a solar powered radio for the developing world IAT 336 Materials in Design

Accordio is a solar powered FM radio designed for the developing world. It’s form is inspired by the accordion, and it can be easily closed or opened to accommodate storage or charging. It is built using affordable, honest materials (like cardboard and coated card stock) and features very simple interaction techniques. Our intent is to create a device that low-income individuals in developing regions can easily acquire and operate on an ongoing basis.

At the onset of the of our project we decided to create an audio device for the developing world. Our ideation resulted in a wide array of forms and power sources. We considered a table mounted crank radio, an outboard water-powered radio, and a detachable solar powered radio among others. We chose to go with the accordion concept because it offers built into protection for the solar panels, and shrinks to a fourth of its open size for more economical shipping and storage. Solar power seemed natural given that we wanted to produce a product that to use in remote areas likely to be off the grid.

To turn on the device the listener will rotate the volume dial slightly clockwise, and continue moving the dial clockwise until it reaches their desired volume. To select a station they need only move the frequency slider until they hear the correct station. Because the radio body is made of cardboard, listeners can easily add pencil markings around the frequency slider to mark their favourite stations. Charging Accordio is also easy. The listener will detach the clasps holding it closed, open it up and lay the whole device in direct sunlight (solar cells facing up). It will charge its batteries throughout the day. For storage or transportation they can close it back up to significantly reduce its size.

Our fabrication approach focuses on 3D printing and hand tooling. The endcaps and accordion body are measured, then cut using using manual knives (affording local job opportunities and reduced shipping costs). Pieces like the accordion section and endcaps walls are attached using a combination of hot glue and adhesive tape. Our input technology relies on 3D printed parts (a volume dial and frequency slider). These parts were specifically designed, in 3D modelling software, to fit onto pre existing attachment points on our radio electronics board.

Zaria (age 28) lives near Freetown, Sierra Leone, which despite being the country's capital is still severely impoverished. Zaria needs a way to stay connected to what is happening across her country without needing a landline, electricity or the burden of extra monthly bills. She decided to purchase an Accordio because it is a cheap, one-time investment. It is powered by Sierra Leone's ever present sun. She can take it with her to work as it is light weight and compact. She appreciates it's simple design and cheap materials as it does not make it an object she risks being robbed for. When she is at home she leaves the Accordio open on her windowsill. By nightfall it is fully charged and more that capable of running through the night. Zaria uses her Accordio to listen to music and the local and world news.

Our product is intended for use by individuals or families is in developing nations. It should withstand the normal wear and tear associated with use, storage and transportation. Accordio requires outdoor charging and is not waterproof, so it would be best used in areas with a dry climate (African countries like Sierra Leone). During the day, listeners would open the radio and place it in direct sunlight to trickle charge the battery. They might listen to it at while charging, or bring it inside and listen to their program of choice after dark. PHOTOS BY MATT HANDY & ODI TOUS

End pieces: the endcap structure at either end of Accordio is made of 3/4th mm cardboard. This material is readily available, easy to work with and extremely affordable. It is light brown in colour and has a slightly rough texture that enhances grip. The pieces are adhered using a glue gun. Accordion body: made of a thick coated white cardstock. Sections are attached to each other with a quick drying glue, and the hinges are formed using a flexible tape that sits between the card layers. Internal gears, frequency slider and tracks: are 3D printed. The resulting material is an ABS thermoplastic that is eggshell white in colour, and has a slightly rough texture. Conductive material: copper tape connects the solar cells to the electronics in front end cap. It is somewhat flexible Radio electronics: the internals of our found object (an FM radio) include a selection of wiring, a plastic board and capacitors. The model is common and inexpensive: two members of the group owned the same radio. Alternative: laminated cardboard to make the endcaps waterproof. Replace cardstock in midsection with layered vellum. 3D print the whole product to increase accuracy. Laser cut most parts to make joints and cuts cleaner. Machine cutting to increase production speed for mass production.

Solar panels (photovoltaic cells) mounted on the accordion trickle charge internal batteries when the device is opened. The frequency slider assembly is a mechanical translation. It takes the horizontal motion a user inputs (to change the station) and converts it into a rotational motion that we use to change the frequency on the electronics board. The volume dial is similar to the original, but we 3D printed a new part to provide a larger surface area and grippy pattern. It is easier to manipulate, and fits into our endcap casing. It was designed to attach to original boss on the electronics board. The radio internals are our found item. The board has attachments for the input (volume dial and frequency slider), speakers and power. Parts are adhered with solder and glue. TEAM SLOW LORIS Susy Hsi Stephanie Bourgeois Sébastien Bernier-Wong Brendan DeBrincat