I’m generally pretty skeptical of social media as a tool for good, but I've come to appreciate the way it holds me accountable to self-set goals. I’ve created some type of art and shared it online each week for over a year, and I find the regularity of doing so to be motivating and satisfying as I see myself slowly improve. One major lesson I’ve learned is the importance of occasionally backing away from any sort of creative work and reapproaching it with fresh eyes. After getting lost in the details for a while, stepping away - even for a minute - allows you to return with a fresh perspective that often leads you down a better path.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~22% of opens) was on Disney's "go away green" paint color. This week in the 2021 Adhesive Cup we have painters tape vs. washi tape, duct tape vs. spray adhesive, and (the top seed) VHB tape vs. cryogenic epoxy.
Planning & Strategy.
- I admire creators who use technology in fascinating ways that it wasn’t originally developed for. Artist Sougwen Chung customizes robot arms to learn her visual language and collaborate with her as she paints.
- Protolabs has acquired 3D Hubs, consolidating the world of quick-turn manufacturing. These companies were on very different paths originally, so it’s interesting to see them come together. 3D Hubs, essentially a software company, started as a marketplace for hobby-scale fabrication and evolved into something of a fabless job shop. Meanwhile Protolabs, a manufacturing company at heart, fabricates everything themselves while developing their own software for automated quoting and fabrication. Going through the quoting process with each makes these focuses abundantly clear. Since the announcement makes it sound like their services will remain separate for now, I hope both will improve from the other: Protolabs improving their customer-facing software and 3D Hubs improving their design analysis and feedback tools.
- I’ve long considered getting a Ham radio license, with emergency communication as a motivating factor. Michal Zalewski, author of a few fantastic online guides (machining fans will love this one), recently published a succinct two-way radio guide that covers key questions like “will they help me much?” and “do you really need a license?”
- Imperial College London researchers are using drones to fire sensor-filled projectiles into trees for data collection. I love seeing creative uses of drones like this. Who would’ve thought that sticking sensors in trees was a problem that they could help solve?
Making & Manufacturing.
- Swiss artist Zamoun uses cheap materials and actuators to make huge sound installations. Experiencing this type of work in person seems like the ideal post-Covid, sensory-overloading activity.
- If you want to make machining gummy materials easier, try coating the surface with a sharpie. This is the sort of mind-boggling manufacturing research I adore, and I cannot wait to see how it enters the market... maybe as a monolayer coating for soft metals, or a new mix of cutting fluid?
- It’s clear that there are hard limits built in so it can’t snap your legs, but I’m still terrified by this powered VR exoskeleton.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- I know nothing about synthesizers, but this thorough guide to the Roland Juno’s digitally-controlled analog oscillators is the epitome of great documentation. The writing is easy to understand, the graphics are clear, and the interactive tools are an amazing bonus that help explain theory.
- A recent static fire of the legacy RS-25 engines on NASA’s Space Launch System vehicle failed after just over a minute due to some conservative test limits. The key point: “This core stage is a high-value flight article that will return America to deep space.” This requires toeing a line in testing: push it too hard and it might break, but don’t push it enough and you can’t prove its flight readiness.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit successfully reached orbit and deployed 10 cubesats with their air-launched LauncherOne vehicle. The recap video has an awesome shot of the vehicle dropping away from the 747 and igniting (around the 1 minute mark). Branson has now founded two companies that have reached orbit separately.
- Data scientist Youyang Gu, who created one of the first accurate models of Covid 19 predictions, writes a compelling argument about how the US will hit herd immunity this summer through a mix of vaccine administration and natural infections.
- Record-breaking consumer demand and labor shortages mean there are a lot of container ships waiting to dock off the coast of LA. The article is already over a week old, but I’m thankful it led to my discovery of a daily PDF report published by the Port of LA about their current traffic. Also on the rise as container shipping costs rise: Break bulk cargo 🤯.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A fun tool: Street View of NY from the 1940s (also available in an 80s version).
- I’ve shared some interesting details about spy satellites in previous issues, but it’s refreshing to finally read about their use for science. In this case, a former CIA employee shares how she used satellite imagery to assess how the planet is changing.
- A silly and insane product demo from 2012, in which a giant crane lifts another crane, which lifts another crane, which lifts another crane.
- Add noteworthy astronomy and spaceflight events to your calendar.
p.s. - We care about inclusivity. Here’s what we’re doing about it.