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Posted by erika rae  |  30 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)


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.


Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


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.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

TorsionBox1.jpgScroll to the bottom to see what this thing becomes

Everyone from furniture builders to door manufacturers to IKEA understands the value of a torsion box. A torsion box is a completely flat, very sturdy and relatively lightweight surface, and anyone designing anything structural and rectilinear should understand its principles.

The concept is simple, even if construction can be tedious: Two flat, horizontal surfaces are sandwiched over a grid of crossmembers, and once the sandwich is glued shut, a rigidity much greater than that possessed by the individual parts is achieved.

0torsionbox-002.jpgImage via Bay Area Woodworker's Assocation

For furniture builders who require completely flat assembly surfaces, a torsion box is often one of the first things they'll build to kit out their shop; hence there are tons of craftspeople who've posted online tutorials on how to build one. Marc Spagnuolo, a.k.a. "The Wood Whisperer," put together a pretty comprehensive 20-minute-plus video on how he built his. Spanguolo shows you how to get past the dilemma of building your first torsion box, which is: how do you construct a perfectly flat surface, before you've got a perfectly flat surface to assemble it on?


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)


[Editor's Note: This post has been edited to reflect a comment regarding the physical nature of nixie tubes.]

In this age of digital displays, it's hard not to appreciate the old-school aesthetic of a nixie tube. To individually bend ten different digits out of cold cathode neon tubes the cathode, then stuff all of them together in a little glass dome—i.e. the tube itself—is perhaps needlessly labor-intensive but provides a clearly legible readout with an Edison-bulb vibe.


Sydney-based Duncan Hellmers is of the same mind. "[Nixie tubes] fit in well with today's aesthetic trends but still retain that sense of nostalgia and sentimentality," he writes. "I'd seen quite a few tube clock designs online, but couldn't find one whose character matched what I was after, so I decided to design my own."


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


Just how Bad did Walter White Break?

Have you ever wondered exactly how much aluminum a soda can contains? Or exactly how many CDs you could label with a Sharpie? Or whether 360-thread-count sheets actually have 360 threads per inch?


Wonder no more. Since 1998, California-based Rob Cockerham has been periodically updating his "How Much is Inside?" website by conducting (admittedly unscientific) experiments to answer the questions above. Said experiments range from straightforward—magnifying and painstakingly counting the threads in a sheet—to sideways approaches, like weighing a soda can and comparing it to the equivalent weight of sheets of aluminum foil to calculate how many cans one could make out of a roll.



Posted by Kat Bauman  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


Since the dawn of time, high fashion has recycled low... and congratulated itself for doing so. Antique Japanese boro fabric, increasingly popular among the edgy styluminati, is simultaneously co-branded couture, lowbrow folk tradition, and literally recycled. Boro traces its lineage to the traditional cloths used and reused and re-reused by rural farmers, artisans, craftspeople and laborers between the 18th and 20th centuries. Before cotton was widely available in Japan, the most commonly used fibers came from tough and abundant sources like jute, wisteria and bast. Rough stuff for sure, but resistant to wear and tear. As cotton production increased and cotton products began to spread, used cotton kimonos and other textiles became available at more affordable prices.

kimonofabric.jpgExploded diagram of a kimono, Boro fabric exploding at the seams

Boro_The_Fabric_of_Life_880.jpgTasteful French gallery show of other people's old workwear

To get the most out of these valuable softer fabrics, they were patched over and over, sometimes being torn into strips and rewoven, integrating the tougher materials for reinforcement. Dyed textiles would often be taken apart, redyed and rewoven in multiple iterations, creating a deeply textured and mottled appearance over time. Sometimes you can find signs of a fabric's earlier life, like the darker strip on a blanket where a kimono collar used to be. The most recognizable boro fabrics feature an array of indigo hues, carefully patchworked with strong quilting or darning stitches. (For a good time, look up "sashiko" stitching, which literally translates as "little stabs." Quilting is pretty metal.) The patches on most boro fabric, while varied in color and size, are usually square or rectangular. Coincidence? Nope, nor a cultural obsession with rigid angles. It's another sign of efficiency and good design.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)


Once upon a time, human beings were biodegradable. But with modern-day corpses shot full of embalming chemicals before being sealed inside metal coffins, it will be a long time, if ever, before those bodies go back into the earth.

The alternate method of cremation, of course, turns human bodies into ash; and now Swiss company Algordanza has taken it a step further, by figuring out how to compress that ash into diamonds. For US $5,000 to $22,000, your remains, or those of a loved one, can be turned into as many as nine diamonds, presumably depending on the volume of ash. And what's fascinating is that there is some color variation:

Most of the stones come out blue, [Algordanza CEO Rinaldo] Willy says, because contains trace amounts of boron, an element that bone formation. Occasionally, though, a diamond pops out white, yellow or close to black - Willy's not sure why. Regardless, he says, "every diamond from each person is slightly different. It's always a unique diamond."


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Comments (7)

0lucaiaconistewart-001.jpgThis shot might be of Coach, but this guy's modelmaking skillz are first-class

Get this man a job as a modelmaker.

Luca Iaconi-Stewart learned to make architectural models from paper in a high school class, and found he enjoyed it. Rather than pursuing a career in architecture, Iaconi-Stewart subsequently embarked on a crazy project to build a detailed scale model of a Boeing 777, entirely out of paper.


The man has spent five years on the yet-to-be-completed project, and even sacrificed college to continue on it.




Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


What's made out of leather, already broken-in, and gathering dust in the closet of most red-blooded American males of a certain age? A baseball glove. And for every one of you that still pulls yours out in the spring, there are probably nine of us that prefer to wear out the leather in our armchairs.

A company called Fielder's Choice Goods has been getting their hands on this worn-leather bonanza and turning ex-mitts into wallets, belts and keychains.



Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  15 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


Bet you would've loved these over the holidays. Much better than paper dishes and yet with the same convenience: No washing! That's right, self-cleaning tableware.

The prototype is the work of the Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine, where they apparently "look at science from a creative point of view." And a useful one! The plate and cup are made of cellulose, and are coated with what they call a superhydrophobic coating, and it's this coating that resists dirt and water.

The coating was originally developed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. They took the inspiration from the waxy coating of the lotus leaf.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  15 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


In the '90s, David Munson was working as a volunteer English teacher in Mexico when he caught the bag bug. While searching for the perfect leather bag, he realized it didn't exist, and set out to design his own. Long story short, here in 2014 he runs Saddleback Leather, which manufactures a high-quality line of leather bags, backpacks, briefcases, wallets, luggage, accessories and more. Each product is designed to be so durable and "over-engineered" that your heirs will "fight over it when you're dead," as the company motto goes.

Munson, by the way, is pissed off. After spending years learning the trade and building out his company piece by piece, he now has to deal with unscrupulous folks knocking off his products. He came up with a rather brilliant way to address this problem head-on: He made a video to his competitors showing them how to knock his bags off, incidentally educating the consumer on where the quality and design of his products, versus the competition's, starts to diverge.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)


After reading our entry on multi-bladed jigsaws, Art Director and Coroflotter Juan Cano tipped us off to a similar machine, this one used to cut stone. By swapping out jigsaw blades for diamond-crusted wires, and switching the axis of cut from vertical to horizontal, the massive GoldBreton 2000 Multi-Wire Machine can cut massive chunks of granite into neat slabs.



That was cool enough, but it turns out Breton makes more machines than the relatively basic 2000. By attaching a cutting wire to pulleys that can swivel, then mounting those pulleys on arms that can move, they've created some very bad-ass CNC stone-cutting machines, like this two-axis model:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  13 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)


At eight-minutes-plus, this production methods video is longer than the average internet denizen's 2.5-minute attention span, but anyone who makes things out of wood will find it fascinating. This unnamed Hungarian craftsperson shows you every step as he goes from felled tree to cutting board, and what's most interesting is the dedicated series of jigs, rigs and fixtures he's come up with to speed up his production, as well as the combination of machines he uses. Be sure to check out:

0hungarianboard-002.jpgThe fresh floor-embedded pneumatic lift he uses to get the logs up to the bandsaw at 1:20

0hungarianboard-003.jpgHis lath drying rack at 3:29 and spinning drying rack at 3:47


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)


Here's my oversimplified explanation of how the universe forms planetary bodies: There's a bunch of stuff floating around in space. The stuff crashes into other stuff, and sometimes that stuff sticks together. And gets bigger and bigger, and starts to rotate from the momentum of the impacts. Things even out when they spin, and that conglomerate, spinning stuff eventually becomes moons and planets, rendered spherical in a kind of galactic machining process.

Interestingly enough, something like this phenomenon has taken place this week, albeit at a smaller scale, in Lake Michigan. As the brutal cold snap struck the Good Harbor Bay in Michigan's Leelanau County, hundreds and hundreds of ice balls began to spontaneously form in the water. Check it out:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Jan 2014  |  Comments (7)


The Canadiano is freaking awesome. It's a single-serving coffee brewing device, for those of us who live alone, or those of you who live with other people but enjoy being selfish, and it's made out of wood.


Or one of three woods, specifically. You can order the Canadiano in Cherry, Walnut or Maple, and while we're not sure if this part is true or just hooey, the manufacturer claims that "the wooden piece will remember each cup of coffee you make."

Overtime the coffee oils of your specific beans and roast will be absorbed into the wood and be a part of your morning coffee experience... Each type of wood is matched with different beans and roasts from around the world. We encourage brewing single origin beans in the Canadianos. The Walnut edition is crafted and designed for use with darker roasts and earthier flavors such as beans from South East Asia. Maple and Cherry is designed for beans with slight citrus hints and nutty taste.



Posted by Christie Nicholson  |   8 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


"These were little plates of ice, very flat, very polished, very transparent, about the thickness of a sheet of rather thick paper... but so perfectly formed in hexagons, and of which the six sides were so straight, and the six angles so equal, that it is impossible for men to make anything so exact."

The philosopher Rene Descartes made that observation when he attempted to catalogue snowflakes back in 1635, and wound up with a fairly thorough description of snowflake shapes, especially since all he had was the naked eye. See drawings above.

And we've experienced the same astonishment as Descartes when we wrote about platinum crystals. There is something about crystals that just looks too unreal.


It needs to be around freezing for water vapor in clouds to form ice crystals and this is when they skip the raindrop phase altogether (although the warmest snow is pretty wet and is the best kind for snowballs.) When the temperature drops below freezing snowflakes become smaller and lighter, and feel more like powder.

But the key to a snowflake's amazing shape is hexagonal symmetry. Ice crystallizes in a form that is scientifically known as Ice 1h, this means that its base shape is a hexagon, but the interesting part is that if you turn the crystal 60 degrees it maintains a hexagonal shape.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   6 Jan 2014  |  Comments (9)


At this point even laypeople, not just us industrial designers, have heard of injection molding; it's how a lot of the plastic stuff we own is made. But few layfolk have heard of metal injection molding, and it's only a minority of ID'ers who will get to work with the process because it's so darn expensive.

Expensive, and cool. Metal injection molding can be used to create small, complex metal parts that would be too difficult to machine, and it affords higher tolerances than casting. It's accurate enough to mold tiny threads, as you can see on the shaft of the arrowhead below:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   3 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)


I'm loving the design of the Mastro Table, created for Italian manufacturer DeCastelli by Viareggio-based Gumdesign. It's not just the clean look—it's the perfect, elegant simplicity of proper materials exploitation.

Take a sheet of iron and it's pretty strong. Bend the edges twice and it's even stronger, gaining I-beam-like rigidity. And now that you've bent those edges, a channel is created--the perfect place to slot a crossbeam for trestle legs.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

C77YiR.jpg02013-materials3-007.jpgMore on BASF's premium penny-farthing below...

Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines · The Year in Photos

If industrial designers are unsung, materials scientists are even more unsung. You don't know the name of the person who shaped the handle on your coffeepot, and you darn sure don't know who invented the plastic it's made out of.


We don't always know their names, but we know the fruits of their labor. So what stuff did the guys in white lab coats come up with that made the news this year? The hands-down Materials traffic winner was "Kinetic Sand," which results from mixing regular sand with an ingredient from Silly Putty. If you haven't already seen it, peep the video, be amazed.


A material nearly as humble as sand, cement, also caught rec' this year. Not regular cement of course, but the pollution-killing, smog-eating variety first developed by Italian manufacturer Italcementi. Once the magic ingredient of titanium oxide is added to the mix, everything from Roman churches to sidewalks in Chicago to Dutch roads do the environment a good turn—while remaining self-cleaning, as mere rainwater rinses them off.


Speaking of rainwater, it never seems to fall in a consistent schedule, which farmers know only too well. That's why Mexican engineer Sergio Jesus Vaelasco created Solid Rain, which is essentially instant water. Vaelasco's invention can let farmers dodge droughts, and make greenery possible in environments where it was not previously viable.


Posted by erika rae  |  31 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)


There's just something about seeing adult makers completely killing it design-wise with children's toys. Previously, we watched an occupational therapist make herself a prosthetic leg from LEGOs, were amazed by the pop-up LEGO architecture coming from Japanese artist talapz and saw how one guy upgraded the T-shirt folding process with some K'Nex mechanics. Now, we've got another one to add to the list: the world's biggest K'Nex ball machine.

Standing over 23 feet tall and made of more than 100,000 K'Nex pieces, it's strikingly impressive and intimidating at the same time. Housed at The Works Museum in Bloomington, Minnesota, the tallest point of the machine is a 3.5-minute climb for the ball. K'nex fiend Austron (real name: Austin Granger) is responsible for this mechanical monstrosity.

Check out the teaser video for the finished product:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

C77YiR.jpg02013-materials2-002.jpgOver in Japan, we saw Michael Haefliger, Anish Kapoor and Arata Isozaki collaborate on creating the Ark Nova, an enormous, traveling, inflatable concert hall made of polyester.

Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines


In 2013 we saw plenty of examples of old, common materials being used in new, exciting ways. For starters, metalworking artist Anthony Howe's Real World Screensavers caused quite a stir.


We were also treated to these videos of three different artists—Taras Lesko, Dimi and Jonathan Brand—creating amazing renditions of cars out of paper.


Using something close to paper—Tyvek—RCA student Jule Waibel created an impressive line of collapsible/expandable goods inspired by Mary Poppins' magical bag.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Dec 2013  |  Comments (2)


Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines · The Year in Photos

Is it any surprise that one of the oldest materials known to man—humble wood—was responsible for some of our highest-trafficked posts this year? Everyone from caveman industrial designers to modern-day architects to students love working the stuff.


This year we saw MTH Woodworks blending it with resin to create some eye-popping furniture pieces.


Japanese architect Kiyoshi Kasai figured out how to design wooden structures in an open-plan, yet seismically-resistant way.


We learned that the ancient species of wood known as Lignum Vitae is so bad-ass, they use it to make shaft bearings for nuclear submarines!


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)


I hate lifting a coffee cup and finding the coaster has stuck to the bottom of it. It's minor and merely annoying, yes, but on some level that's a design fail. Similarly, I find it absurd that I have to use two hands to de-dock my iPhone, to prevent the dock from coming up off the table with the phone.

That's why this next product sounds crazy but actually makes sense, or at least highlights the central flaw in the iPhone dock's design. Hanover-based Mac accessories manufacturer Hardwrk's Massive Dock is made out of concrete.




Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Dec 2013  |  Comments (3)


While we looked at Better Packages, Inc.'s cool automatic tape-dispensing machine, a pair of Cooper Union engineering students are hoping to get rid of packing tape almost entirely—by redesigning the box. Henry Wang and Chris Curro have developed the Rapid Packing Container, a re-think of the cardboard box that aims to make it easier to open, easier to seal, and easier to re-use. Have a look:


Posted by erika rae  |  23 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)


While it might not be in time for this year's festivities, but it's definitely a contender as next year's centerpiece. A candelabra this ornate can hold its own on a table year-round, so don't even bother waiting until the next holiday season. Luka Pirnat, a Slovenia-based industrial designer, has taken the classic Zippo silhouette and incorporated it into a bold metal menorah.


It comes off a bit steam-punkish (and would look right at home at similarly themed coffee joint Truth Coffee), but the gold and silver accents throughout give off quite a bit of "eye candy" appeal that would mix into any home without much effort. But it's the idea of it that's more intriguing that it's decor potential.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  19 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)


Making bent plywood forms is an involved business, even not accounting for the steaming. Industrial practitioners have expensive hydraulic presses, whereas shops making one-offs or limited runs have to construct both male and female purpose-built forms; and the more complicated the final shape, the crazier the clamping process gets.

British company Curvomatic seeks to make bentwood creation easier with its titular product. A series of identical metal extrusions are fitting together into a sort of snakelike fence, in most cases taking the place of the topmost form. The idea behind the multi-pronged solution is to provide even pressure, simplify clamping—in some cases band clamps can be used rather than bar clamps—and save material, for applications where the Curvomatic can supplant the second, concave form.

It also allows you to create curved shapes with undercuts, which would require at least three forms to achieve using conventional methods. Check out the video to see it in action: