I support the demonstrations and oppose both racism and the American tendency towards violent policing. -SW
The Prepared’s paid subscriber Slack has blossomed in a super cool way recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain and evolve a distributed (and diverse) community. It’s something that I would never have expected to be a core aspect of my job; I have ambivalent feelings about my role as a leader in general, and there are aspects of online community management (and just the term “community management” itself) that strike me as unpleasant or unappealing. I also would have guessed that dealing with a growing online community during times of duress (and, holy shit, are these times of duress or what) would be particularly stressful, but the reality is that I have found it self-reinforcing and personally energizing.
To celebrate that, I suppose, I’d like to open up my calendar for more of you. If you’re looking to discuss an obscure manufacturing topic, or are thinking about online communities yourself - or just want to chat over virtual coffee - book a call with me here.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~12% of opens) was an eloquent argument for the importance of building things in the physical world.
Planning & Strategy.
- Andy Byford will be the next commissioner of Transport for London, ending whatever hopes New Yorkers like myself had about him returning to the MTA. Note that the US tends to federate its transportation planning & management (one city department runs trains & buses, one runs streets, yet another runs the taxis that drive on the streets, etc), but TfL is an integrated regime, with divisions for not only the Underground but also bike/ped infrastructure, traffic enforcement, and “London River Services.” This presumably means that Byford will be working on London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to holistically transform the cityscape there - something that seems to have no analog in either the de Blasio or Cuomo administrations.
- Uber led a $170M investment in Lime and transferred their beloved (but money-losing) bike & scooter brand Jump (née Social Bicycles) to Lime. Lime’s new CEO Wayne Ting (who used to be chief of staff to Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi) says that he prefers Jump’s bikes to Lime’s, but “thousands” of older model Jump e-bikes were nonetheless scrapped when their ongoing maintenance costs & other liabilities were deemed too large. Related, a good piece on how Lyft’s Motivate has cornered exclusive rights to the e-bike market in SF.
- What it’s like to live next to SpaceX’s South Texas Launch Site. Spoiler: It’s not nice.
- A custom matchbook costs about $0.10 with an MOQ of 2500, and provides about 20 impressions (one for every time you strike a match).
Making & Manufacturing.
- A silent archival video (likely shot between 1902 and 1905) of a Rover Imperial motorcycle being built.
- Jesse Louis-Rosenberg on how Nervous System hustled the heck out of a production crunch with two people running a single laser cutter in 14-hour shifts.
- A good, explanatory video of LEGO’s minifig manufacturing & assembly process. The black square on minifigs’ necks are used to positively identify the front of the figure, allowing the arms to be installed the correct way.
- A very good Instagram follow: Jem Selig Freeman aka @likebuttermelbourne, an Australian woodworker who makes some pretty rad plywood-based furniture. I especially like his wire clip corner fasteners - very clever.
- A very old school, informative, and sometimes silly website about ferrocement boats, i.e. boats whose hulls are made from steel, sand, and cement.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Bleach degrades *way* more quickly than I would have expected, with NaOCl concentration dropping from ~6% down to below 5% in less than 200 days at room temperature. Bleach is also *more* effective as a disinfectant when diluted 1:9 with water, though its shelf life drops to a rather shocking 24 hours. The “take-home message for those in the lab - if you find an undated bleach solution in a spray bottle, don't use it.” See also the CDC’s guidelines for cleaning & disinfecting, which recommend a diluted bleach solution but note that “transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented.”
- An inverted tooth chain transmits force using the chain’s plates rather than its pins (link to a long but informative sales PDF, link to very short animated assembly video). They run efficiently and quietly even at high speeds, and continue to perform well even when worn out.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Shipping packages to commercial addresses is more profitable than to residential ones, and the difference is even more stark when the residential shipments are sent by someone with a lot of bargaining power, e.g. Amazon. As a result UPS has been left rather exposed over the past few months, with its domestic adjusted operating margin at the lowest it’s been in 15 years. Note also an interesting datapoint towards the bottom of the same piece: Big box retailers have seen increases in curbside pickup, suggesting that consumers might be warming to the idea of (higher margin) centralized pickup options (a la Amazon Lockers and UPS Access Point Lockers).
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A really interesting teardown of popular battery brands, done with the purpose of comparing AmazonBasics (which makes up a shocking percentage of online battery sales) to traditional battery brands. The Energizer Ultimate Lithium has ~60% higher capacity and discharge time than the top performing alkaline battery, and is also the lowest priced battery relative to performance, with a price per kWh basis of $280; AmazonBasics comes in at $321/kWh.
- A very cool project from Tyler Mincey: The Teardown Library, “an archive of disassembled physical products, new and old...for product designers, engineers, and technologists who want to learn from the work of peers in a hands-on way.”
- A curated list of links to computer history videos, documentaries and related folklore.
- “Everywhere it’s raining right now.”
- What I personally am working on right now.
- The International Guild of Knot Tyers is a thing.
- A Twitter thread of alternative segmented display layouts.