Aalto Explorer - A Complex System Product Development Process

Project development - An overview

Co-creation centre Urban Mill, Otaniemi, Finland

The table was covered in piles of electronics and wires, measuring devices and cameras, battery packs and solar panels. One screen showed an open video connection to India while the other displayed a rotating 3D model of a floating solar module. An intensive planning meeting was taking place at this very moment and everybody’s focus was at its highest. The Findia team have been working diligently on a voluntary basis beside their studies and jobs in order to create something unprecedented.

This something is the Aalto Explorer project, initially developed for a Product Development Project (PDP) course at Aalto Design Factory, from September 2017 to May 2018. The Findia team, however, isn’t limited to the country it is based in. Students from Aalto University have come together with the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) to breathe life into this project. After FIND-X was unveiled in the PDP gala, the project was selected for exhibition at the Global Grad Show 2018 in Dubai Design Week.


High Tech Ushers in A New Era of Ocean Exploration

“While a human diver is constrained by pesky things like air and pressure when doing underwater research or excavations, a robot can stay underwater for much longer, collecting samples in hostile underwater environments,” muses Mary Beth Griggs from Popular Science.

Our current deep-ocean expeditions generally require submarines controlled by human pilots or by robots which, if not physically tethered to a boat, must regularly surface to broadcast their findings. To make progress in this field, we need autonomously powered robots that can communicate wirelessly from the depth of the ocean and orient themselves underwater. This poses a few difficulties: high-frequency radio signals, which otherwise is often our go-to communication medium on land, are quickly submerged in water; lower frequencies, on the other hand, can travel further but don’t carry as much information. Energy consumption for these underwater robots is another cause for concern. Many AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) aren’t equipped with efficient energy-storage systems, leading to energy dissipation after a certain length of time.

Aalto Explorer uses a 4G/ 5G modem with Wi-Fi capability, a 360° Full HD or 4K video camera streaming with VR function and a floating module that harvests solar energy from lithium batteries to operate the unit - the floating module and the ROV.

Aalto Explorer - A Complex System Product Development Process

Aalto Explorer development process consists of six phases in a complex arrangement. The product architecture design, perceived as a complete product, is integral. However, the product is divided into three components that have their own product architecture design. The components will be developed in parallel, followed by the system integration, testing, and evaluation for the final approval.   

The product development process is agile and iterative, allowing for flexibility to help achieve the desired results. After each phase, for the best outcome, the process can go back to the earlier phrase.

  1. Planning
  2. Concept Development
  3. System Level Design
  4. Detailed Design
  5. Integration and Test
  6. Final Design

1. Planning & Research

2017, weeks 41-46.

During the planning phase, the project plan is created before starting the product development process. The content is proposed by the project team members.

2017, weeks 45-47.

During this phase, each group will research information relevant for the project’s prototype requirements and the activities of each group.

2. Concept Development

2017, weeks 47-2.

During this phase, the team generates and evaluates product concepts as well as its components. Then one or more concepts are selected for further development and testing for the first version of the prototype (V1.0).

3. System-Level Design

2017-2018, weeks 47-2 (V1.0) | weeks 3-8 (V2.0)

During this phase, the team defines i) the product architecture of each component (interface, module and ROV), ii) the decomposition of the components into hardware (pieces, mechanisms, etc), software (programming) and electronics (sensors), iii) the preliminary design of key components, interface graphic design and industrial design concepts.

4. Detailed Design

2017-2018, weeks 47-2 (V1.0) | weeks 3-8 (V2.0)

This phase includes the complete specification of the geometry (CAD model), materials selection, manufacturing processes, tolerances of all the unique parts in the product, programming and robust performance.

5. Integration and Test

2017-2018, weeks 47-2 (V1.0) | weeks 3-8 (V2.0)

This phase includes the manufacture, assembly, integration and test of the product. The results are then evaluated, according to which the process is either iterated or approved for the next phase.

6. Final Design

2018, weeks 9-16

After collecting and evaluating the results of the previous phases and prototypes, the last adjustments are made for the manufacture, assembly and tests of the final product.

The team is divided into three groups. Each group has a representative who organizes internal group meetings, supervises the individual development within the group and is the main contact person with the project manager.

The activities of each group are described as follows:

  • Interface Design: Develop the GUI for all users with the complete requirements for navigation (front-end & back-end).
  • Programming & Electronics: Develop the coding for all devices on the platform as well as the data transmission of the 4G signal; design, select and connect all electrical components (PCB, thrusters, etc.).
  • Mechanical Engineering & Industrial Design: Design and manufacture all the hardwares for the floating module and ROV.

Anyone who love the ocean can become a part of this project. We invite you to join our pioneer groups by signing up to our newsletters for further updates on the project and become the first to test our product.

Check out our next blog posts for more information on the project development.



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