Wrecker to Roadworthy

Wrecker to Roadworthy – Josh vs Libby in Cobalt’s car restoration projects

The Cobalt team have an eclectic range of fascinating hobbies outside work. However, the word ‘hobby’ doesn’t quite cover the car restoration projects; obsession might be a better description.  Two of our team, Associate Principal Libby Christmas and engineering intern Josh Bell, are in the thick of their very own car restorations. Libby’s 1961 Morris Minor 1000 and Josh’s 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle L are currently parked at their houses, slowly being restored to their former glory. Libby rescued her car from its idle life under a tree, and Josh’s was formerly owned by an elderly lady, in a decent state albeit some questionable wiring. Despite each car being run down, Libby and Josh saw the sparks of potential waiting to be revived. But has their design and engineering backgrounds helped or hindered their progress?

What inspired you to start the project?

Libby: I was torn between a fun car and further study. But I figured a car project was a great way to do both! That and an excuse to have some fun with car design.

Josh: I’ve always had a pretty strong interest in cars (especially the late 60s to 70s) and I love building/restoring. It’s been inevitable that I would buy a project car since I was 13! Plus, it was a great opportunity to learn more about basic mechanics.

How far along in the restoration process are you?

L: It’s been a slow start removing rusted and stuck parts, as well as learning metal fabrication and welding skills; but things are speeding up. The rear end is almost rust free, and the modifications to fit in newer lights, widen the guards and re-shape the rear bumper area are partially completed. New suspension upgrades should have the rear end finished this year. The front end is going to take a lot longer… but I’d like to be driving the car before I turn 40!

J: It’s coming along a lot faster than I thought; my goal is to have it back on the road this year. At the moment I’m on track. I fixed the majority of the engine issues for now and the interior is 80% done. The suspension and brake overhaul is next.

What part are you most looking forward to completing?

L: Having it run will be fantastic, but the most exciting part is the customisation. I’m changing the body form a lot and incorporating newer features. I’m looking forward to seeing the physical output of my imagination.

J: I can’t wait to lower it! I’ve completed a lot of the other fun jobs and lowering it is the last major one. Once it’s got the right stance I’ll feel as though it’s much closer to being done. I’m also really keen for a bit of an engine overhaul. I’m planning on a adding a couple of speed parts to make it a meaner bug.

Any stories from dodgy car parts sellers?

L: Actually the parts sellers have all been great! I get a lot of encouragement from the guys working/shopping at the wreckers and people in the car community. The only dodgy seller was the guy that sold me the car – who said it was running when he parked it. But the lack of critical hoses, battery, and some epic engine block corrosion showed otherwise…

J: Apart from the classic issues of trying to buy stuff from gumtree or marketplace it’s been pretty easy. I have a fair few odd parts to buy in the next few weeks so we’ll see how that pans out.

What part has taken the longest to repair?

L: Rust! It’s a relatively low-rust car compared to others, but 60 year old rusty bolts are very slow to remove without damage. As my welding and panel fab skills improve I’m a bit freer with the angle grinder and so it’s getting faster.

J: Trying to lower the thing, especially the rear end. It’s becoming extremely difficult due to a 3mm interference. If it cleared it would be a half day job…. I’m dreading getting into it properly but also excited to make it work. My motivation to put the bug on the ground is too high to stop me now.

Has your product design background helped or hindered the process?

L: I’d say both. I have higher standards of finding solutions that both work and look good, and I want the finished result to look as good as a new car – which can be frustrating when I have some gaps in my car specific skills or knowledge. But it’s a benefit to be able to use CAD and trial changes before I do something on the car, to reshape things completely or to design custom parts. I think it’ll mean I’ll end up with a different type of result than most home builders would.

J: At the moment it’s helped heaps. I’ve had to build a few custom parts and I am planning a lot more in the near future. A lot of the plastics parts in the beetle have been bashed, warped or vanished. Once I tune my 3D printer, hopefully those parts can be replaced and updated. Parts the old owners hacked (like the radio) will be nice to replace. Ultimately, using my product design background to make things for the car is also a way for me to put my own individual mark on it and make it a little more one of a kind.

What do you like most about the other person’s car?

L: It runs!! Josh has taken an approach that lets him enjoy the car a lot sooner, which I’m quite jealous of…

J: I really envy the amount of custom work Libby is doing to her Morris. I think that the amount of herself that’s she’s putting into the car will make it so rewarding and awesome when it’s on the road.

So will there be a next project? Libby noted that she’s concentrating on finishing this one before she even thinks about another. And while Josh agrees that his will also take a while longer, he’d love to do a “ground-up” car project or buy an old ‘clinker-style’ ski boat with a V8 inboard. If not that, an old school American muscle car is in his sights.

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cow

GDA Nomination 19

eShepherd nominated for a Good Design Award 2019

We are overjoyed to announce that the eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens has been nominated for a Good Design Award this year. The Good Design Awards are a prestigious accolade for Australian designers, recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design program. GDA awards are a unique point of difference for design agencies in a crowded market, thanks to the rigorous judging process of actual products rather than images or concepts.

In recent years, Cobalt has received a Good Design Award for our designs on the Victoria Police ADT vehicle, the Dermapen 4, the Maton Guitar Case, the Concave Boot and various Agilent scientific instruments.

The design challenge for this project revolved around creating a viable, modern replacement system for traditional fencing (where traditional fencing is impractical for inhospitable terrain). The solution was eShepherd – an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

This nomination for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. When designing the neckband, Cobalt collaborated with Agersens and electronics development firm LX Group, to design the robust “wearable” device to suit all breeds of livestock.

It was crucial for the design to boast a truly ergonomic form, intelligent technology and a high quality finish to ensure the utmost safety and functionality for both the livestock and the farmers.

Key design elements include:

  • Wireless, IoT and GPS integration
  • Use of sensors, audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli
  • Farmer controlled through a cloud-based web application for accurate data
  • Instant virtual boundary updating from any location
  • Ergonomic and light weight for “end user” comfort
  • Morphometric fitment for self-correcting positioning
  • Solar powered with optimally positioned panels
  • RSPCA, CSIRO and animal ethic committee approved
  • Real-time animal monitoring
  • Fully waterproof unit able to withstand impacts, interactions with other animals and infrastructure, and harsh environmental conditions
  • Tough UV stabilised plastics and fabrics to ensure suitable longevity

Cobalt was involved from discovery and early concept development, through to detail design of the assembly and mouldings. After several engineering prototypes and refinements, Cobalt also undertook pilot assembly of 50-off Alpha prototypes. These involved tooling and several in-house processes to waterproof the enclosure around the PV array.

The prestigious awards ceremony will be held on the 11th of July at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where the winners will be announced. We look forward to seeing how the eShepherd entry performs.

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reception refresh

Reception Refresh

Cobalt HQ’s Reception Refresh

With Cobalt’s major energy efficiency upgrade recently completed, it was time for the front-of-house to receive an overdue refresh. Our reception area had been an interim measure for far too long – project work always taking precedence. Additionally, the need to accommodate more staff was what ultimately compelled us to upgrade the front end of our office.

The vision was simple – keep it clean, modern and undeniably Cobalt. After a rapid three week facelift, the space was transformed from simply serviceable to inspiring. Each element was carefully considered to ensure visual harmony, continuity and a seamless transition from old to new. Driven by our team members Mark, Len and Nathan, the biggest change was the relocation of the main reception desk. Visitors are now welcomed at a new angled ‘hello desk’, featuring strip lighting, timber accents and a parcel ledge. Our design for the Zgo monitor arms, can also be seen supporting the ‘hello desk’ monitors.

The ‘hello desk’ now corners off a new hub, housing the admin and marketing team together for boosted efficiency.  The smarter use of the space also enables us to accommodate 2-3 more staff, with better storage and access across the office.

Bold new carpet tiles give a huge visual lift to the front third of the office, and a custom feature wall separates work spaces from reception, providing visual security from the waiting area. Outside the kitchen a large blackboard has been incorporated into a wall, allowing staff (and visitors!) to express themselves in multiple shades of chalk.

Created by Len, the new feature wall is the most striking element of the renovation. Covered in a 3.2m wide custom perforated metal panel, a bold first impression is created as visitors ascend the staircase from our lower level. Behind the metal a dark mirror finish peeks through. Built into the wall is a backlit ‘Cobalt’ sign, in which we have the ability to dictate the colour, brightness and speed of the transitions at the touch of a button. Better yet, above is a cut-out of our logo with an LCD monitor behind.  Through the day this gives us the unique ability to display a countless number of visual references and textures that influence our work.

Updating the reception also offered a great opportunity to shuffle the team around into a new layout, which has ultimately increased productivity within project teams and prompted our staff to collaborate with new people.

We were blown away with the time and effort our team put into the renovation, with a special mention to Mark (for spending a big portion of his own time on the project), Len (for bringing our vision to life) and Nathan (for coming back to help us out).  

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