This week’s selection is the Switchplate Identifiers by Ryan Tanguay.
Tanguay, a.k.a. FuzzyOrangeMakes, is an industrial designer who designs and 3D prints various items on the side. He has a YouTube channel where he portrays his adventures making toys, gadgets and decorative items.
As an industrial designer, Tanguay is constantly observing the configuration of things we use everyday. But often common items we use actually don’t make much design sense, particularly when considering the human side of their use.
We mostly don’t notice problems in design because we use functional objects everyday and assume that’s the way they should be. However, Tanguay’s sense of design is able to peer through that familiarity and get to the root of the problem.
That’s the case with his latest design, Switchplate Identifiers.
The problem being solved here is that electrical switchplates with multiple switches have an inherent issue: what is controlled by each switch? Standard switchplates don’t have any way to distinguish the switch functions, and it’s essentially up to the electrician who installed the system to make the decision.
Unfortunately, the electrician is gone after installation and you’re left guessing.
How many times have you flipped multiple switches on a switchplate in an effort to find the one you were looking for? I know I have done this many times.
But now Tanguay has a very straightforward solution: 3D printed identifiers.
He’s designed an initial set of three identifiers that can be slipped under an existing screw for standard switchplates to hold these thin 3D printed identifiers. If they’re made from a contrasting color, they’re quite easy to see.
The initial set includes identifiers for a fan, light bulb and socket. These identifiers are not typed labels, so they will work regardless of the language of the home.
Even better, they are extremely easy to 3D print because they are so thin. I sliced the light bulb identifier and found it could be printed in only four minutes — so fast that it would take longer for the 3D printer to warm up than the printing itself.
It would be incredibly easy to produce a print plate full of these identifiers so they could be deployed throughout a home.
This is a brilliant example of a design with high utility and low effort to produce.
One concern, however, is that the set includes only three identifiers, and there are likely many other purposes for switches, such as audio equipment, pumps, etc. If you need additional identifiers, it would be a straightforward matter to find or design an icon image and extrude it into a thin 3D printable model.
Another concern would be colors, as the interior design of a home usually has some kind of color scheme. In other words, you wouldn’t want to 3D print these identifiers in random colors with your leftover filament. It would probably be best to select a complementary — and contrasting — color and use that for all switchplates.
And you might want to clear the project with family members before proceeding, too.