2021-02-01 5 min read


Notes, 2021-02-01.

It's a snow day in NYC - a messy time, but one in which stuff more or less still happens. Let's get to it.

-Spencer Wright

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~14% of opens) was a video of cranes lifting cranes lifting cranes.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • A short and very cool video of the industrial automation in Tesla’s battery production process.
  • A video tour of the BaoGang steel mill, a state-owned facility in Baotou, Inner Mongolia; watch it at 2x speed and just soak up the sensory data. See also Tim Maughan’s 2015 piece on Unknown Fields Divison’s visit to Baotou - just the kind of vacation I (sincerely) really want to take.
  • Arris Composites, a startup working on a proprietary “additive molding” process, built a pretty rad composite drone part for Skydio. In The Prepared’s Members’ Slack, Arris’ Simon Lancaster-Laroque says that the part is initially formed as a near net shape via a high speed process which allows for out of plane fiber orientation; it is then subjected to a rapid heat cycle molding (RHCM) process to achieve “extremely good accuracy, surface finish and consolidation.” See also this decent explainer video on RHCM, in which the mold tool is rapidly heated and cooled to help eliminate weld lines, gate marks, etc.
  • A compelling (and sobering) piece on a guy in rural Michigan who, after receiving a $50k quote from Comcast to bring high speed internet to his house, formed his own ISP and invested about $145k laying fiber to his and other homes in his neighborhood. “Based on the amount Mauch invested and his expected revenue, he estimates he'll break even within 42 months.”
  • Ruth is looking for a Chinese factory which can produce (initially) ~500 unit orders of fully knit, breathable underwear designed for pregnant women. Holler at her here.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • Following up on last week’s note about congestion at the Port of LA, Jonathan wrote in with a link to the Port of Long Beach’s Weekly Advance Volume Estimate, which attempts to project weekly stats for container movements, vessel calls, and loaded/empty exports. He also notes that “unfortunately, the ports do not collaborate on putting together these advance estimates. Terminal operators, shipping lines, and logistics companies do not like sharing detailed information with Port administration; they think it would give business rivals an advantage. If the logistics industry wants to improve its performance, it's going to need to embrace a much more transparent approach to data sharing. This extends from the ocean carriers, freight forwarders, railroads, drayage operators, transload facilities, etc - if even one of these players isn't at the table, it creates a blind spot that causes either delay or excess capacity. The pandemic has created a lasting shift in the demands that individual consumers are placing on the logistics industry, and these data gaps really hold agencies back when it comes to planning for the future - especially if they want to implement a sustainable, low/zero emissions system.”
  • NIMBY Rails, a Steam game which bills itself as a way to “Design and run your own railroads for the real world. Solve global transportation dilemmas. Unleash your inner railway engineer and transit policy manager.”
  • A Twitter thread of classic tunnels in aerospace.
  • The crazy, crazy logistics behind the 1803 smallpox vaccine.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


A rather magical record of electricity consumption in Manchester, UK 1951-1954.

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