Home | Feed aggregator | Categories | Industrial Design News

Industrial Design News

Konstantin Grcic and Aeance Designed the Ultimate Industrial Designer Starter Pack

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

What would a clothing collection based on the principles of good industrial design look like? That's what esteemed industrial designer Konstantin Grcic set out to discover during his collaboration with performance sportswear brand Aeance

The result? It's sleek. It's minimal. It's tailored. It's functional. It's sophisticated. It's made from mostly recycled textiles. It's almost meme-worthy how spot on Grcic portrays the elevated aesthetic every industrial designer aspires to achieve in order to stunt on people at [insert name of cool city] Design Week.

You can imagine exactly what this person's apartment looks like, which tote bag they carry and what style of Common Projects they have on rotation (obviously these). But alas, the clothing is too beautiful to make fun of, so I'll exercise some restraint and silently hit that refresh button until it releases.

You can learn more about the collection via Aeance's Instagram. Once it releases, you'll be able to purchase it here. I hope all you designers will take a walk on the ~wild side~ and start wearing some pops of color for a change. 

As a Luxury Sex Toy Industrial Designer, the Revoked CES Innovation Award Hit Too Close to Home

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago
Ti Chang wearing Crave's Vesper vibrator necklace. Photo: Catalina Kulczar.

Ti Chang is the co-founder and VP of Design of Crave, a company that aims to bring luxury and inclusive design to the sex toy industry. 

This week, we were disappointed—but not surprised—to learn that the noted Consumer Electronics Show (CES) revoked an Innovation Award they'd given to a sex toy startup. We got the same rejection in 2017 when Crave applied to exhibit at the show. Their official stance is that we are considered "adult entertainment—a category they do not showcase at CES." Unofficially, however, we know this is not true: at CES 2018, a literal sex doll was shown on the floor of CES and AR porn for men was allowed this year, but when an innovative vibrator is banned, this presents a clear double standard.

As an industrial designer who works on products that improve everyday lives, I believe strongly that sexual pleasure is a core part of the human experience, and that the products people use to enhance their pleasure and connect with others are as important, relevant, and meaningful as any other consumer product.

So it's simply absurd that the leading industry showcases can't keep up with the rest of the country—and increasingly the world at large—that are eager to acknowledge pleasure as part of the human experience. When mainstream retailers from Bergdorf Goodman to Urban Outfitters showcase our products next to other beautiful accessories, why is CES so far behind?

Lora DiCarlo's Osé received a CES Innovation Award, but the trade show revoked the honor soon after."We see sex used to sell everything from hard drives to hamburgers—everything except the sort of products that actually empower people to explore and express their sexual wellbeing."

To be clear, it's not just CES. The tech community at large, from Facebook to Pinterest and beyond has a set of policies that show a consistent bias against sexual pleasure—well, a consistent bias against female pleasure, that is. On social media, our promoted posts and advertisements are constantly rejected from these platforms, but we see ads for Viagra, lingerie, and other products aimed at male desire all the time. And of course we see sex used to sell everything from hard drives to hamburgers—everything except the sort of products that actually empower people to explore and express their sexual wellbeing.

Crave's Vesper vibrator necklace

It's ironic that these tech companies, who generally tout themselves as progressive and forward thinking, are so far behind the times when it comes to acknowledging pleasure as a vital part of the human experience. Whether they know it or not, these major gatekeepers are perpetuating the shame around female pleasure. To remove this taboo, we think these conversations must take place on larger public stages, which we have worked to bring to mainstream media, world class museums, and events like SXSW. It is in part why we are perplexed that CES, who plays such a crucial role in showcasing innovations that are changing the world, would selectively prohibit brands like Crave that focus on innovation so fundamental to the human experience.

Crave Pocket Vibe

As a prominent voice in sex toy design, I am often asked what the future of sex toys look like. I think it's less about what sex toys look like, per se, but how we redefine our relationships with our bodies to give ourselves permission to touch, love, and play with ourselves. I think the future of sex is a world with more information where we better understand our bodies. Sure, perhaps it would be interesting if you could have sex with a mermaid robot hologram (and maybe you will be able to), but the most transformative future would be in removing the stigma so we can actually better know ourselves and connect with each other. Because all the sex robots or widgets are not going to change much if we believe pleasure is shameful and taboo.

Infiniti's Concept Car Was a Big EyesOn Design Awards Winner at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

Japanese automakers Infiniti and Lexus raked in four of the five coveted honors in the 13th annual EyesOn Design Awards, while Ford Motor Co. took home Best Production Vehicle for one its 2020 muscle cars.

The awards—presented Jan. 15 at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit—involved an all-star panel of global automotive designers from industry, academia and independent design studios, who walked the show to assess this year's crop of stunning concept and production vehicles and choose their favorites for design excellence in five categories.

Awards ceremony. Photo: John Skabardonis

This year's winners are:

Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Materials (presented by Axalta Coating Systems)
Infiniti QX Inspiration. The judges said: "Embodies a modern take on materials while retaining a clean Japanese sensibility."

Best Designed Interior (presented by ABC Technologies)
Infiniti QX Inspiration. The judges said: "True inspiration and functionality."

Infiniti OX Inspiration interior. Photo: Robert Grace

Best Concept Vehicle (presented by Dassault Systemes)
The Infiniti QX Inspiration, again, marking the second year in a row that Infiniti has taken home this marquee honor. The judges said: "A new and fresh look that shows extraordinary sophistication and simplicity."

Lexus LC Convertible concept. Photo: Robert Grace

Best Designed Exterior Lighting (presented by Varroc Lighting Systems)
Lexus LC Convertible concept car. The judges said: "Flexible functionality; large screens with individual presets for multiple users."

Best Production Vehicle (presented by Covestro Group)
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The judges said: "The next best tribute to the Mustang ... what the car really represents."

Chief judges from left to right: Dave Marek, Stewart Reed, Joel Piatkowski, Paul Snyder. Photo: John Skabardonis A crop of all-star judges

The 2019 EyesOn Design chief judges were Dave Marek, Acura global creative director for Honda R&D Americas Inc.; Joel Piatkowski, global director of design for cars and crossovers at Ford; Stewart Reed, chair of the Transportation Design Department at Pasadena's ArtCenter College of Design; and Paul Snyder, the Paul & Helen Farago Chair of Transportation Design at Detroit's College of Creative Studies. They were assisted by a team of 20 other experienced judges (see the full list here).

A touching tribute

The organizers paused the award presentations at Cobo Center to present a tribute to Chris Svensson, a recently retired Ford designer who succumbed to cancer last July at age 53. A British native, Svensson oversaw the development of many vehicles, including the GT supercar. He worked most recently as Ford's global design director for SUVs, trucks and commercial vehicles, after serving for nearly five years as the company's design director for the Americas.

How do you say "Lifetime Achievement" in Italian?

The EyesOn Design organization also presented its annual Lifetime Achievement Award to Italian designer Leonardo Fioravanti, who while working for Pininfarina designed numerous supercars, including the Ferrari Testarossa, as well as various concept vehicles.

The EyesOn Design Awards raise money for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, the research arm of the Henry Ford Health System's Department of Ophthalmology. The DIO says it knows that it is only with good vision that a person can fully appreciate the beauty of good design. The DIO, the institute states on its website, "takes part in the event in part to celebrate this focus on design, and also to raise money to support its goal of assisting and educating the visually impaired—helping them to maintain independence and dignity, while learning how to live a satisfying and productive life in a sighted world."

Celebrating the role of design

One of the event's first-time sponsors—Germany-based advanced-materials supplier Covestro—was also a first-time exhibitor in the auto show's Automobili-D exhibit area, and the only plastics producer exhibiting at the event. Its support "underscores the key role that design plays in turning the future of mobility into a functional, beautiful reality," said Paul Platte, senior marketing manager for automotive.

Best Production Vehicle award. Photo: John Skabardonis Color me 'Sahara' bronze

Meantime, sponsor Axalta, made some news of its own, as well. The former DuPont Performance Coatings introduced its fifth Automotive Color of the Year. The 2019 hue it chose is called Sahara, a golden bronze tone, that Axalta says, "radiates warmth, richness and strength for vehicles of all sizes—especially the expanding global truck and SUV markets—and can serve as the principal color for two-tone possibilities including black roofs."

Yellow/gold vehicles are most popular in India and China, the company noted, while brown/beige vehicles increased in North America more than any other region. And for the first time in its five-year history, Axalta says its Automotive Color of the Year is showcasing a color primed for vehicle customization both at manufacturing facilities and in the aftermarket.

Watch a Walt Disney Imagineer Design a Theme Park on the Fly

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

This was surprisingly fun to watch!

Out of all of the subgenres of design you could go into, theme park designer has got to be one of the most unusual. That's the subdivision that architect Jarrett Lantz has gone into, working his way up at the Walt Disney Imagineering Architecture studio as an intern, climbing the ranks to become a full-fledged Senior Concept Designer eight years later.

In this video Lantz designs a theme park on the fly using Steam's Planet Coaster. Combining elements of exhibition design, landscape architecture, civil engineering and plain ol' whimsy, Lantz is free to execute his design vision without having to worry about costs, safety issues or logistics:

Hell in a Handbasket: Louis Vuitton's Exclusive "Glow in the Dark" Bags

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

The main problem with expensive Louis Vuitton bags is that they don't waste any electricity, contain difficult-to-recycle electronic components nor require charging. Well, the problem has been solved with the announcement of these completely necessary objects:

Louis Vuitton Fall 2019 Glow in the Dark Monogram Bag pic.twitter.com/NJmBGWbSQh

— xmfstudios (@xmfstudios) January 17, 2019 ">

The bags contain fiber optic lights--but excited and clueless fashionistas are referring to this as a "glow in the dark" bag.

I do wonder if the inevitable knock-offs will be UL-certified, or if we're going to see some exciting bag fires on Instagram.

Guy Develops Clever Way to Unload Huge Concrete Pipes By Himself

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

Don't try this in front of the OSHA inspector: This anonymous tradesman has developed a that's-so-crazy-it-just-might-work system for getting massive concrete pipes off of a truck by himself.

I suspect he's doing it by himself because all of his assistants were killed during the initial attempts. In fact I think he got the tires by stripping their trucks, since they won't be using them anymore.

Design Job: Invok Is Seeking Packaging Designers Looking for Their Next Creative Challenge

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

We are Hiring Invok is looking for package designers with all levels of experience to join our growing team. You must be fluent in the creation of breakthrough visual strategy, brand identity and package design for iconic consumer product brands in categories that include beauty, beverage, food, retail brands,

View the full design job here

Currently Crowdfunding: A Massage Bra that Reduces Breast Pumping Time, a Camera Designed to Replace Directors & More 

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

Brought to you by MAKO Design + Invent, North America's leading design firm for taking your product idea from a sketch on a napkin to store shelves. Download Mako's Invention Guide for free here.

Navigating the world of crowdfunding can be overwhelming, to put it lightly. Which projects are worth backing? Where's the filter to weed out the hundreds of useless smart devices? To make the process less frustrating, we scour the various online crowdfunding platforms to put together a weekly roundup of our favorite campaigns for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:

OBSBOT Tail is a striking camera equipped with AI tracking, auto zoom, live stream and a 3-axis gimbal. The camera's slogan is, Be Your Own Director," reassuring us that humans are no longer necessary during the filming process.

The Nurture bra by Imalac massages breasts while they pump, helping cut down the time and increase the results of this laborious process. Wear the bra all day, then when ready to pump simply insert the removable massage cups, insert the breast shield used with any pump, snap everything in place and press start. 

Deluxe vending bike Raptr has everything you need to make your business mobile. Its design is clean and simple, it's customizable, and it's ideal if a brick and mortar store and food truck are outside of your budget.

MOVA 3.0 is a cycling jacket designed to keep you dry and visible during rides. It's packable, has a hood that will fir over your helmet and is reversible between a neon green to help you be seen at night and a more subdued black for daytime rides. You can even take things up a notch with add-on magnet lights.

KettleBaby is a hilarious fitness device that allows parents to get a total body workout while interacting with their children. The kid in the video looks super uncomfortable, but setting that aside, the concept is valid.

Do you need help designing, developing, patenting, manufacturing, and/or selling YOUR product idea? MAKO Design + Invent is a one-stop-shop specifically for inventors / startups / small businesses. Click HERE for a free confidential product consultation.

Here's a Sneak Peak at the Upcoming Alessi Documentary

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

As it can be visited by appointment only, it's possible a bunch of you don't know that Alessi has its own museum. Museo Alessi has been in operation for 20 years, with the mission "to conserve and showcase all the objects, designs, images and materials of all types that document the company's history and research." Now, even those of us who can't score an appointment will get to look inside. To celebrate Museo Alessi's 20th anniversary, the company has commissioned a film called NEWMUSEUM(S), which will premiere on January 30th in Brussels. We've landed a sneak peak and uploaded it:

From Museo Alessi's opening in 1998, curator Francesca Appiani has collected:

- over 800 designer's works
- over 3,500 Alessi objects
- 11,000 drawings
- a total of 25,000 shown items including prototypes, Alessi products and company projects

The museum participates in a host of events yearly such as design talks, exhibitions and workshops from Milan to Korea to Australia and the US. With the added intrigue of the Alessandro Mendini designed building, Alessi also hosts hundreds of visitors a year.

Their reach will continue to expand especially with the release of this film, which details the most important company museums and includes opinions from museum directors, curators, experts in the field are interviewed, as well as architects, artists, musicians and creatives who have contributed to innovative projects for company museums. The movie is produced by Museimpresa, the association that curates and promotes the most historic and significant Italian company museums and archives. Alessi is a founding member of Museimpresa and has been one of the most active participants by contributing projects to numerous exhibitions worldwide.

We'll post details on where fans can view the film as soon as the information becomes available.

Where Does Workwear Eventually Fail? Analyzing My Longest-Lasting Pair of Work Pants

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

Today I'm finally retiring my longest-lasting pair of work pants, Carhartt's Washed-Duck Double-Front Work Dungaree (style #B136). These have been worn almost every day of fall and winter for the past four years, and they've served me well. Here's what they looked like new, on the catalog model:

Here's what they look like now:

They don't seem like they're ready to be retired, but I'll get to that in a minute. First I want to go over what the failure points are, and if they could possibly be addressed by design.

The Achilles Heel of these pants isn't near the heels at all, but on the front pockets. The daily wear of a pocket knife clip on the right-hand pocket, and occasional wear from a tape measure clip on the left, have frayed the edges.

The inside of the pocket hems show similar wear.

However, note that while the outer layer of fabric has given way, the stitching has not failed and remains intact.

Perhaps the pockets could be hemmed in something more durable. If I never had to wash these, I might try hacking some kind of leather hem onto them.

The belt loops, including this one here that I always have a carabiner hanging from, show minimal fraying. I call this good construction, but those who wear a belt daily (I don't) might have different opinions.

As the Double-Front moniker describes, these pants have a second layer of fabric covering the front of the legs, from the thigh down to the shins. I tend to kneel on the floor or the ground frequently, and these double-fronts have eliminated the biggest wear point on any work pants I owned previously, where the knees always disintegrated first.

Even the outer layer of the knees show remarkably little wear, and only the smallest of punctures.

A bonus of the double-front that I never use: Kneepads can be slid behind the top layer, through an unstitched aperture at the bottom.

The downside of the double-fronts: These are riveted on, for strength. Those rivets thus create a tension point on the underlying layer of fabric. In other words, while the part of the pants that's been riveted on have not failed, the part they're riveted to, have. So, a trade-off.

The hammer loop on the left leg has taken a terrible beating (though it has not failed). Interestingly, I estimate I've actually carried a hammer here less than a dozen times. So all of this wear appears to be from the mere friction of sitting or rubbing against things.

One failure point that's my fault is on the insides of the ankles, down by the hem. There are holes here on both sides. Prior to me hemming these pants (you can see the black thread I used in the photos), I rolled the too-long legs up, and the bottom of the rolled portion would occasionally contact the ground. Thus the simple act of walking wore them through.

Given that these pants don't look that bad, you may be wondering why I'm retiring them. It's because the ass has started to tear beneath the pocket. Yesterday my wife pointed out that you could see my underwear through them.

I won't throw these out, but will save them for really dirty work. I'll rotate in a fresh pair for daily wear. They'll disintegrate faster now that I live on a farm, but I estimate I'll get at least another 4-10 years out of the remaining three pairs I own.

I suppose these pants could be buttressed at the wear points with more durable materials, but that would of course raise the price. As it stands I consider these pants a good value. I paid $54.99 for the first pair through Carhartt's website in February 2015. (They now charge $49.99.) I subsequently bought three pairs of them for $39.95 on Sierra Trading and will now rotate in the first. While I hate the idea that all clothing is disposable, I feel these pants led a reasonably long and useful life.

What's your favorite/longest-lasting workwear? In particular I'm curious if any of you have a good shirt or jacket that allows full freedom of motion, yet is reasonably durable.

Design Job: GE Appliances Is Hiring Multiple Paid Industrial Design Interns in Louisville KY

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

GE Appliance’s Industrial Design Organization is a collaboration of Industrial and Interaction Designers, Consumer Insights Researchers, R&D Engineers, User Experience Research Specialists, and Model Makers. Interns are given the freedom and responsibility to contribute to the design team and experience every phase of the product development cycle

View the full design job here

Hilarious Video of Snooty French Designer Telling Client to Design Their Own Furniture

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

As a designer, think of all the things you've wanted to say to clueless clients, but couldn't, as you'd like to continue earning a living. Well, here's a bit of wish-fulfillment fantasy where an avant-garde, I've-had-it-with-all-of-you French designer instructs his clients on how to design and build their own goddang chair:

If you're wondering what that video is even a commercial for, it's actually for a Swedish law firm called Vinge. If all of their commercials were design-skewering skits, I'd totally binge watch them.

On The Floor With Core: CES 2019

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

Another year, another CES for the books. During our time in Las Vegas for the biggest technology trade show of the year, there were laughs, there were naps, but most importantly there were thousands of LED screens to stare at. We went through five days of utter sensory overload so that you didn't have to. Above, feast your eyes on some of our favorite (and most hilarious) finds from CES, including but not limited to facial recognition technology, flexible OLED screens and massage chairs. Not pictured: a blender that also acts as a speaker and phone charger. We thought we'd spare you those details.

Also, be sure to keep up with us on Instagram because over the next few weeks we'll be featuring some of the more video-friendly projects we saw at CES, like this clapping robot and this new way to draw.

CES 2019Welcome!Photo credit: Core77A view of the Transportation section that demonstrates the spectacle that is a CES boothPhoto credit: Core77The Transportation area certainly demonstrates a current grey area in the market; while some car manufacturers are holding onto traditional car forms (like this model here), other autonomous models are beginning to demonstrate entirely new form factors that convey a sense of friendliness rather than aerodynamics.Nissan Autonomous Vehicle ConceptWith LED side dashboard and window projectionPhoto credit: Core77Audi E FoilHydrofoil surfboard. Body made from carbon fiber with an aluminum engine shaft. Electric motor powers a jet engine. Max speed of 27mph with an 18 mile range.Photo credit: Core77Byton M Byte AV dashboardAvailable in Q3 2019Photo credit: Core77AEV Robotics modular, electric, autonomous vehicle platformA single platform that can accept different bodies. Designed for service vehicles such as taxis, ride sharing, or delivery.Photo credit: Core77AEV Modular VehiclesAn example of the AEV vehicle outfitted with one of the available shellsPhoto credit: Core77Kia pods showing AV conceptsPhoto credit: Core77WeMo boothPhoto credit: Core77View the full gallery here

Top Ten Product Categories With the Most Fake Reviews on Amazon

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

As with Good, Cheap and Fast, a website called Fakespot.com seeks to make online shopping easier by weeding out the fake reviews for you. They make it pretty easy: You simply paste the link of the product you're looking at into a box on their website, and it returns a letter grade rating the authenticity of the reviews.

As Fakespot is in the business of dealing with fakes--at press time they've claimed to have analyzed some 2,991,177,728 reviews--they've compiled a list of the top ten product categories with the most fake reviews on Amazon. We thought it would interest you to see, so here it is:

Top 10 Products with the most faked reviews on Amazon:Consumer Electronics

1. Wireless Headphones/Earbuds

2. Phone Cases and Screen Protectors

3. Smart Watches

4. Phone Charging Cables

5. 3rd Party Apple Accessories / any other known brand (Fitbit, Gopro, Garmin)


6. Makeup

7. Anti-aging creams

8. Hair-loss products


9. Popular sneakers from Adidas or Nike

Supplements and Vitamins

10. Any supplements or vitamins claiming wondrous medical benefits in the reviews


Try it out here.

This "Impossible Screw" Has Mysterious Behavioral Properties

Core 77 - 14 hours 23 min ago

All of us understand how screws and bolts work. So imagine if you encountered a screw that you could advance--but not retract. I.e. you can screw it in, but it won't unscrew…unless you turn it from the other side. If you're confused by what I mean, watch this "impossible screw" video and see if you can figure out what the hell is going on, before he reveals the secret:

I can't think of any practical applications, beyond bringing this to a bar and using it to trick people into buying you drinks.

RFID to Track Body Movements for Novel Smart Technologies

Design News - Fri, 2019-01-18 05:00

RFID tags have been around long enough that they are almost an overlooked technology in terms of new advancements. However, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have found a new way to use the technology to track body movements and detect shape changes, leading to two RFID-based innovations that can lead to novel wearable designs, researchers said in a CMU news release.

RF-Wear technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University calculates skeletal motion by analyzing radio signals reflected by RFID tags positioned on either side of each joint. (Image source: Carnegie Mellon University)

Proven Design

It’s the proven, well-used aspect of the tags’ design—cheap, battery-free, and washable—that make them attractive for these new applications, said Haojian Jin, a Ph.D. student in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). Jin was part of a team that designed two technologies—called RF-Wear and WiSH—using RFID tags to track body movements in unique ways. "We're really changing the way people are thinking about RF sensing," he said.

The team devised a new method for tracking the tags, which results in the monitoring of movements and shapes using a single, mobile antenna to monitor a tag array without the prior calibration that is usually needed, he said. RFID technology typically uses multiple antennas to track signal backscatter and triangulate the locations of the tags, but for this application, it wouldn’t make sense, researchers said.

Works Two Ways

The technology developed by the CMU team works in two ways—either based on whether the tags are used to track the body's skeletal positions or to track changes in shape, Jin explained.

For body-movement tracking, researchers positioned an array of RFID tags on either side of the knee, elbow, or other joints. They can calculate the angle of bend in a joint by keeping track of the very slight differences in when the backscattered radio signals from each tag reach the antenna, he said. "By attaching these paper-like RFID tags to clothing, we were able to demonstrate millimeter accuracy in skeletal tracking," Jin said.

The clothing they developed with this technology is called RF-Wear, and researchers envision it could be an alternative to systems such as Kinect, which use a camera to track body movements. The drawback to Kinect, however, is that it only works when the person is in the camera's line of sight.

Wearable Technology

RF-Wear also could be an alternative to existing wearable technology that depends on expensive, power-consuming sensors that are difficult to maintain, Jin said. It also can be applied to RFID-embedded clothing that can be used as a fitness tracker similar to wrist-worn devices like FitBits, he said. "Weaving these tags into clothing will only add a minimal cost—under $1," Jin said.

The technology for monitoring changes in curves or shapes that the team developed is called WiSh—short for Wireless Shape-aware world. It also uses arrays of RFIDs and a single antenna, as well as relying on a sophisticated algorithm for interpreting the backscattered signals to infer the shape of a surface, researchers said.

"We can turn any soft surface in the environment into a touch screen," said Jingxian Wang, Jin’s co-researcher and a Ph.D. student at CMU. Indeed, the technology could be integrated into various smart fabrics to track a user's posture, or even into objects—like smart carpets or toys—that can detect and/or respond to user movements, he said.


Researchers published a video demonstrating the technology on YouTube.

Another use for WiSh could be in place of sensors to monitor the structural health of bridges or other infrastructure, Wang said. Researchers also demonstrated this by measuring the curvature of Pittsburgh's 10th Street Bridge using a robot to drag a string of 50 RFID tags along the bridge's sidewalk.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.


By Engineers, For Engineers. Join our in-depth conference program with over 100 technical paper sessions, panels, and tutorials spanning 15 tracks. Learn more: DesignCon. Jan. 29-31, 2019, in Santa Clara, CA. Register to attend. Hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.

Making Structural Batteries Robust

Design News - Fri, 2019-01-18 04:00

One of the problems with batteries is that they tend to be heavy. Another is that they take up space. An idea that has been floating around is to make the battery a part of the structure of the device that it powers. No more casings and housings formed into bulky battery packs. Instead, the cover of a laptop, the wings of a drone, or the fenders and bumpers of a car could be made from electrochemical materials that can also provide structural strength. That’s the concept behind a recent development described by the University of Michigan in a news release.

Battery as a Structure

“A battery that is also a structural component has to be light, strong, safe, and have high capacity. Unfortunately, these requirements are often mutually exclusive,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, who led the research at the U of M.

The team started out using zinc as an electrode—primarily because the metal has good structural properties. Zinc battery chemistries have been looked at before, but because needle-like dendrites of zinc crystals form during charging, it has found few champions. The spiky dendritic crystals can grow through liquid electrolytes, becoming large enough to reach across to the opposite electrode and short out the battery, potentially causing a fire.

A manganese oxide slurry is cast onto a sheet of aluminum foil to serve as the cathode of a prototype structural battery. (Image source: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)

Biology Holds a Possible Key

One way to reduce dendritic growth is to use a solid or semi-solid electrolyte. To create the battery that they wanted, the team turned to biomimicry. “Cartilage turned out to be a perfect prototype for an ion-transporting material in batteries,” Kotov said. “It has amazing mechanics, and it serves us for a very long time compared to how thin it is. The same qualities are needed from solid electrolytes separating cathodes and anodes in batteries.” So they developed an electrolyte from branched nanofibers that resemble the collagen fibers of cartilage. Aramid nanofibers—the material often used in bulletproof vests—stand in for collagen, with polyethylene oxide (a chain-like, carbon-based molecule) and a zinc salt replacing soft components of cartilage.

To make working battery cells, zinc electrodes were paired with manganese oxide—the same combination found in standard alkaline batteries. But in these rechargeable batteries, the cartilage-like membrane replaced the standard separator and alkaline electrolyte. The qualities of the cartilage are nearly identical to those of a good solid electrolyte, which has to resist damage from dendrites while also letting ions flow from one electrode to the other. The prototype cells can run for more than 100 cycles at 90 percent capacity.


Flexible and Robust

The cells made with the cartilage electrolyte are surprisingly flexible and robust enough to withstand hard impacts and even stabbing with a knife or cutting with scissors without losing voltage or starting a fire. With the cartilage-like solid electrolyte, there are no liquids that can leak out of the damaged battery.

At present, the use of zinc in the batteries is not optimum as zinc batteries can’t charge and discharge as quickly as batteries with lithium ion chemistries. Kotov’s team intends to explore whether there is a better partner electrode that could improve the charging speed and cycle-life longevity of zinc rechargeable batteries. Beyond that, however, the robust nature of the cartilage-like solid electrolyte show potential for similar materials in other types of battery chemistries.

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.


By Engineers, For Engineers. Join our in-depth conference program with over 100 technical paper sessions, panels, and tutorials spanning 15 tracks. Learn more: DesignCon. Jan. 29-31, 2019, in Santa Clara, CA. Register to attend. Hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.

A Look Inside IDEO's London Office

Core 77 - Fri, 2019-01-18 03:20

Employers who superficially dedicate themselves to providing some kind of employee wellness may slap a sea-shorn log over their employee's standing desks, throw a vertical garden up on the wall, lay down new hardwood floor, photograph it all in good lighting and call it an Instagrammable day #biophilic. But companies that really care do the less flashy stuff—they never underestimate the power of a good flooring finish.

All images provided by IDEO

In a most recent renovation to their London office, IDEO truly dedicates themselves to sustainable biophilic-design practices. This dedication isn't meant to be seen. It's meant to be felt.

How's your workspace? Natural wood? Succulents? Scratches? Coffee stains? Wheeley chairs? More scratches? Many companies cut corners with biophilic design, but you couldn't cut the floor in IDEO's London office if you tried.

They're made from Havwoods International's popular Venture Plank collection of engineered hardwood planks–topped with the global supplier's highly durable Valour oil finish that's five times more resistant to scratching than other finishes. IDEO employees in London will now experience the beautiful inconsequence of spilling coffee, cleaning up, and realizing, nothing's stained and the sigh of relief when the floor is unscathed after scraping desks around.

Color-fastness, hardness and sustainability all get a check. The coatings underwent extensive testing with no visible changes after red wine, coffee, olive oil, and black tea spillages. The finish is also Cradle to Cradle certified, meaning when that initial rushing-tingly feeling of sustainability subsides within the IDEO office in London, the floors may continue to resonate.

Tools & Craft #124: The Future of Furniture, Part 6 - Solid

Core 77 - Fri, 2019-01-18 03:20

After detailing the final steps of the project of making a dresser, the anonymous author of Joiner and Cabinetmaker describes how cabinetmakers would use veneering and other techniques to set off the dresser to a different level of work. Such was the distinction between joiners work and cabinetmaking in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Cabinet work was veneered and decorated, whereas joiner's work was not. In professional work this is no different today. The low-end carcass will be melamine and the high-end Italian carcass will be birch plywood, possibly with some exotic veneering. The more expensive you go, the better hardware and joinery you get. But unlike furniture of previous centuries, today's Ikea doesn't look that different than higher end brands like Herman Miller to the average customer, especially without scrutiny or use. In my opinion, this is one of the fundamental reasons why furniture has declined as a measure of conspicuous consumption and status.

In the early days of the United States, hardwood was plentiful and much furniture was made from Oak, Ash, Birch, Maple, Walnut, and Cherry. Yet Duncan Phyfe, the great New York based 19th century cabinetmaker, based his work on high quality imported Mahogany. This of course makes no sense if you look at furniture from a modern perspective, in which form is the most most important aspect. But it makes a great deal of sense when you consider the importance of marking the distinction between joiners work and high-end cabinet work, for which you want a premium. You have to use fancier materials.

Before the American Civil War, after which factories began to churn out facsimiles of rich people's furniture, the middle class and the poor bought joiner's furniture and Shaker furniture. Windsor chairs were also the standard common chair. The upper class (and upper middle class) bought veneered, decorated furniture, upholstered and carved chairs, all of which served to show off their wealth.

The hand tinted color plates in Manuel du Tourneur by L.E. Bergeron (1816), showing exotic woods and materials that were used for (luxury) inlay, marquetry, and turning.

The trees were cut down* long ago and the Cuban Mahogany that Duncan Phyfe was so fond of is no longer available commercially. American Black Walnut, which once covered the east coast in the 18th century, is now nearly an exotic wood. The bulk was cut down for charcoal to feed the iron furnaces of the early American iron industry. The other common cabinet hardwoods are available but expensive.

Laminated woods have been used for centuries but it is only in the twentieth century that plywood has become ubiquitous in furniture. First plywood, then all sorts of laminated sheet goods became popular. Proper cabinet grade plywood is now a symbol of quality. Melamine, fiber board, particle board, and all sorts of sheet goods are currently being used.

In general, custom builders - both amateur or professional - don't use lower end materials much in furniture construction (other than kitchens) so I will ignore the materials of mass production.

As we see from historical examples, in order for furniture to be perceived as "special" it needs fancy materials, finishes, and detailing.

Nowadays the meaning of "exotic materials" has expanded considerably to include all sorts of material, including spalted wood (wood that has been colored and discolored by fungal growth) and wood with interesting grain patters caused by genetic mutations (bird's eye or tiger maple). Solid wood itself is considered sort of exotic. Guests in my home have sometimes complimented my furniture (made of solid walnut) then asked questions or made comments that made me realize they saw no real distinction between a walnut finish and solid walnut. For them, all wood was naturally beige-tan, so "walnut" meant an added color. Of course most of the exotic materials of the past are no longer available because of extinction or bans on importing to prevent extinction. Another reason these materials I think are less common is that most people cannot tell the difference between ivory, ebony, and white or black plastic. We are so used to seeing the roaring figure of exotics copied in artificial materials that the real thing is much less of a standout.

What has gotten extremely popular is the use of reclaimed materials and we will be seeing more and more of that as time goes by. Reclaimed materials are being used three ways: as inexpensive secondary woods. This has always been the case, nobody in their right mind would toss a nice piece of wood staring at them in the shop. A second use of reclaimed lumber, and possibly the most popular usage, is to take large beams and other wood from older structures and re-mill them so that they can be essentially reused again as new material. The advantage is that we get access to old growth wood and materials which are simply not currently available. In our shop our display board for our tools was made our of reclaimed pine that originally was in a whale oil factory. The pine is dead hard, dead straight in grain, and oil impregnated. It's wonderful stuff. I see flooring and other woodwork routinely made out of reclaimed lumber these days.

The final usage of reclaimed lumber is the most interesting. We recently held a book signing with Yoav Liberman in honor of the publication of his new book, "Working Reclaimed Wood: A Guide for Woodworkers, Makers & Designers." The reason Yoav's book is so interesting is that reclaimed lumber is increasing is used as a material in its own right. The wear and tear of the previous uses are left in. The reason the material is used is not because it once was a wonder bit of wood, it's being used because it shows its own history. This of course opens up a high avenue for design and exploration and gives the maker a wide choice of materials made unique and interesting because of past usage. And as I said previously success in high end furniture has always been about demonstrating something unique.

Solid wood furniture can be detailed with carvings, but solid wood is also a very variable material. Surface treatments and finishing deserve their own blog entry.

*If you want to read a gripping story of the lumber camps in Mexico where Mahogany was harvested I heartily suggest B. Traven's Jungle Series. The last few books take place in the camps, although the entire series is wonderful.

Our tool display made from reclaimed pine.