As the Nazis occupied France and commandeered production at the Citröen factory, Citröen's design team was still secretly working on their own projects. One of those was the iconic 2CV economy car. Another was an equally quirky-looking but very different sort of vehicle called the Type H. And interestingly enough, one of its key design elements was inspired by the aircraft used by the Germans occupying France.
Like the 2CV, the Type H was meant to do more with less. But whereas the 2CV was meant to haul people and their farm goods, The Type H would be its urban counterpart, a proper delivery van. It would be a direct successor to their TUB and TUC delivery vehicles, whose production had been killed for want of raw materials during the war. Here's what that pre-war TUB looked like, by the way:
As you can see, a van requires a lot more surface area than the 2CV. This raised the problem of how to stiffen the van's structure while using materials as economically as possible. The answer was flying above Citröen's heads and landing at airfields in occupied France:
If you are a fresh industrial design student, you'll most likely have your first try at 3D printing this semester or this year. And while a lot of focus has been on the printers themselves, it's equally important and fascinating to look at the materials we can use.
There are surprisingly few limitations placed on the kinds of materials used to print 3D objects. As additive manufacturing develops into a widespread practice it's important to focus on the potential of the ingredients used. Here's a rundown of the popular and the strange.
The most commonly used materials today are the thermoplastics (polymers.) Typically the polymers are in the form of filament made from resins.
- Acrylonitile butadiene styrene (ABS) also known as lego plastic, is perhaps one of the most commonly used plastics in 3D printing.
- Polylactic acid (PLA) has the flexibility to be hard or soft and is starting to gain popularity. There is also a soft form of PLA that is rubbery and flexible.
- Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is a dissolvable material that is used as a support, that then gets washed away once the object is created.
- Polycarbonate requires high-temperature nozzle design and is in the proof-of-concept stage.
Plastics can be mixed with carbon fiber to make them stronger without adding weight.
There are also several metals that can be used for additive manufacturing:
Several types of processes work with metals and metal alloys. These are direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), electron-beam melting, selective laser melting (SLM). SLM can worth with plastics, ceramics abut also metal powders, and can produce metal objects that have strikingly similar properties as those of traditionally manufactured metals. (We previously posted videos of each of the methods listed above.)
If you're an industrial design student, now that school is back in swing you've probably got your hands on some foamcore or blue foam. Did you ever ask yourself what that stuff really is?
Let's start with the first one. The original foamcore was created and marketed in 1957 by the Monsanto Company. (Yes, that Monsanto, the leader in the genetically modified seed industry.) Their original brand name for the material was: Fome-Cor.
Foamcore, aka foamboard, is lightweight, easily cut, and surprisingly strong. In it's most basic form you'll find three layers: An inner layer of polystyrene foam, bookended by two sheets of clavcoated paper or simply kraft paper. The surface paper is slightly acidic but you can find acid-free versions for archival photography.
Junior and Senior ID majors already know this, but for you sophomores or first-year grads: One must be careful if using glue or paint with foamcore. Because glues, especially superglues, and paint cannot adhere to foam, it will actually melt and dissolve it. What you need to use are spray adhesives like 3M's Super77 or Loctite. Some might try using hot glue but do so with caution, as the heat can warp the board.
For those of you about to enter Industrial Design programs, you'll find epoxy resins are a staple studio adhesive. They're part of the class of super adhesives called structural or engineering adhesives, being a vital part of aircraft construction or on the smaller-scale, furniture design (see the wood fossil table below, made by Studio Nucleo), or even used in root canals, to bind the gutta-percha to the tooth.
Epoxy resins react with what are called polyfunctional amines, acids as well as phenols and alcohols - all commonly known as hardeners or curatives. Once mixed such epoxies transform from a liquid to a solid and become very strong, withstand high temperatures and have high chemical resistance. They are called thermosetting resins, because they cure by internally generating heat.
The important thing to note when one is mixing epoxy resins is the epoxide number which represents the amount of epoxide in 1 kg of resin. This number is used to measure how much hardener you'll need to cure the epoxy. However, the mix ratio can vary by as much as 10 times, from 10:1 to 1:1. Some epoxy resin / hardener combos will cure at room temperature but most need a lot of heat, from 150° C and up to 200° C. If the resin is not heated properly the material will lose its super adhesive properties.
Wind energy is gaining support in the U.S., both on ground and in the ocean. And the design specs for wind turbines are getting pretty sophisticated as they require exact performance requirements, including super lightweight material and a potential to operate for decades without maintenance. Meanwhile, the turbines are becoming longer, measuring as much as 75 meters, close to the wingspan of an Airbus jet. Most of the turbines in North America and Europe are made of balsa wood: It's durable, dense and yet lightweight... but it's expensive. So there is a new solution coming from materials scientists at Harvard.
Balsa's cellular structure has high strength per volume of space, as its cell walls carry the weight, but it has a lot of empty space which makes it extraordinarily lightweight. This new material is engineered with the same design (see photo above), so it can mimic the best qualities of balsa. But it is made from epoxy-based thermosetting resins and it's fabricated with 3D printers, which provide unprecedented precision.
Check out how they did it in the video here:
Typically 3D printing uses thermoplastics and resins, but these are not usually used in any sort of engineering solutions. This new material—based in epoxies—opens up another channel for 3D printing that has structural applications.
Don't let the bland name of Scottish start-up Design LED Products fool you. At last year's Lux Live 2013 lighting exhibition, DLP showed off the flexible resin-based LED tile you see above, considered to be a potential game-changer in lighting design. The tiles are flexible, modular, inexpensive, highly efficient (roughly 90%), can emit light on one or both sides, and "can be produced in any shape or size up to 1m, offering up to 20,000 lumen per square meter," according to the press release. They also do not require external "thermal management," i.e. bulky heat sinks.
Well, someone noticed, and that someone was IKEA. Today it was reported that Ikea's GreenTech venture capital division plunked down an undisclosed sum to invest in the company, giving them access to the light tiles for their presumed inclusion in future product designs. "The tiles are unique as they are extremely thin, flexible and low cost and can be seamlessly joined together in exciting new designs," IKEA said in a statement. "The partnership is a clear strategic fit for IKEA and our goal to make living sustainably affordable and attractive for millions of people."
While you can still buy halogens and CFLs at IKEA today, by the way, the company is reportedly planning to switch exclusively to LEDs by September of 2015.
Anyone want to take a guess at what they'll be designing with these? Kitchen wall cabinets with these tiles on the undersides seem like the obvious choice, but those would be flat; I'm most curious to see how they'd exploit the curvability of the technology.
One of the stranger (and little known) facts of nature is that our living cells are electric, or can carry electricity. Every thought, feeling and movement we have comes from an electric spark. And we find this in complicated beings like us, as well as in the most basic forms of bacteria. But there is something that bacteria can do that no other living thing on Earth can: Consume pure electricity for their own energy. Sounds Frankensteinian but it's real.
Scientists have been luring all sorts of bacteria deep in rocks and mud with electric juice. And they've found that these creatures are eating and then excreting electrons. Now this isn't all that crazy, considering that, as I mentioned, we are made of electric pulses. And this process is fueled by food (specifically ATP, the molecule that provides storage for energy.) Electrons can and are taken from every food we eat, and they are carried by molecules throughout our bodies—this is a necessary process for life.
The difference and extraordinary thing about bacteria is that they don't need the "food" middleman. They consume pure electricity! Just like our (non-living) laptop plugged into the wall. (Think of this next time we consider how far removed we think we are from robotic devices.)
But what are the practical implications for innovative designers? Scientists have been able to grow all kinds of what they are calling "electricity breathers" in areas where you might not find other life forms. Researchers are saying this opens up a previously unknown biosphere. A biosphere of very useful, self-powered helpers.
Sometimes inspiration for how to use a material can come from the natural world. Case in point: The beauty of Utah's arches like the Rainbow Bridge above. A recent study out of Charles University in the Czech Republic breaks down how such sculptures form—and, in doing so, allows us to see potential for our own design and creativity.
The natural occurring arches and narrow stone towers do not require a complicated mix of materials or the natural variables involved in geology or weather. All we need is some sandstone and stress.
Stop the Green Dream presses. Julian Melchiorri has built a leaf that absorbs CO2 and sunlight and produces oxygen. Rather than just growing a plant like most of us who want leaves in our lives, Melchiorri's work got positively semi-scientific. By breaking down the tough proteins in silk, and plucking out useful chloroplasts from plant matter, the end product "lives" on light and water, and produces what we breathe. Produced as a part of the Royal College of Art course "Innovation Design Engineering," the Silk Leaf project was conceived as a way to manage emissions and neutralize environmental impact with a space efficient, "biological" material.
On Friday, July 25, the Scottish Ecological Design Association launched the latest issue of their magazine, which is published two to three times a year, at Greek Thomson's Caledonia Road Church in Glasgow. Local leaders in sustainable design presented their work, from MakLab (a turbo-charged version of your neighborhood fab lab) to the Glasgow Wooden Bike Project and GalGael Trust's covetable reclaimed lumber, among other noteworthy projects.
First up was Oliver Gooddard's "Let it Bee." His beehive and integrated apiary made of sustainable timber ensures that honey stores are kept in sanitary condition by segregating the queen's chambers from those of the worker bees. Based on years of beekeeping experience, Goddard abides by sustainable cultivation practices: Rather than selling all the honey from the bees and feeding them sugar during the winter, they harvest only what they might use and allow the bees to keep the nectar they've worked so hard to create for the long winter months.
Another stunning installation was the dining set "Sexy Legs," a walnut and sycamore ensemble by cabinetmaker David Watson. Each piece is finished with an alternate set of burr walnut or fiddleback sycamore "stockings." From his Clyde-side workshop in central Glasgow, David and his team of skilled craftsmen manufacture high-quality furniture sourced from only certified sustainable forests.
It's 1952 in Cambiago, Italy, and a young man makes a fateful decision not to go into the family farming business. Ernesto Colnago loves racing bicycles, knows how to fix them, and wants to make them rather than tilling the soil. His father responds by grabbing an axe—and cutting down the family's mulberry tree, to turn the lumber into a workbench for Ernesto.
Colnago started selling high-quality custom steel frames in 1954, and in the subsequent decades gained a reputation for designing and building winning racing bikes. By the '70s, Colnago was making super-light steel frames, and in the '80s, used a then-radical top tube with an oval cross-section in a quest for increased stiffness. Then came the materials experimentation: Aluminum, titanium, and finally carbon fiber in a fateful collaboration with Ferrari in the late '80s.
By 1987 they'd produced their first carbon fiber prototype—but it wasn't ready for prime time. "The first fruit of Colnago and Ferrari Engineering's cooperation [was] the Concept bicycle," the company writes, "with carbon fiber tubes, composite three-spoke wheels and a gear system enclosed in the chainrings. The unusual gears [made] it too heavy for production, but the ideas in its frame [informed] all subsequent Colnago carbon fiber bicycles."
They've spent the years since working it out, and just this month they've updated their flagship bike. The Colnago C60 is hand-manufactured with the same process of "lugged" construction as its predecessor C59. Under this technique, the tubes that Colnago has formed from Japanese-made carbon fiber can be cut to specific lengths and inserted into a range of different lugs, or hubs if you will. This allows relatively quick and easy customization. (The alternative is to mold the frame in one piece, which would require a new, expensive mold for each variation in geometry.)
Watching the bike come together, it almost resembles a plumber cleaning and pasting PVC pipes together:
Like many designspotters, we first took note of Jólan Van der Wiel at the Transnatural exhibition in Milan in 2012, one of two exhibitions that included his "Gravity Stools" (we saw him in Ventura Lambrate as well). He's been busy since then, transposing his magnetic modus operandi to couture—with fellow Amsterdammer/futurist Iris van Herpen, of course— and now, with a project called "Architecture Meets Magnetism," into ceramics.
By developing a formula for clay slip with iron fillings, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy grad (and now teacher) arrived at a material that he calls 'dragonstone.' Wired's Liz Stinson likens them to Tim Burton machinations, but I'm seeing some Giger-worthy gnarliness in the extruded stalagmite carapaces. The designer, for his part, was inpsired by Gaudí: In Dezeen, van der Wiel expresses admiration for the Spanish architect's use of "gravity to calculate the final shape of [La Sagrada Familia]." "I thought, 'What if he had to power the turn off the gravitational field for a while?' Then he could have made the building straight up."
The project is part of ongoing research into the applications of magnetic forces, which Van der Wiel conducted at the European Ceramic Workcentre in Den Bosch.
After discovering that clay could be shaped by magnetism, he is now exploring applications for the technique in architecture.
"The idea of creating buildings with magnetic field has always fascinated me," said Van der Wiel. "I'm drawn to the idea that the force would make the final design of the building—architects would only have to think about the rough shape and a natural force would do the rest."
"This would create a totally different architectural field," he added. "These are the very first models showing how future buildings and objects could look when they are shaped by natural forces."
Something you see a lot of in New York is workers assembling or disassembling a metal scaffold, but you almost never see them made out of new-looking pipes. The banged-up metal is a testament to how much use they see over their lifetimes. In contrast, you'll also see workers assembling and disassembling temporary facades out of 2x4s and CDX, but the difference is, the wood all goes into a garbage dumpster at the end, riddled as they are with screws and screw holes. They don't live to see another day, unlike the metal scaffolding.
Beijing-based architecture firm Penda has made a similar observation by looking at Native American tipis. When it's time to move on, the nomadic owners untied the rope bindings for the pole structure, bundled it together for transport, then put it up somewhere else. The lack of penetrating fasteners means the poles can be re-used indefinitely.
Thus Penda's "One With the Birds" project, which takes the local-to-China material of bamboo and binds it together with rope in a triangular matrix pattern that can then be built out.
If I had to guess, I'd say that a smooth surface is better than a rough one for cutting wind resistance. And I'd be wrong. There's a reason golf balls have dimples: The dimples decrease the drag caused by wind, by a significant amount. In the middle ages Dutch men used to hit spherical pebbles with a stick to play what became golf. Later in the 1600s they started using wooden balls. And it was in the late 1800s when players noticed that that beaten up balls went further than the smoother, newer versions.
Now researchers have created a material that—when triggered by wind—can automatically morph into a dimpled surface similar to that of a golf ball. It sort of also resembles pruning of finger tips after soaking in water (in fact, the inspiration for this new material came from dried prunes.) See the video below from the MIT team led by Pedro Reis, who developed the "Smorph" (Smart Morphable Surface).
The Smorph operates on fairly basic mechanics. In fact, the useful function comes from a common mechanical failure that most engineers need to prevent at all costs: Buckling. The prototype is a hollow silicon ball covered in a thin and stiff layer of polystyrene. When the pressure lowers within the hollow ball the exterior automatically shrinks, and this creates the dimples. The key thing is to have a pattern of dimples—and not something random.
There are at least two items in my apartment that I can count on including in my will someday and I'd bet the same goes for most people if they take a stock of their most prized possessions. Alien & Monkey express the opposite sentiment with a handful of their ephemeral designs. As writer/illustrator Daishu Ma and industrial designer Marc Nicolau explain on their website, "These products can be used for a long period of time and, due to the elements, crumble back to sand dust at the end of its life cycle." Making sand stick together in mind-bending ways is nothing new. We're just accustomed to seeing it in some form of sand art or architecture—not necessarily as functioning products.
Most notably, the Barcelona-based design duo has introduced a crumbling sand package design that has been making waves on the blogosphere. Tiny objects can be hidden within the solid walls of the package and are supported by loose sand inside of the chamber. A cut across the object directs the opener to the best spot to crack open the brick.
Industrial designer and professor Lance Gordon Rake previously shared the story behind the Semester bamboo bicycle, developed with Pamela Dorr and various collaborators in Hale County, Alabama. Now, less than a year later, HERObike is pleased to present its second project on Kickstarter, the Beacon Alley Skateboard, which represents Rake's further research into bamboo as a versatile, renewable raw material for the socially conscious organization. Once again, he was willing to share the story and process behind the project.
Since the beginning, I have been working with John Bielenberg at Future Partners and the graphic design partnership Public Library to develop the products and the business. Ultimately, all we ever wanted to do was create some nice jobs making well-designed products using the resources and people of rural Alabama. The bamboo was there. Traditional craft skills were there. We used design to put these things together in a way that could make a sustainable small enterprise that might serve as a model for developing rural communities all over the world.
The MakeLab shop in Greensboro Alabama has become a kind of research center for bamboo fiber composites. Many of the materials that are in a Semester bike—bamboo, fiberglass, carbon fiber—are also in a Beacon Alley Skateboard. The skateboard is a product with a very demanding user group who expect incredibly high performance at a fair price. The Semester bike is in a demanding, competitive category as well. And if your product doesn't look good, it's a non-starter.
The past 11 months have been a bit crazy: We had a successful Kickstarter campaign that finished last August and we managed to deliver all 45 bikes and frames by our promised date in February. Since then, our little shop has been building about ten Semesters per month, in addition to our standard "Gilligan" bamboo bike and our Gilligan kits for the DIY crowd. We are developing international markets for Semester—we've already shipped them to seven countries and this seems to be an area of rapid expansion. Right now, I am working on ways to dramatically lower costs so we can make a bike that delivers the look and ride quality of bamboo for less than half of the current price.
The patent describes a manufacturing process whereby glass pieces can be fused together and subsequently machined. This isn't solely to create seamless monolithic objects, as the company envisions creating raised glass protrusions to break up the surface at points. In addition, they're even talking about adding internal support ribs, taking a page from plastics' book. Here are some of the relevant points:
A rounded edge feature may be formed by machining the thickened edge.
Raised fused glass features may surround openings in the planar glass member.
Prior to the 19th Century, Lapis Lazuli blue was a very rare color in the art world. And still today it's not used often—instead modern painters might use an ultramarine—because Lapis Lazuli was (and still is) considered to be the most expensive pigment ever made. It's made from grinding up Lapis Lazuli semi-precious stones. Today you might be able to grab five grams for about $360 in Manhattan. But, during the Renaissance the wealthy art patrons wanted the rich almost neon-like blue in religious paintings. See the "Virgin in Prayer" (1640) above.
The history of color in art is often overlooked in the typical audio tours of art exhibits, but at the National Gallery in London a new show, Making Colour, focuses on the chemistry and color in art.
Some colors were quite dangerous, in fact poisonous. In order to make one flower brilliant orange in the painting "Still Life with Bouquet of Flowers and Plums" below, Rachel Ruysch used realgar, aka ruby sulfur. But realgar is an arsenic sulfide, and when made into a powder it's quite toxic.
With his short entitled "Waves of Grain," video designer Keith Skretch gives us an unusual, tomographic look at wood. Skretch took a chunk of what looks like Doug Fir, repeatedly ran it through a planer (you can see chatter and snipe marks) and snapped photos between each cycle, looping them together into this trippy stop-motion:
Skretch's wicked flick isn't the only one in this genre. Several years ago Michael Turri, as a student in the Stanford Design Program, did something similar with more precious woods than Doug Fir: Bocote, and what appears to be mahogany.
Tech reviewer Marques Brownlee somehow got a hold of what is purportedly the screen for Apple's forthcoming iPhone 6. Made of sapphire rather than Gorilla Glass, the screen has been rumored to be a big step up in durability.
The material-minded will recall that Apple's current iPhone features sapphire covers for both the camera and the home button/fingerprint sensor, and in those roles it is crucial the material not be scratchable, otherwise the functionality would be compromised. But how will it hold up with a much larger surface area, comprising the entire 4.7" screen of the 6? On his YouTube channel MKBHD, Brownlee puts it to the test by working it over with a knife and a set of keys, before finally attempting to bend and break it. Have a look:
Sometimes two tree branches will grow in such a way that they begin to touch. As the wind blows the branches and they rub together, the bark at the point of contact is gradually worn away, exposing the cambium. As the branches continue to grow, becoming thick enough to minimize their movement in the wind, bark can then re-grow around the point of contact, fusing the two branches together. This process is called inosculation, and in the 1920s a Swedish immigrant named Axel Erlandson observed it happening on his California farm.
Erlandson figured he'd give inosculation a go, and soon he was tinkering with sycamores to create geometric, conjoined shapes, symbols like hearts and lightning bolts, and weaving multiple trees in a circle to create baskets. Twenty years later, his property was covered with them.
In 1945 Erlandson's wife and daughter, fresh off a vacation to Santa Cruz, observed that there was a lot of tourist traffic there along the coast, as opposed to their sleepy farm in Hilmar some 100 miles inland. Together they hatched the crazy idea that if they uprooted and moved Erlandson's arboreal creations to the coast, they could sell tickets to tourists to view the oddities.
Amazingly, they pulled it off. Erlandson dug the trees up, carefully pruned the roots and wrapped them in peat moss and burlap, and somehow trucked the things over to a 3.5-acre plot of land he purchased in Scotts Valley, some six miles outside of Santa Cruz. I was not able to find a record of the precise number of trees he transported, but it was enough to open the tourist attraction he called "The Tree Circus" in 1947.
In West Pomerania, Poland, stands a rather odd grove of pine trees. Some 400 of the trees have taken the peculiar shapes you see pictured, while the surrounding forest is filled with pines that have grown the ordinary way, true and straight.
The trees, collectively called "The Crooked Forest," were estimated to have been planted from 1930 to 1934, when Pomerania was still a German possession. And while nature-driven theories have been put forth as to why the trees are shaped this way—some think heavy snowfall caused the bends when the trees were sapling-aged—what seems more likely is that this is man-made intervention.
The prevailing theory is that the trees were deliberately shaped, when seven to ten years old, for the purpose of eventually harvesting the naturally bent wood to construct something. Boats, furniture or some type of structure are the best guesses. On the nautical side, IFLScience's Justine Alford dug up this quote from a Navy & Marine article on 19th Century shipbuilding called "Wooden Vessel Ship Construction:"
Oaks from the areas of Northern Europe were fine for the development of long straight planking, but the gnarled English "Hedgerow" Oak was the best for the natural curved timbers used to strengthen the ship internally. Trees were even deliberately bent in certain ways so as to 'grow' a needed set of curved timbers. These curved timbers were known as 'compass' timbers.
Bootlegged jazz records might be one of the last things that comes to mind when you think about Soviet Russia. But decades before the tape recorder made its groundbreaking debut, oppressed Russian music fans found a way to listen to their tunes using discarded X-ray films from the dumpsters and archives of hospitals.
The music was pressed onto the discarded films using phonographs converted into very primitive CD burners for vinyl. (There's not a whole lot of information out there on how these hacked phonographs work, so we welcome any insight in the comments.) The copies were then cut into discs and a cigarette was used to burn a hole in the middle of the disc. Featuring the skeletal remains of the original substrate, the handmade discs were appropriately known as "bone music."
While the Internet is a seemingly limitless resource when it comes to research or reference, sometimes it's nice to peruse the information in print. Short of actually including samples of ABS, flyknit, etc., Material ConneXion's new book series serves as a handy guide to what's new and what's next in materials for architects and designers (the samples, of course, are available at their materials libraries). Written with an audience of design students and professionals in mind, the first two volumes, on Architecture and Product Design, were published by Thames & Hudson just last week. (The latter, pictured above, includes a preface by our own Allan Chochinov.)
From cutting-edge technological advances to novel applications of tried-and-true methodologies, co-authors Andrew Dent, Ph.D, and Leslie Sherr present a well-curated selection of materials in an impressive series of highly visual, broadly informative compendia. According to the press release, the books also "include a Materials Directory that provides insight on additional materials that are part of the Material ConneXion library and that can be used as substitutes for the projects featured." We had a chance to speak to Dent on the occasion of the launch.
Core77: How did you determine which projects to include in this book? Did you make a conscious effort to include a diverse range of projects in each of the six sections?
Andrew Dent: Diversity was essential to demonstrate our thesis, that the material trends we see are independent of product type. The decision about which projects to feature was determined by a group at Material ConneXion along with my co-author Leslie Sherr. Though we looked at predominantly very recent projects, where an slightly older project could exemplify an arc in a material type's trajectory, it was included. Clear presentation of material innovation was essential, though it should not detract from the overall value of design.
The inclusion of Iron Man 2 body armor, in particular, points to noncommercial (or at least non-traditional) applications of new technologies, yet it also suggests a potential use case for 3D printing, while student projects, concepts and prototypes depict possibilities that may be years away from becoming a reality. As a resource and reference, do you have the sense that the Material Innovation series may shape the future of design (i.e. by introducing designers to new or alternative materials) as much as it documents it in the present?
Our hope is that the series opens designers' eyes to the value of material innovation and the range of material possibilities that exist beyond what they currently know (the "unknown unknowns"). We also hope that it can show how materials can jump product type, from say consumer electronics to automotive, or from sports equipment to home appliances. This cross-pollination gives designers greater freedom to design, and offers the potential to stretch existing beliefs about how a product should be.
The hard part about killing people is that sometimes they kill you back. (Just ask Prince Oberyn.) So at some point, some primitive pugilist concluded it would be better if one was not within arm's reach of the person one was trying to kill.
One way you can do this is to kill your opponent with kindness. But this can take an unsatisfyingly long time. A more immediate way to kill someone from afar is with a ranged weapon.
Spears and slings were relatively simple to make, but no civilization could gain an enduring military advantage with such basic and duplicable weapons. The earliest example of an object that required both design and manufacturing know-how, and which led to a tremendously decisive advantage, was probably the 13th Century Mongol bow.
Bows and arrows have been around for tens of thousands of years—depending on who you listen to, we may have had them 64,000 freaking years ago—but the Mongol bow was a standout. First off, it was made out of something like the carbon fiber of that era, a complicated-to-make sandwich of horn, wood or bamboo, and strands of animal sinew all laminated together with animal glue. The horn provided the rigidity, the wood or bamboo provided the flex, and the elastic sinew laminated to the wood helped store potential energy as the string was drawn.
The traditional problem with composite bows was that they tended to delaminate when wet, as water dissolved the animal glue holding them together. Since the Mongols didn't like the idea that they would have to surrender if it was raining out, and throwing arrows by hand didn't seem terribly practical, they either developed or stole the technology to produce a waterproof lacquer. By coating their bows with this stuff, they effectively made them all-weather. And the results were simply devastating.
This is nuts. An inventive Russian YouTuber has figured out how to turn plastic bottles into string, using purely mechanical means. After "unraveling" a single bottle he's left with what appear to be several yards' worth of filament, which he then uses to bind things together. Hitting the resultant plastic twine with a heat gun causes it to partially melt and shrink, more or less fusing it into place.