrating an evolution of this 1990 design and this extremely flambouyant version shows the surface quality of Rainier Richlite.  Pieces are hand made to order with a 12 week lead time and prices are confidential and only available via personal expression of  interest.

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Design Model for theDivision & Sunstar

Delighted to showcase this reference model, one of four designs,  made for product design consultants theDivision & their Client Sunstar. The model is CNC machined & hand finished and fabricated in Polyurethane & Acrylic. Sunstar has now launched E-Treatment for the Equitance brand in Japan.

The Division’s approach to design values simplicity, exquisite form, exceptional finish & precise detailing. It is always a pleasure to work on such great projects with David, Nicole & the team.

Read more about the story of this product on The Division web page.


Model Showing Precise Detail and Graphics
Front View
This semi-functional model deals with the subtle combination of soft feel coating and high gloss details.
Polished White Nozzle detail
Model Showing Polished White acrylic Nozzle detail
User Experience
Ergonomic Model

2016 New Design Yearbook / Traditional Model Making

year2Happy to have an entry in this year’s New Design Year Book showcasing some of the more unusual work I have engineered and made.

This seems to be my main area of work these days as the more traditional product models occupy the world of 3D print or are made cheaply in the Far East. I am finding that the model making, my primary focus is giving way to more design and engineering. Certainly, where projects rely on a complex mix of material and technologies the expertise of the traditional model maker seems to be a logical solution. I do worry that the new breed of model makers are not building the same knowledge base for the future, and that the drivers of the technology don’t believe this knowledge to be relevant. It is interesting though that technology has led to the ‘democratisation’ of prototyping through the use of 3D print media but has also spawned the democratisation of design, much the same as ‘Pro Tools’ has allowed anybody with a lap top to be a music producer. I can’t help but feel that the days of the large consultancy may be numbered but many, including myself would argue that should not be the case. Why? At the end of the day, throwing people and technology at a problem will not necessarily achieve the best result. It’s common sense that in the creative industries, the fundamentals of understanding, what adds value, is in the head of the creator. Creative restraint and tapping into the psychology of what makes a product truly great (and why people buy it) is still very much a human instinct.

Custom Stair Case By John Reeves

I love to showcase excellent craftsmanship and my Old friend and Colleague John Reeves has recently completed this superb oak stair case, custom fitted in the recently restored house of one of his friends in Hertfordshire. Apart from the geometrical challenges this piece is completely custom fitted with individually cut joints and lots of awkward angles.  A demonstration of fine craftsmanship combined with elegant solutions to challenging problems.

John has worked professionally as a traditional model maker since 1984 and in the late 80’s early 90’s we worked together producing models for the designers, advertising agencies and furniture makers from the Hackney Workshops of Forum. Over the years John has kept his traditional skills in our ever changing industry by creating a significant number of exquisite hand crafted pieces of the highest quality and working in a wide range of materials.


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