A group of MIT scientists have created a new material that can be both a mirror and a window, and no it's not a one-way mirror.
This new material can filter light depending on the direction of the light beams. In the image above light that hits from one angle goes straight through (white beam) but light that hits the material at different angle is reflected back (red beam). For designers it might make for interesting new tricks for walls or new forms of windows.
To filter light one must alter either it's frequency or polarization. In terms of frequency, stained glass windows are a good example, where the glass lets specific wavelengths pass through.
Polarized glasses, like the 3D glasses you wear at the movies, are able to let light through that oscillates in a specific way. But the idea of filtering light based on the direction it comes from has always been tough.
A Core77 reader wrote in to ask about the provenance of this enormous horse made from wood cut-offs, which we spotted at Holz-Handwerk.
Called the "Workhorse of Peace and Hope," it was made by Italian furniture outfit Riva to symbolize the dedication and perseverance of Italian craftsmanship.
And speaking of wooden animals, here's something I never expected to see being sold by Restoration Hardware: A line of Hand-Carved Game Trophies made out of basswood.
Polypropylene is one of your go-to plastics for injection molding, and being both flexible and tough, you can do sexy things like making living hinges out of the stuff. But you are of course limited to what you can produce in a mold.
Stratasys is hoping to remove this barrier with Endur, a simulated polypropylene material that can be 3D-printed in their PolyJet machines.
Just like the name implies, Endur is tough. The polypropylene-like material offers both high impact resistance and superior elongation at break. Endur has a heat-deflection temperature up to 129°F/ 54°C, excellent dimensional stability and comes in a bright white color. It also features an excellent surface finish to make it easier to achieve a smooth look and feel.
These properties make Endur attractive for 3D printing prototypes that need the flexibility, appearance and toughness of polypropylene for a wide range of form, fit and assembly applications. This includes moving parts, snap-fit components, and small cases and containers with lids. The white tone and smooth surface finish make it ideal for consumer goods, electronics and household appliances, lab equipment and automotive parts.
Take a look at the stuff in this amusingly stilted video:
Your correspondent was recently laid up for four days with the flu, an inevitability in an urban world where one must touch subway turnstiles, doorknobs and handrails used by millions. And while germ-spreading is a mere inconvenience for your average healthy blogger, it's a potentially deadly problem for heathcare environments.
Recognizing this, and reasoning that a fair amount of their fixtures are going into medical facilities, fixtures manufacturer Häfele has addressed the problem by developing Alasept, an antibacterial and antiviral coating that they can use to coat stainless steel fittings. Doorknobs, window handles and furniture components can be treated with Alasept, which not only prevents the adhesion of the germs, but actively kills off what bugs do stick to the material.
One of the cooler materials we saw at Holz-Handwerk wasn't really a material at all, but a process. German industrial manufacturer Hasenkopf's booth drew a steady stream of visitors all reaching out to touch the weird-looking totems, like the one above, that they had on display; I eagerly checked the product tag to find it was nothing more than Corian.
So what gives? Hasenkopf was showing off their bag of new material-processing tricks called Frescata, whereby they hit Corian, Parapan, and even wood with four different bits in a five-axis CNC mill to create the intricate patterns you see here.
Graphene + Copper (not to scale, obviously)
About a year ago, I traveled to Cornell University to interview a bunch of materials scientists who work at the nanoscale level. This means they work with stuff that is very, very tiny. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. One of the challenges nearly all of the scientists kept mentioning is the issue of overheating in electronics. Most of us are directly familiar with the heat released from our computers when we balance them on our lap for a period of time, for example. And this becomes a big deal as devices get smaller and smaller. The smaller the copper wires—which connect chips, among other things—the more heat they emit. This is important for future devices and wearables.
Scientists are exploring all kinds of solutions but a proven one has recently been announced in the journal Nano Letters. We've mentioned the magic material graphene before and it continues to be the superhero material, coming to the rescue over and over again. This time, it shows up as a possible damper for heated copper wires.
Graphene is a one-atom thick material that can move electrons and heat. And it is able to cling to copper. Apparently by sandwiching copper between layers of graphene, the heat created by the metal is decreased by 25 percent. When attached to copper, the graphene actually changes its structure in such a way that allows the heat to move more freely through the metal, instead of being trapped in it.
From left: (1) copper before any processing, (2) copper after thermal processing; (3) copper after adding graphene. Image via UCR Today
From German machine manufacturer Martin comes the Speed 20/10, a rollable spray station for varnishing. The one-meter by two-meter surface is covered with a roll of ordinary, cheap packaging paper, which varnish won't stick to; so when spraying your piece, there's no need to mask the underside. And it has a couple of other cool tricks, watch the vid:
What you might not be able to see in the vid is that it's foot-pedal controlled; tap one pedal to get those two rollers to pop up, so you can lift your piece away from the sides, or you can hit the other foot pedal to either advance to a clean sheet, or roll smaller pieces off of the surface and into your waiting hands. The action requires an air compressor, being all-pneumatic; they don't want any electricity jumping around, the rep explained, if folks are spraying explosive substances.
Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.
At the Holz-Handwerk show there are tons of circular saws, tons panel saws and tons of CNC mills. But there's only one Logosol M8 Portable Sawmill. This crazy contraption is something like a chainsaw combined with a tracksaw, and one man (or one Swedish man, anyway) can unload the thing off the roof of his Volvo, carry it into the forest, and start making boards.
You're undoubtedly wondering, from the photos above, how that lone dude got that big-ass log up onto the stand all by himself. It's not just brute strength, there's design involved, as you'll see around 3:08 in the demo video:
Hey folks, your correspondent is on the ground at Holz-Handwerk, a massive trade show in Germany covering everything under the sun related to woodworking and furniture building. Here they've got machines, tools, jigs, inventions, contrapations, guys named Hans, and all manner of cool stuff that you can use to make other cool stuff. The exhibitors seem to be primarily German, though there are pockets of companies from all over the world here.
Unsurprisingly the Italian machines (like this planer from SCM Group for when you need to work boards that are a freaking half-meter wide) have a little flair
With thousands of exhibitors spread over six-and-a-half massive exhibition halls laid out like a sprawling college campus, I realize that I could not possibly see half the stuff in here if I had twice the time, and that makes me want to cry. Plus the flowing crush of 100,000 attendees makes shooting video demonstrations of anything just about impossible. Still, the intrepid Core77 editor soldiers on, bolstered by discoveries like the following:
Deep down inside, I always suspected this is what bored craftsman raised in rustic settings did with wood cut-offs
There's an entirely new direction for materials coming to life—specifically, a hybrid that combines the best of non-living matter with living matter. Sounds sci-fi, but it's here and it's quite promising. Researchers at MIT have found a way to coax E. Coli bacteria to latch onto inorganic materials in order to create a much more flexible and adaptable non-living material. What this means is that we get the benefit of a living cell that can easily and smartly adapt to its environment, as well as the benefit of a non-living material that can conduct electricity and emit light. Essentially, the result is a non-living material that mimics a living one.
The scientists have created bacteria that can latch onto gold nanoparticles and semiconducting crystals called quantum dots. (Quantum dots are tiny particles that can emit light in an incredibly beautiful array of glowing and very discrete colors.)
There is an exciting development in the works regarding materials science, one that will have a huge impact on product design.
Developing new materials has traditionally taken an extremely long time. For example, in 1991, SONY and Asahi Kasei launched the first commercial lithium-ion battery, which is now the most popular battery powering our portable electronics today. The process to get this thing right was long and chock full of failure, requiring thousands of researchers working over a 20-year span of fruitful moments and many more dead ends. This is, unfortunately, how materials science works. Researchers have hunches, leading to ideas, followed by years of testing with various compounds, new synthesis of molecules, experimental chemistry—it winds up being just a lot of frustrating trial and error. Meanwhile, companies invest billions in new materials design and the wins are rare.
But things are about to change, dramatically. The rise of supercomputing paired with simplified quantum mechanics will bring in what scientists are claiming to be the supreme "Golden Age of Materials Science."
The idea is pretty straightforward: Supercomputers will study and model thousands of chemical compounds searching for the best possible foundation for a new material, it could be a new kind of semiconductor, a new alloy, a new plastic. So the initial guesswork and testing is entirely removed from the old process, exponentially cutting the time and effort. This new process is called high-throughput computational materials design and its poised to change everything.
Image via Seadraggin
Love it or hate it, the U.S. Mint's forthcoming 3D coin seems to be capturing people's imaginations. And while we previously looked at the cool production methods behind making coins here and here, reader Dan pointed out that we were remiss in not mentioning Don Everhart, the U.S. Mint Sculptor responsible for turning Cassie McDonald's baseball design into reality:
Images via Coin News
Numismatic website Coin News has a feature up on Everhart, where you can see shots of him sculpting as well as the CNC mill they use to cut the steel blanks.
As for the rest of us who don't have access to such technology, there are DIY ways to make domed coins: Hobbyists and tinkerers use something called a doming block to hammer coins into sweet bowl shapes. Check out how the woman behind the Epbot "Geekery, Girliness, & Goofing Off" blog turned these pennies into buttons:
Images via Epbot
Posted by Anki Delfmann
| 17 Mar 2014
We travel far and wide to bring you insights into the latest developments in manufacturing techniques. This time, we trekked all the way into the Himalayas to bring you one of the most ancient ones, relying only on local production, manual labor and artisan skill. Alongside Bhutan's internationally applauded concept of Gross National Happiness, the jaw-dropping landscapes, and the plethora of Buddhist sights, the country takes a distinct pride in its cultural heritage in arts and crafts, and along with painting, weaving and woodwork, paper making is one of them. While young people here as much as anywhere stare at their smart devices and wear the latest candy-colored headphones, keeping old wisdom alive and kicking is one of the pillars of the country's master plan for happiness, and this is visible in architecture, clothing and products for everyday life.
In 1990, the Ministry of Trade and Industry established the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory (Jungshi meaning natural) in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, to expand the old domestic skill for commercial purposes, and thus give the ancient art a relevance in the modern world. Today, they export their products to the US, Japan, Europe, India and Nepal. We were invited to get a closer look at all the steps involved in the manufacturing process, from raw material to finished product.
The paper made here is based on unique materials of the Himalaya, the bark of the The Daphne Papyri, which can be found at altitudes of 3,000 feet and above, the bark of the Edgeworthia Papyri, plus various additional ingredients like flowers and leaves (for example from the ubiquitous chili and hemp plants), to add textures and patterns.
As a first step, the bark is soaked in water and boiled, then washed and cleaned to sort the good fibers from the bad.
Next, the material is pounded into a pulp, and mixed with water and vegetable starch made from Hibiscus plant roots.
Update: A response from Eastman Chemical Company, with whom Core77 has had a working relationship in the past, has been appended to the entry. Read it below.
Trouble—perhaps big trouble—in the world of plastics.
It looks like the widespread discontinuation of products containing bisphenol-A (BPA) may have precipitated the adoption of another BPA-like and perhaps equally dangerous alternative. The question now on peoples' minds is, "Are any plastics safe?"
Since 2010, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. The danger of BPA is that it mimics the hormone estrogen. And while we all have some level of estrogen in our bodies, too much of it especially during pregnancy or infancy can cause problems later on. It has been associated with breast cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. BPA is still widely used in the lining of cans and in many water bottles.
Since the 2010 ban, there has been a surge of products marketed as "BPA-free." However, it turns out that the chemicals used to replace BPA were never tested by a regulatory body. And according to a recent investigative report by Mother Jones' Mariah Blake, many of these plastics exhibit estrogen-like properties and could have similar negative effects on ones' health.
Posted by erika rae
| 6 Mar 2014
We all take the floors we tread on for granted. Not only are they more reliable than a best friend when it comes to catching you after ill-fated falls, but they also introduce an entire expanse of possibilities in terms of data collection. If you've done your reading, you may remember a group at the Georgia Institute of Technology we covered that's working to harvest energy from footsteps through a collapsable, charged contraption located underneath the floor. This time we've got something a little different, but just as awesome.
German-based Future-Shape has introduced the 2mm thick SensFloor, a large textile underlay that fits underneath flexible floor coverings like tiles and parquet. The conductive mat can track the movement of several people moving on top of it at once, as well as those in wheelchairs.
As cool as it is to see birds using manmade objects to decorate their lovenests, it's a little heartbreaking. But the reality is that the wilderness is strewn with refuse, hence bottlecaps and Bics go onto the B.O.M.
Well, turns out it's not just bowerbirds, but also bees that make use of human garbage—specifically, plastic—to spruce up their digs. The Ecological Society of America has released a paper entitled "Bees collect polyurethane and polethylene plastics as novel nest materials," detailing York University researcher J. Scott MacIvor's discoveries on the subject.
[While building nests, the bee species] Megachile rotundata was discovered using pieces of polyethylene-based plastic shopping bags and M. campanulae used a polyurethane-based exterior house sealant...
...Furthermore, since plastic pieces were found in combination with leaves in brood cells, and found only near the end of the cell series, bee naivete does not appear to be the cause for the use of plastic... It is interesting to note that in both bee species, the type of plastic used structurally reflects the native nesting material, suggesting that nesting material structure is more important than chemical or other innate traits of the material.
Interestingly enough, the usage of plastic as a nest component has both positive and negative effects on the hatching of brood. The parts of the nest made up of plastic tend to store moisture, and mold building up in those areas killed up to 90% of the brood; but on the plus side, the plastic kept parasites away from the brood, as the pests "were unable to sting through the plastic wall."
MacIvor points out a similar finding to that latter part, concerning house finches. When these birds use discarded cigarette butts to build their nests—gross, I know—the nicotine inside them tends to keep parasites away.
I can't decide if it's sad or exciting that animals and insects are finding ways to repurpose human garbage. But it will presumably continue, and at the very least, this puts quite a different spin on parents teaching their kids about the birds and the bees.
Via Modern Farmer
Design can sometimes make all the difference in very unpredictable ways. A case in point: Utility is one thing, but it was a change in design that led significant improvements to the public health of Cambodia. Here's that story...
About five years ago an epidemiologist Christopher Charles traveled to Cambodia to research anemia, the most common red blood cell disorder. Essentially it's caused by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. And it can be caused by a lack of iron and it is especially common in third world countries—about half of all Cambodian children suffer from it. Symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and muscle fatigue. Over time it can lead to growth and cognitive impairment.
Anemia can be easily treated with iron supplements, or increasing the intake of iron-rich foods. One of the problems is that few can afford such supplements or food in these poorer countries. Often cast-iron skillets are used to infuse food with iron during cooking. But these are also expensive to buy. So Charles thought if they could distribute smaller iron blocks to families to use in their cooking pots, as they boiled water or made soup, it might solve a big problem. He tested it out with a few families. But when he came around to check in on their progress he found they used the small chunk of iron as doorstops. (An aside: It reminds me of a family planning expert who taught sub-Saharan Africans how to use condoms by demonstrating with a broom handle. Later he learned that men and women were fitting their condoms on a broom handle, propping it up against the corner of the bedroom and then proceeding to have sex.)
Posted by erika rae
| 25 Feb 2014
These chairs were grown with 12 separate molds over the course of two weeks
Google "mycotecture" and Phil Ross is the first hit you'll see. For good reason, too. His work features a combination of fungi grown over a number of weeks, burgeoning to become colorful statement pieces of edible furniture and art. That's not even the kicker—not only are they edible, they're biodegradable, flame-retardant and practically bulletproof.
Ross' intrigue with mycotecture isn't just an experiment in food design. His inspiration stems from a lifelong interest in biology and its connection to all aspects of his work history and personal interests. In his words:
While I was terrible in high-school science and math, my education about the life sciences emerged from a wide engagement with materials and practices. Through my work as a chef I began to understand biochemistry and laboratory methods; as a hospice caregiver I worked with life support technologies and environmental controls; and through my interest in wild mushrooms I learned about taxonomies, forest ecology and husbandry.
Posted by erika rae
| 21 Feb 2014
"Untitled (Return to Sender, after Mary Jane Smith, 1865) 2010" detail
Most of the quilts I've seen in the past year have been hanging on walls as artwork in a museum or studio. After all, spending hours weaving a blanket by hand is now considered to be a craft, a quaintly outdated one, perhaps, but one that still has many practitioners to this day. (Trust me—I lived with a quilting editor for a year.)
Stephen Sollins is one of those people. Though I can't really say that he fits the stereotypical grandmotherly image of a quilter—Sollins chooses to forgo soft floral fabrics for patchwork masterpieces made out of Tyvek mailing envelopes.
"Untitled (Missive) 2010"
We've seen 3D-printed bike parts before, but now two British firms have advanced into printing out the entire frame (albeit not in a single piece, presumably because no laser sintering machine yet has that kind of footprint). Additive manufacturing firm Renishaw has joined forces with Empire Cycles to create a one-off version of Empire's MX6-EVO, which typically comes in aluminum; the one-off, however, was done with titanium alloy, and the duo reckon this is the world's first to be 3D-printed.
As an industrial designer, if you confuse extruding with embossing during a job interview or at an engineering meeting, you'll get some funny looks. But if you screw up the difference between laser sintering and laser melting, you're likely to be given a bit more slack. That's because there's a lot of confusion about the difference between Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and LaserCusing (no sexy acronym), and in fact, some vendors of these technologies themselves do not always draw clear distinctions between their capabilities. As conflicting information is being circulated, here we will attempt to explain the difference between the terms. (And hopefully those of you in our readership directly experienced with these technologies will sound off in the comments.)
First off, all four procedures follow the same basics:
1. A designer/engineer designs a part
2. Software cuts that part up into virtual slices on the horizontal plane
3. A chamber in the production machine is filled with powder
4. A laser runs over the powder, solidifying it and building up a thin layer of material
5. Layer after layer is built up from bottom to top, until the part is finished
6. The leftover powder is re-usable, leaving no waste
Posted by erika rae
| 14 Feb 2014
"Fortune" // Photos via Flickr
If you were one of those kids who grew up thumbing through "I Spy" books until the pages were worn and torn (or bedtime came around—whichever came first), you'll definitely appreciate the found objects in Elsa Insua's assemblage mosaics. Insua's work puts all kinds of junk to good use, from miniature rubber ducks to plastic toy dinosaurs.
A 22-year-old self-taught artist hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Insua has taken the notion of "mixed media" to heart. This particular series features a range of pop culture icons like Darth Vader and Barbie all the way to more common eye candy like sticky sweet donuts and pearl-adorned ice cream cones.
"The Great Temptation" (left) and "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice" (right)
Posted by Ray
| 7 Feb 2014
We're saving these pickles for the end, but you can skip ahead if you must.
...the slush-caked roads of the Greater Tri-state Area, that is. (Ok, that was a really cheesy, but take the puns with a grain of salt. You've been warned.)
We Polar Vortexans have been experiencing some technical difficulties lately. Unlike the proverbial perambulating pretzels, the roads are not getting a-salted, and it's a kind of a problem. Many of the hardest-hit states in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. are running low on sodium, and Quartz notes that they may have to turn to an arguably less savory solution, such as "cheese brine and other dairy waste products."
Indeed, Gizmodo picked up on Modern Farmer's report on the win-win waste disposal practice last November. The smell, apparently, is an issue (though 'tis the season for nasal congestion anyway), but it's definitely a creative whey to solve two problems at once.
L: Lotsa Mozza; R: More on Milwaukee's industrial-strength cheese grater at the Journal-Sentinel.
Of course, cheese runoff is just one of the upcycled waste products that the National Geographic examines in their alt-de-icer round-up, which concludes with some DIY (De-Ice-Yourself, duh) tips. "You can easily try the brine or juice methods. Combine salt with molasses or beet juice from your grocery store, or that green liquid in pickle jars. Mix it all up, pour it into a spray bottle, and spray away. If all goes well, you will achieve maximum meltage with minimal salt."
Lo and behold, the folks across the Hudson had turned to last of those options, so to speak, some three years ago. As early as 2011, certain municipalities in northern New Jersey were substituting in "a briny mixture of salt and water that resembles pickle juice" for NaCl (a recipe for dis-ice-ter, if you will). At seven cents a gallon, it's difficult to determine how much money they'll save on $63/ton salt, not least because it's not clear how much of each it takes to deice, say, a mile of road. (According to the Times, NYC's Sanitation Department started the season with 250K tons of road salt and have used 346,112 tons so far; more on the cost savings below).
In any case, the CBS reporter's attempt is decidedly non-superlative:
Bergen County? More like gherkin county.
Posted by core jr
| 3 Feb 2014
A few years ago, I became slightly obsessed with embodied energy, which led to a new perspective on both materials and design, in the form of a self-initiated experiment and ultimately a design tool. I wanted to share some of my thoughts from this process to try and pass on a passion for embodied energy.
The whole process started by reading David Mackay's book "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air." His "we need numbers not adjectives" attitude really appealed to me at the time, as I was getting very frustrated with some of the subjectivity and lack of depth in some sustainable design. It was with this mindset that I went searching for embodied energy data. The first time I trawled through a data set, I was pretty intrigued. This was a single number that summarized the intensely complicated journey of a material from digging its ore out of the ground through to the myriad of processes that lead to a usable material. The numbers also varied hugely between materials, revealing energy stories that I was completely unaware of. In a fairly short span of time, this data had completely changed my perspective on a lot of materials that I previously thought I was very familiar with.
What really caught my imagination was the fact that this was physical data. Unlike electricity consumption, where you need to go to great lengths to record and visualize energy, this data told you that the lump of material you're holding took 10 megajoules of energy to go from earthbound ore to product in hand. I could now define my whole material world in terms of energy—and that's exactly what I started doing, carrying a screwdriver and a set of scales I started disassembling and weighing products to try and calculate their embodied energy. This quickly escalated to doing an embodied energy calculation for everything I owned.
These calculations were very rough, but gave me an approximate figure for everything, allowing me to compare different elements of my lifestyle. Computers and camera gear, with their exotic circuitboard materials and batteries, far outweighed everything else, while other things, like my bikes, seemed pretty insignificant. This showed me that crunching the numbers, however crudely, will reveal all sorts of insights into the energy stories of our stuff.
At this point, I had gathered a lot of data and started to see the world in a slightly different light but what I was really interested in was how this data would affect the design process. There were various tools for conducting life cycle analysis on finished designs but I wanted to experiment with ways of using embodied energy to drive the design process from the start. I set myself a simple design brief with ambitious energy quotas. To redesign the Anglepoise lamp (which had weighed in at 140 Megajoules) to quotas of one, ten and 20 Megajoules. The idea was to put energy as the driving force at the start of the design process and see what happens.
Posted by erika rae
| 30 Jan 2014
If there's any genre of book you'd want to jump right into, sci-fi would probably be at top of the list. Sculptor Grant Louden brings us one step closer to our nerdy fantasies with his series of 3D models based off of popular sci-fi book covers.
The debut piece in the series is straight from the 1978 Sphere edition painting that graced the cover of James Blish's Star Dwellers. Louden teamed up with Colin Hay, the original artist behind their first model's inspiration, after showing him his artist renderings for the project. "I first came across this wonderful picture in Spacewreck in the late '70s, and still find it fascinating," Louden says in an interview with Sci-fi-o-rama. "Not only the mystery of the dead spacemen, but the nature of the small open craft in outer space—like a non-airtight midget submarine. The awkward angularity is also intriguing."
But the astounding level of detail of the final model is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The duo also saw fit to meticulously document all of their steps from preliminary sketches to finished product online. When I say meticulous, I mean it—the project's archive of work goes back 24 pages on the site. Needless to say, they went above and beyond the efforts of the average hobbyist, homebrewing an unconventional production method to make some of the parts.
Last month, I attended a dinner party where one of the guests wore his Google Glass at the table and throughout the entire evening. Many of us silently teased him, but wearable computers, a.k.a. wearables, are here to stay. And they are now showing up beyond just the geeky, early adopters.
But the limiting factor with wearables is power. How do we carry long-life batteries that won't break our backs? So far, the options look bleak.
Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology, however, have landed on a promising solution. We've heard of powering gadgets with our own movement before (think of the bike that powers a headlight) but this solution gives us more for less.
The team was able to capture energy from a new kind of nano-generator backpack that converts one's walking movement into electricity. The contraption is based on something called the triboelectric effect. Simply put, this is the electricity generated when two objects of opposing charge come together and then separate. It's the same principle behind static electricity shocks.