Fabrican is a sprayable fabric that actually contains fibers, and after curing it can be washed and re-worn. It first created an internet stir in 2006, but for reasons only the internet gods know, Fabrican is now resurfacing on social media and often being mistakenly presented as new.
Don't get us wrong, Fabrican is amazing. But it is not new, and serves as a reminder of just how long it can take to bring a good idea to market, and how dogged inventors need to be. Manel Torres first conceived of Fabrican way back in 1995, when he was an RCA student studying fashion design, after watching a friend get sprayed with Silly String. Torres began to collaborate with chemical engineers, and by 2000 he'd filed a patent and set up R&D facilities at Imperial College London.
Three years later Torres formed Fabrican Ltd., and another three years went by before the blogosphere picked up on the stuff. Here in 2013, seven years later, there are still no announcements for commercialization; the "News" section of Fabrican's website saw its last update in 2010.
Has Torres given up? Doesn't look like it, as he's delivered several Fabrican-based TED Talks as recently as last year. We can only speculate as to what's preventing the appearance of Fabrican on store shelves, which is what we'd really like to see; while Torres is proposing industrial solutions targeted at the medical, automotive and fashion design industries, we think selling the stuff in cans and letting you guys figure out what to do with it would be a good way to go.
Hit the jump for some videos (one NSFW, if you work in Puritan America) showing the stuff in action.
An alarming Wiki entry on Camerapedia has caught the attention of the Reddit community. Entitled "Radioactive Lenses," the original write-up notes that "There are a significant number of [camera] lenses produced from the 1940s through the 1970s that are measurably radioactive."
Apparently the problem is that manufacturers used to use glass containing thorium oxide, which increases the refractive index of the lenses. Unfortunately for users, thorium oxide is a byproduct of uranium production and it's freaking radioactive.
What the Reddit users started asking is just how radioactive. "Anyone with an understanding of nuclear physics," one poster wrote, "care to make some sense of those readings for cavemen like me?" Here was the answer he got:
Nuclear physicist here. Typical radiation levels [on the thorium oxide lenses] can approach 10 mR/hr as measured at the lens element's surface, decreasing substantially with distance; at a distance of 3 ft. (.9 m.) the radiation level is difficult to detect over typical background levels.
10 mR/hr is more than I would want to be exposed to for prolonged periods. In my lab alarms go off if the ambient levels get above 2 mR/hr, and 10 mR is the maximum allowed dose for an 8-hour shift.
- My lab uses very conservative limits for occupational exposure. People who clean up radioactive waste are exposed to doses many times higher and are fine.
- That is the dose rate at contact with the lens, so it will only really matter when you are handling it, and your hands are not particularly sensitive to radiation.
- I'm curious how they measured the dose, specifically whether the alpha radiation was included. Alphas can't penetrate through shit, and will be stopped by a lens cap or filters, even your clothes or epidermis. They could, in time, damage your eye and give you cataracts if you aren't wearing glasses or contacts. Our askscience health physicist explains much of this here. He quotes a study that determined a "serious outdoor photographer" would get only 2 mrem per year, which is really negligible.
The current scuttlebutt seems to be that if you're not putting your eyeball up against the lense—i.e., using the camera backwards—you'll be fine. However, if the camera's got an eyepiece also made with thorium-oxide-containing glass, you may want to re-think using it.
There's a complete list of the known afflicted camera models and lenses here.
While there's a tendency among designers to obsess over pens, we all know that you can draw with just about anything; Leonardo da Vinci was scratching stuff out with a rock on a slate, for chrissakes.
The "papercraft" movement shows the same can be said for modelmaking. While it's nowhere near as time-efficient as scraping modeling clay off of a buck, paper can be transformed into stunningly complex surfaces—for those with the patience and raw talent. First off, check out designer Taras Lesko's take on the Pagani Zonda supercar. (Music warning, turn your speakers down.)
You've gotta love this company's name: Taken from the biblical anti-war phrase "...they shall beat their swords into ploughshares," NYC-based Sword & Plough takes ex-military materials—and people—and turns them towards the production of useful civilian goods.
Sword & Plough was started by two sisters—Emily Nunez is an active duty Intelligence Officer for the U.S. Army who serves as company CEO, while sister Betsy is the Creative Director—and together they gather surplus military materials, like tents and parachutes destined for landfill. They then employ veterans to sew the materials into items they've designed, like bags and iDevice sleeves.
The sisters' goal is to be a "quadruple bottom line" company: They help vets re-enter the civilian workforce; they manufacture useful products; they repurpose existing materials for the environment's sake; and yes, they plan on making a profit.
Part of the fun of being an industrial designer is getting to spec out different materials, like chefs assembling ingredients. For Cygnett's WorkMate line of protective cases, ID'ers Shannon Brown and Haydn Smith have whipped up a tasty stew of thermoplastic polyurethane, silicone and deliciously rubberized polycarbonate. The combination was chosen to pack a lot of shock absorbency into a slim package while still providing a measure of ergonomics; the rubbery texture means it's less likely to fly out of your hand, but if it does, the protective design does the rest.
[The WorkMate] is a tri-material extra protective case [featuring] an integrated tough TPU inner chassis with a rubberized PC shell with silicone inlay.... It has impact absorbing corners and textured panels for advanced grip....
...The silicone inner is spark-etched and treated with oil paint to repel fingerprints and minor marks. It sits inside a heavy-duty polycarbonate shell, coated with rubber paint for a matte finish. The silicone has inner ridges to create a cavity at the rear of the device and disperse point of impact shocks. The silicone protrudes beyond the polycarbonate on the front and back to create non-slip 'feet' and reduce wear to the polycarbonate.
Larger and more protective than a traditional polycarbonate case, the WorkMate is intended to be included on a tool belt or construction site. The treatments and finishes reference industrial machinery, the triggers and housing of power tools and tread plate steel.
Putting their money where their mouth is, Cygnett had Brown and Smith drop a WorkMate-swaddled Samsung S4 from increasing heights onto a concrete floor:
Kvadrat Soft Cell panels line the entrance of the Moroso showroom
Celebrating Patricia Urquiola's first textile collection for Kvadrat, a feast of the senses was organized at Moroso's Milan showroom during Salone. Entering through a hallway lit with the dynamic glow of Kvadrat's Soft Cell panels, guests were welcome into the main showroom where rotating columns of embroidered fabrics were hung around the circumference of the space.
The Revolving Room honored a spirit of collaboration—between Urquiola, Moroso, Kvadrat and Philips—as a showcase of the myriad possibilities for textile application. The Urquiola-designed Kvadrat collection was the filter on the acoustic lighting panels, an embroidered skin on the rotating architectural columns, the fabric on Moroso furniture and a material transformed into bowls and inspiring food design by I'm a KOMBO for the communal table.
Kvadrat Soft Cells are large architectural acoustic panels with integrated multi-colored LED lights. These "Luminous Textiles" provide an ambient glow of light filtered through the textures of Kvatdrat fabrics. The modular panels are based on a patented aluminum frame with a concealed tensioning mechanism which keeps the surface of the fabric taut, unaffected by humidity or temperature.
The magic of the panels lies in Philips' LED technology which allows architects to control content, color and movement projected from the panels. The Kvadrat textiles provide tactility and sound absorption qualities even when the Soft Cells are static.
Core77 had an opportunity to speak with Urquiola on the collaboration with Kvadrat on the occasion of the collection debut. As the first designer to create a collection for the Soft Cells panels, we were interested in learn more about the process of designing across different mediums and working with light.
From left to right: Anders Byriel, Patricia Urquiola, Patrizia Moroso
Core77: This is your first time designing textiles for Kvadrat. What was your design process like and how was it different than designing furniture?
Patricia Urquiola: We worked in two ways. The first process started with the idea of "applying memory," to create a fabric that looks like its been worn with time. This fabric will not get older in a bad way because it is already "worn." The passage of time will be good for contrast.
The other idea was to work with digital patterns. We have been working with ceramics as part of my research in the studio for a long time. Part of these patterns were in my mind as we were searching for new tiling designs. I am working with Mutina, where I am the art director, and we're trying not to work in color—exploring bas relief and a treatment of the tiling.
One pattern is a kind of matrix—its kind of a jacquard. We're working with a classic technique in a cool wool, but in the end, you have this connection with a digital world. The contrast of the jacquard is sometimes quite strong and sometimes more muted—you can see and then not see the matrix.
And then there was the possibility to work velvet—opaque and quite elegant. We use a digital laser cut technique. They are patterns but not. They give an element to the fabric but they are still and quiet.
These are digital techniques but the process to create all three patterns was quite complicated. I'm happy because we explored three complex processes but they turned out amazing.
Longtime friend of Core, proud Staten Islander and current Director of Product Design at Parsons, Rama Chorpash has been on sabbatical in order to get back to his craft: product design. His recent design for a cleverly-manufactured potato masher was selected for the 11th edition of the MoMA Design Store's "Destination: Design" series, which celebrates geographic diversity in design through a collection of products from a certain region. After traveling far and wide—from Buenos Aires to Seoul to Istanbul and half a dozen other countries—the MoMA Store turns to its hometown for the latest (and largest ever) collection, which is set to launch in May on the occasion of the ICFF.
Here, Chorpash presents a brief history of the Spiraloop.
As a combined venture between my creative-practice and academic scholarship, I have been investigating how America's broken chain of once-networked facilities and factories, struggling to function as a whole, might employ overlooked and standalone industrial processes. Utopian Gardens is a series of project-based investigations that imagine a new future for production. Artifacts such as the Spiraloop are intended to seed conversation around innovative visions of more localized production and social use.
Why this local spring manufacturer? Over the last two years, I have been gathering what I call 'Stand Alone Manufacturers,' whom I could work with to create Utopian Gardens. When the MoMA Design Store's Destination: NYC (Made in the USA) open call went out, I saw it as a challenge to not only have product made in the US, but made hyper-locally. In my matrix of categories, I had a long list of spring bending facilities (along with many other industrial categories), but nothing local. It turns out that, my research assistant had met a young Australian spring engineer through a fellow student; he had come to New York and found employment at Lee Spring through the phone book. He has been great to work with—very knowledgeable. His father owns another spring maker in Australia, inherited from his grandfather...
I live on the north shore of Staten Island, so I wanted to find a producer within a short distance. The producer is a 10 minute drive across the Verrazano Bridge to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Made in Brooklyn, New York, the product is manufactured with minimized energy output, labor, material waste, and shipping cost. While Lee is an international company (with plants also in five other locales with two additional distribution centers in the UK and China), they primarily produce mechanical springs, not consumer products. The proposal was demanding as I had to imagine what would catalyze the imagination of the MoMA Store curatorial team and their public while working within the core manufacturing constraints of the spring industry.
I was excited when I first learned that crushed walnut shells could be used as blast media, to strip the paint or carbon deposits off of metal parts placed inside of a blast cabinet. I know sand is readily available, but I like the idea of something like nutshells, which ordinarily go straight into the trash, fulfulling one last useful function before taking up space in the landfill.
I've since been hard-pressed to find other uses for discarded nutshells that didn't involve making disturbingly feral-looking jewelry. But Indonesia-based product designer Arfi'an Fuadi and business partner Elonda Blount have figured out how to machine coconut shells into little rings, which they integrate into the bodies of their CoCoPen aluminum pen housings.
While it's just a small and admittedly cosmetic step towards finding practical uses for coconut shells, the duo's pens have proved popular; they swiftly received Kickstarter funding to produce their first run of 100 pens (the maximum amount Fuadi's facility in Indonesia can currently handle), but as they've doubled their funding target with nearly a month left, they'll presumably continue producing them.
I'm very curious to see what their machining process is, as a coconut shell shard doesn't exactly lend itself to being lathed or CNC milled; I can't imagine how they clamp the thing. But I hope Fuadi and Blount continue monkeying with the stuff, as I'd love to see if they can come up with a practical application for the material with mass-manufacturing implications.
While the Warstic Wood Bat company claimed that "There are very few secrets to making a great wood baseball bat," the Kentucky-based Hillerich & Bradsby Company probably begs to differ. H&BC, manufacturers of the famous Louisville Slugger bat, have reportedly developed a new wood finishing technique that affects the surface of the bat. As Kansas City Sports reports,
The new bats—made of ash or maple—are designed to be harder than previous models. Bobby Hillerich, director of Wood Bat Manufacturing for Louisville Slugger, said new selection processes for the wood, as well as drying and processing methods, have created a bat hard enough to reach a grade of 9h, the highest rating possible by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Buyers search for the hardest wood available—known as veneer wood—which is vacuum dried to pull moisture out of the wood and push the material closer together, Bobby Hillerich said. Once that is done, the wood is cut into billets used to create the bats. The billets are shaped and compressed before being finished with a water-based coating, logo, and any coloring and player signature.
...Louisville Slugger has refined bat-making to a science, [Major League Baseball VP of Licensing Howard] Smith said. "In terms of the slope of the grain, which determines how hard the wood will be, Louisville has been able to harvest the best wood with the most perfect as you can get slope of grain," Smith said.
Aside from their priority harvesting practices, what are the details of this new finish, and is it applicable to furniture or product designs? Is it more in the drying or in the application of some new type of finish? Unsurprisingly the company won't go into much detail; all they'll say about the finishing is "Our filler fills all grains and cavities before three layers of topcoat seal are applied to give the MLB Prime the hardest finish of any wood bat on the market."
Sigh. At least there's a recently-released video showing the bats being made:
Here's a production methods mystery, albeit one we think will soon be solved by one of you.
On the Discussion Boards, a Core77 reader asked how a hot water bottle is made. A couple of votes came in for slush molding, which is like rotational molding without the spinning; the mold heats up, vulcanizing whatever part of the liquid rubber inside comes into contact with it, and leaving the stuff in the middle, well, slushy. You then pour the slush out and you've got your hollow bottle.
However: How the heck is this threaded insert added?
Then, like the rubber, the plot thickens: Our trusty Board Moderator LMO submitted this photo of that very bottle being produced by B.F. Goodrich in 1939:
Looks like it isn't slush molding at all. And if we zoom in on the photo, we can see the frying-pan-shaped mandrel that forms the negative space of the bottle inside the mold:
Which beg the questions: How the heck does the worker get the mandrel out of there?
Is it actually possible the bottle has that much flex? What about the threaded insert? And most importantly, how did Sean Penn travel back in time to work in a B.F. Goodrich factory?
Due to our deep readership, we know it's just a matter of time before someone with direct experience sounds off on how this is all accomplished (except for the Sean Penn time machine part). In the meantime, you may be wondering—where did this awesome and high-quality image of a 1939 manufacturing facility come from, and are there more like it? Stay tuned.
Remember Iris van Herpen's digitally-fabricated clothes from Paris Fashion Week? While we didn't realize it at the time, the laser-sintered dress was made from a special material sexily named TPU 92A-1, specifically engineered to provide "durable elasticity." Translation: It's bendy as all get-out, but highly abrasive- and tear-resistant, and appears to have pretty excellent shape memory.
Take a look:
Materialise, who laser-sintered the van Herpen dress, has announced they're making the material available to its professional RP services customers. It seems it hasn't yet trickled down to their consumer-level i.materialise site, keeping it out of reach for most of us, but hopefully it's just a matter of time.
A driver's license is meant to be induplicable, so you might ask why on Earth New York State has decided to switch the headshots from color to black and white. Surely a greyscale image is easier to knock off than a color one? That's true with printed images, but the headshots on the new licenses will use a more esoteric production method: Lasers.
In a bid to eliminate forgery, the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles will still capture your image with a conventional camera—but a high-end laser engraver will then burn your mug onto a polycarbonate sheet. While the official language is understandably vague, it appears polycarbonate was chosen because it can essentially be fused shut—unlike earlier, laminated versions of driver's licenses. As anyone who's ever owned a skateboard or abused a piece of plywood knows, laminated layers can be separated. In the case of licenses, that separation allowed tampering that a polycarbonate material would preclude. A host of other identifying measures not subject to public scrutiny are to also be embedded within the material.
One thing we're curious about is how thick the cards are, and how much the new, stiffer material will flex inside a wallet you're sitting on. "The new cards are so stiff," the Times reports, "that they sound like a compact disc when dropped."
You probably know that the U.S. penny used to be made out of copper, which was once inexpensive. As the cost of copper began to rise, it would have cost more per penny than the penny's own value, so the U.S. Mint switched over to a zinc alloy.
But the price of zinc has been steadily rising since 2005. Which is why U.S. currency is in the absurd situation it is now: A one-cent piece costs about 2.4 cents to make. A penny is 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper, and that zinc ain't cheap.
The nickel's got it even worse. This five-cent coin costs 11.2 cents to manufacture. That's because 75% of it is zinc and 25% is, well, nickel, another expensive metal. Which means that a nickel costs more to produce than every U.S. bill from a one-dollar bill (5.2 cents) all the way up to a C-note (7.7 cents).
The money math starts to make a little more sense when we get to the smaller dime (92% copper, 8% nickel), which rings in at a production cost of 5.7 cents. The quarter, which has the same ingredients as the dime, is only a slighly better bargain at 11.1 cents.
Clearly the U.S. Mint needs to start researching cheaper alloys or phasing out the penny and the nickel. It's true that the math is a little more complicated than it would be for pure product manufacturing; for example, while you'd quickly go broke selling a product for $100 that cost $240 to make, currency is a little trickier. The government has an obligation to produce and circulate currency because it enables commerce, so it's okay if they lose a little in manufacturing costs, as its citizens will theoretically make it back up by creating wealth. But if we don't do that fuzzy math and look at it in terms of straight production, in 2012 alone the U.S. government lost $58 million dollars just by making pennies.
With additional editorial support from Nathan Jones, Keith Lampi, Gaylon White, Jos de Wit
Natural disasters can happen anywhere with little or no warning. When they do, they threaten community water sources and jeopardize public health by destroying vital pipelines or existing sanitation systems allowing the introduction of contaminants into the drinking water supply. One of the most immediate concerns post-disaster is providing a supply of clean, safe hydration to survivors to help prevent the occurrence and spread of waterborne diseases.
"Water is one of the first things that a victim of a natural disaster has to have to survive," says Nathan Jones, vice president of government and institutional sales at HTI. "Many of the deaths that occur from natural disasters don't happen because of the disaster itself, but what happens later—the waterborne disease that sweeps through the population."
Every few years, villages in Mudimbia, Kenya are destroyed from floodwaters.
Today, more than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and the United Nations predicts that by 2025, 2/3 of the world's population will face periodic and severe water shortage.
Starting in a Corvallis, Oregon, garage in 1987, Keith Lampi, now executive vice president and chief operating officer for Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI), Robert Salter and some college friends began focusing on how forward osmosis could be used in various humanitarian and industrial applications. In 1988, Lampi and Salter founded HTI in Albany, Oregon, with the purpose of utilizing their engineering and chemistry expertise to pioneer innovative membrane technology research using forward osmosis as a foundation.
When a fire destroyed HTI's Albany facility in 2007, the disruption ironically allowed Lampi and his team a bit of space to work on some of the world's wicked water problems. From those efforts, the HydroPack was born—an emergency hydration solution created specifically for use during the critical first days after a natural disaster.
Victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti received HydroPacks
"Our earliest forward osmosis pouch was a two-liter bag that we had developed for the military. But it required radio frequency welding and was fairly expensive to make," says Dr. Jack Herron, director of product development at HTI. "Our desire was to create a relatively inexpensive pouch for disaster relief. The picture I had in mind was a 10-year-old child in a flood in India. What would he be attracted to and want to drink? What could he use properly without training? I knew from my days as a soccer dad that kids love juice pouches, so that was sort of the model. We also wanted to utilize a heat-seal process to keep the cost down. The HyrdroPack was the result."
A Spanish company called Tecnalia has developed a new type of fabric that can be made to go from soft to hard and back again. Called VarStiff, the material's default state is soft, like regular fabric; but attaching a vacuum to an embedded valve and sucking all of the air out turns the material rigid, "[achieving] hardness equivalent to that of a conventional plastic." To get it soft again, re-introduce air.
Early target applications are medical, with plans to incorporate VarStiff into an easily-applied, easily-removable cast. But the industrial designer in you has got to be wondering: Could the surface be treated with something that could withstand molten plastic, so that we could use it as a mold? I also wonder if it could be used in some kind of clamping capacity in a shop, providing temporary stiffness around hard-to-join, irregularly-shaped parts.
I'd also like to see just how stiff it can be made. If it could be used to create furniture, shipping and moving it would be a lot easier. And imagine a skateboard that you could roll up and toss into a backpack; two trucks connected to a flexible bag takes up a heckuva lot space than an entire deck. Then again, you might have to carry a Dustbuster around to activate the thing.
Anyways here's a video—Spanish language only—providing a teaser look at the stuff:
Designers always seem to be on a constant quest for the next big material innovation. From the the first application of steam bending in the Thonet chair to things like Glass Snowboards, material exploration is forever married to object design. One of the materials making a minor resurgence in design projects is Tyvek—you know, the stuff you wrap around houses.
Made from polyethylene fibers, the synthetic sheet material is surprisingly strong and waterproof with a paper-like appearance. It would seem there are endless possibilities for what essentially acts like waterproof paper (such as Jiwon Choi's Vases), but among an incredible number of wallets and envelopes there are few other notable products on the market that incorporate Tyvek. At risk of inciting a Tyvek revolution, one might question where are all of the great design projects that make use of Tyvek? One of the cooler applications in the last few years is from New Jersey-based Civic Duty Shoes in the form of Tyvek sneakers.
Civic Duty has been around since 2009, headed by Steven Weinreb. The Tyvek uppers are dyed a variety of colors, allowing a bit of visual distance from their close relatives, the FedEx envelope and disposable work suit. While durability of the Tyvek isn't quite on par with traditional canvas or leather, they do offer extreme lightness and recyclability. While perhaps the perfect application would be a Tyvek portyanki—hard to deny that this is bold sneaker-vation.
The design of the shoes include a nod to classic high top, low top and slip-ons sneaker designs, but the material appeal of Tyvek might not extend too far beyond the design geek demographic. Either way, when you decide to invest in a new pair of kicks, remember that Converse high-tops don't employ the same technology as the construction site down the road.
Materials movement sucks, and it's our job as designers, engineers or craftspersons to learn tricks to deal with it. You'll put a slight arc in a plastic surface that's supposed to be flat, so that after it comes out of the mold and cools the surface doesn't get all wavy; a furniture builder in Arizona shipping a hardwood table to the Gulf states will use joinery that compensates for the humidity and attendant wood expansion; and similar allowances have to be made when joining steel and aluminum, as they expand at different rates when the temperature changes.
On this latter front, Honda's engineers have made a breakthrough that those who work with fabrics may find interesting: They've discovered that by creating a "3D Lock Seam"—essentially a flat-felled seam for you sewists—and using a special adhesive in place of the spot-welding they'd use with steel-on-steel, they can bond steel with aluminum in a way that negates the whole thermal deformation thing.
Practically speaking, what this new process enables them to do is create door panels that are steel on the inside and aluminum on the outside. This cuts the weight of the door panels by some 17%, which ought to reduce fuel consumption. (Honda also mentions that "In addition, weight reduction at the outer side of the vehicle body enables [us] to concentrate the point of gravity toward the center of the vehicle, contributing to improved stability in vehicle maneuvering," but that sounds like spin to us.)
Unsurprisingly they're mum on how they've pulled this off or what exactly the adhesive is, but they do mention that "these technologies do not require a dedicated process; as a result, existing production lines can accommodate these new technologies." The language is kind of vague but it sounds like they're saying they don't require massive re-tooling, which is a manufacturing coup.
Honda's U.S. plants are the first to get this manufacturing upgrade, and we'll be seeing the new doors as soon as next month, on the U.S.-built Acura RLX.
Thingiverse denizen Kaipa has created a partially wooden filament for 3D printers. Called LAYWOO-D3, the stuff is 40% recycled wood with the rest of it being a binding polymer. It's flexible but prints without warping and the stuff even smells like wood. It comes out light-colored at 180 Celsius and darker at 245, so you can vary the tone. And after being printed, the resultant object can reportedly be worked with woodworking tools.
MakerBot users, don't get too excited; for now the stuff is only compatible with RepRaps.
LAYWOO-D3 is for sale here, by a company called FormFutura. Despite the exciting nature of this development, they've managed to create the world's dullest video:
Just goes to show the future never turns out like you'd think it would. Imagine someone coming up to you ten years ago and saying "Someday, you'll be able to 3D print a wood-like material. And it will be more boring than watching paint dry."
I had one particularly severe design professor who hated materials swapping for the sake of materials swapping. For example if you brought in a design for something ordinarily made of leather but spec'd it for steel, and you couldn't back up your reason for the materials choice, he would excoriate you. "That's not profound, that's not clever," he would rant. "The materials are supposed to serve the design, not whimsy."
Still, sometimes it's fun (particularly when there's no danger of an "F" looming over your head) to see videos like this one, where materials experimentation is done just for the hell of it. To create a piece of "ride-able art," the guys at California-based Signal Snowboards visited some of Italy's master glass manufacturers to see if a glass snowboard was do-able.
The first stop was the Vetrerira Aurora glass factory in Brescia, where the board is first cut and formed. (Who knew you could hot-bend and laminate multiple layers of glass together, like a skate deck?) Stop two was glass magicians Viraver Technologies, where the glass was tempered, bonded and cooked. Then came the biq questions: How would it perform on ice, hard pack, powder? Check it out, and dig the crazy amount of machinery required to crank one of these out:
I've tried to remain silent on this topic, but there are only so many times I can hear people's ridiculous ignorance of industrial design before I've gotta pipe up. The general, misguided statement I see people making is Well, all smartphones now look like the iPhone. It's impossible to design it any further. Here's the latest assertion made along these lines:
[Apple vs.] Samsung and other hardware manufacturers over who owns the rounded corner has only served to reinforce why hardware design is steadily becoming homogenous. There are only so many things you can do with a thin glass rectangle....
...As hardware evolves itself into invisibility we're well on our way to a time when the only thing that differentiates how something feels will be its software.
Yeah, I disagree. Statements like this show a real lack of imagination, along the lines of Henry Ellsworth—U.S. Commissioner of Patents in the 1840s—saying "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." That statement, by the way, is often twisted sideways and misattributed to future Commissioner Charles H. Duell supposedly having said "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
This statement that "There are only so many things you can do with a thin glass rectangle" isn't meaningful, because the person who made it is locked into the idea of thin glass rectangles and cannot conceive that the technology will change. One of the stories recounted to us in design school was of a wire manufacturer that made a fortune during the telephone boom of the 20th Century. They grew complacent, saying, "Well, people will always need telephones, and telephones need wires, so we'll always make good money." They could not conceive of the advent of the cell phone, and as the shift began, the company's fortunes waned. (They were saved, interestingly enough, by shifting into another emerging technology where fine wiring was needed: The manufacturing of meshes for airbags.)
There's been talk of Apple developing curved glass, and if that comes to pass, the form factor of phones will change. If further developments materialize and the phone is something flexible that can be rolled up, the form factor will change again. If holography becomes affordable, we'll see yet another change. But to me, the notion that "hardware [will evolve] itself into invisibility" is absurd.
There's no consensus on whether it's better to have more, or less, cushioning in a running shoe; this article crystallizes some of the larger theories being debated, enlisting the opinions of an evolutionary biologist who's conducted biomechanical analyses of how the human foot operates during running. But while consensus will have to wait, Adidas isn't. Yesterday they announced their new Boost foam material, "a revolutionary cushioning technology which provides the highest energy return in the running industry."
The foundation of the BOOST innovation is centred on its cushioning material. Based on a groundbreaking development process created by adidas partner BASF, the world's leading chemical company, solid granular material (TPU) is literally blown up and turned into thousands of small energy capsules which make up the footwear's distinctive midsole. With their unique cell structure, these capsules store and unleash energy more efficiently in every stride. Tests conducted by the adidas Innovation Team show that the highly durable material found only in Energy Boost products provides the highest energy return in the running industry.
Here's a quick vid demonstrating the base difference between Boost foam, the industry-standard EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) stuff, and concrete:
Whether Axis or Allied, there wasn't any army that had it easy during World War II. But I just learned an astonishing fact that hadn't come up in any of my go-to WWII history books: The Red Army did all of their fighting without wearing socks.
Which is not to say they had nothing between their feet and their boots. Russian soldiers were issued portyanki, which are cotton or flannel rectangles of cloth not much larger than a handkerchief. Troops were taught to wrap them around their feet, as seen below, before donning their boots.
If you're wondering why there's color footage of someone doing this, the surprising fact is that portyanki have been a Russian army staple until this year. Although they began phasing them out starting in 2007, it was just this month that Russian Minister of Defense Sergei K. Shoigu issued a call to replace them across the board with proper socks.
The big question is, why did they use these? The answer is manufacturing. While it's well-known that Russian manufacturing might flooded the battlefields, during the second half of the war, with an overwhelming number of T-34 tanks, that industrial largesse did not extend to sock factories. With a finite amount of manpower (womanpower, more than likely) on the home front, and the manufacturing ease of producing cloth rectangles rather than knitted, fitted socks, the decision was made to stick with portyanki.
If you were to hear the phrase "glass floor," you'd probably picture something like this, right? Like a glass-bottomed boat, except that you're actually inside, and you're not sitting next to someone's seasick cousin, and you mostly just have a view of your downstairs neighbor's mismatched furniture and it's kind of awkward to see them hanging out all of the time, especially when you catch them looking at the bottoms of your feet and couch and the ugly electrical conduits that run right through the middle of the floor. In fact, it sounded cool at first but now it doesn't seem like a very good idea at all... and that's not even considering the corollary that "one man's glass floor is another man's glass ceiling," which seems vaguely related to the fact that skirts and dresses wouldn't be options for women who live in houses with glass floors.
But wait: you assumed that by "glass floor," I meant "clear floor," which isn't necessarily the case. Indeed, a new flooring product from Germany's ASB Systembau GMBH boasts a semi-opaque ceramic finish to the effect that "the floor does not reflect too much to be a distraction but still gives a slight reflection which compares to the effect marble has on the eye." Billed as "the most advanced flooring system in the world," the ASB GlassFloor is a system in which reinforced glass panels are set on an aluminum substructure that can be embedded with lighting elements.
Originally designed for squash courts, the surface is designed to emulate hardwood courts with the advantage of flexible lane lines and markings for multipurpose gymnasiums, meeting European regulations for a variety of indoor sports, from badminton to volleyball. However, I was most interested to learn that the ASB GlassFloor can display video as well. "Video messages or scoreboards under the floor are only the beginning. The whole surface can be turned into one big screen. The possibilities for presentation and advertising are as versatile and innovative as ever seen before."
But the visual aspect isn't the only selling point of the flooring system: the company duly notes the durability of the panels, developed by longtime glass manufacturer Kinon Porz.
The floor is made from tempered security glass and can withstand enormous impact. The panels are made from two specially-treated glass plates held together by a 2mm PVB safety layer. The glass panels can be produced to a size larger than 2×2 metres and make the floor longer lasting than any conventional floor. This is why in 2007 we have been able to install the first open air squash court on a cruise ship, withstanding the impact of sea water and perpetual movement over years.
The surface of the glass undergoes several special treatments to achieve ideal elasticity, friction and reflection of light. After years of extensive testing we have reached a result where the floor does not reflect too much to be a distraction but still gives a slight reflection which compares to the effect marble has on the eye. Also deflection and friction of the floor achieve equal or better results than conventional sport floors. The floor is ISO and EN certified. The same treatment that ensures the dim reflection also causes scratches to remain invisible. The surface can be in almost any colour you like. The colour of the floor is determined by special foil coat applied to the bottom of the floor and can be changed even after years.
Had to LOL when I saw this Mini Cinema for iPhone. We've seen non-powered sound amplifiers for iDevices before, that essentially use seashell properties to magnify the acoustics. But here someone's come up with a rectangular magnifying glass that makes your iPhone look (in theory, anyway) like an iPad.
The manufacturer claims the $68 device "is of exquisite craftwork" and enhances the experience of both watching movies and playing games, though it's not clear how you'd play a touchscreen game with the screen magnifier in place. You can rotate the device to watch movies in landscape view, which we'd imagine would be the preferred method, but of course you'd have to keep your head in a fixed position to enjoy the magnification.
The potential usability flaws aside, this thing did get me wondering: Do you reckon it's possible to work out the viewing angle issues, and create large-screen TVs with smaller sources magnified by a big-ass lens? Or would the manufacturing hassles preclude any cost savings?
I realize this video might gross many of you out, but I am fascinated by people who view waste as a raw material. As the owner of two dogs I'm constantly dealing with shedding, and the thought that their cast-off fur could actually be turned into something useful is alluring.
A Connecticut-based needleworker named Kendall Crolius, author of Knitting With Dog Hair, shows how she can turn dog fur into hypoallergenic yarn:
I think the only reason I wouldn't do this myself is aesthetic: I don't like the fuzzy look of the end products. But if I could add another process and turn dog fur into, say, industrial felt, I'd be tempted to set up a rig in my apartment.
Where would we be without the connective tissue that is the Internet? Amazon connects buyers and sellers. eBay lets us transfer junk from one person's basement to another. Twitter lets ordinary citizens know what's on celebrities' minds, so we can force them to apologize for it. But there are still plenty of gaps, and designer/entrepreneur Matthew Burnett is currently helping to close a big one: the one between entrepreneurial designers and domestic manufacturers.
When Burnett started up his Steel Cake watch line, he experienced headaches with overseas production. With his second start-up, The Brooklyn Bakery, he switched to domestic manufacturing—but learned that locating domestic factories was not always easy. This is as true as it is absurd; America is loaded with manufacturing facilities sitting idle—New York City alone is bursting with them—and you've never heard of any of them.
A personal, but relevant, aside: In my industrial vintage sewing machine hunting, I've visited HUGE manufactories in Brooklyn, gargantuan spaces in the tens of thousands of square feet, with one of them down to just four workers; lined up along the walls, dozens upon dozens of high-end manufacturing machines, some covered in tarps, others in thick dust. The owner of that particular factory knows a lot about fabrics, and doesn't know a damn thing about the Internet; I was the only fanatic to answer his terse, barely-literate Craigslist ad. And outside of that one ad, his factory has zero Internet presence. In short, he possesses tons of manufacturing capacity and a lifetime's worth of production experience, but no one knows he's there and his business is dying.
That factory is not alone, of course, and Burnett's latest venture aims to not only let you know they're there, but exactly what they're capable of and how you can contact them. Burnett's co-founded the newly-launched Maker's Row, which catalogues factories and materials suppliers, explains their capabilities, and in some cases introduces you to the actual people you'd be working with via produced videos. It's a brilliant idea—factory tours from the comfort of your laptop, searchable by product type, geography and keyword.
"As we were trying to expand [The Brooklyn Bakery]," writes Burnett co-conspirator Tanya Menendez, "we realized that there was a huge lack of transparency and community within the industry. It would take us months to find the right factory, so we decided to create Maker's Row to solve this problem."
Our mission is to make the manufacturing process simple to understand and easy to access. From large corporations to first time designers, we are providing unparalleled access to industry-specific factories and suppliers across the United States.