Understanding how materials work, and how they can be worked, is part and parcel of being an industrial designer. Whether it's old materials being worked in old ways, old materials worked in new ways or new materials worked in new ways, we need all of that stuff rattling around in our heads to inform our decisions. So here's a recap of our most popular materials stories from 2014.
The first one actually comes from...the 13th Century! In our "A Brief History of Unusual Objects Designed to Kill People From Far Away" series, we saw how the Mongols used horn, wood, bamboo, animal glue and waterproof lacquer to create "the carbon fiber of that era." This early example of materials mastery yielded a militarily devastating weapon, enabling them to conquer the largest contiguous land empire in all of human history.
On the new materials front, we got a bit of bad news: In The First Stain on Graphene: It May Be Toxic, we saw new research indicating this supermaterial that's supposed to change the face of our planet might be harmful to both us and the environment.
But there was a bright spot, literally, with new materials this year. LumiLor Electroluminescent Coating is a crazy paint that lights up when a current is applied to it. And this isn't some pie-in-the-sky concept: The stuff works and it's on the market right now.
Coming back down to Earth, we turn to humble wood. In A Look at Torsion Boxes, we showed you how simple sheet goods can be assembled in such a way as to create super-strong, super-flat surfaces.
Also in the world of wood, the Canadiano wooden coffee brewer drew many eyeballs. It also wins our distinction for Best Designer Video, Well, Ever. Click here to see it.
Moving over to metals, we took a look at Metal Injection Molding, a/k/a MIM, the fee-yancy production method supposedly used in Apple's forthcoming Apple Watch.