I’ve always been a huge fan of meet-cutes. It’s rare and incredibly special to find someone or something you care deeply about, and the story of how someone comes to care is just as important as who (or what) they care about. The world is full of people and things that are worth being totally absorbed by, but we only ever get captured by a few of them. And look, you might be wondering what meet-cutes have to do with manufacturing -- but to me, it’s more often than not that something fascinating in manufacturing has been right in front of me the entire time. Just like that moment when Andrew realized he was in love with Margaret, his boss who he hated for years before falling for her wonderful qualities after pretending to be her fiance when she was about to get kicked out of the country for overstaying her visa.
Anyway: The past seven weeks I stepped out of the structural engineering world I’ve become comfortable with and into a fluids systems world. My previous relationship with fluid systems was one mostly of ignorance; I recently left the commercial aviation industry, and because of the way it’s structured I just never thought about fluids that much. But something about being on a launch pad and tinkering with valves, filters, and tubes has really shifted my perspective. Since I’ve returned, these components are something I notice everywhere. It’s been serendipitous, and exciting, and has grabbed me in a way that, I hope, something below grabs you as well.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~34% of opens!) was an intense and very web 1.0 website selling very expensive watercolor palette trays with very long lead times.
Planning & Strategy.
- Recently, I’ve spent of time reading, writing, and talking about work instructions. And in those conversations, it usually isn’t more than a few minutes before someone brings up idiot-proofing, a term, I think, that removes all nuance with how people perform the work they do. Surjan Singh wrote an absolutely wonderful newsletter issue that touched on this nuance and the balancing act of craftsmanship & modern manufacturing. “And when manufacturing is controlled by processes, we don’t allow for new craftsmen to develop. It’s no different to the development of skills in engineers in large, bureaucratic companies compared to small, ‘startup’y companies. By making processes idiot-proof, we also make them genius-proof.”
While I see the term idiot-proofing as a microaggression that minimizes the amount of skill required to perform tasks, I still think clear instructions and processes are vital. To further that point, I’ll give you not one but *two* examples of how amazing instructions quite literally save lives:
- This touching article on the merits behind telephone CPR and standardized processes in emergency dispatching.
- An episode of 99 Percent Invisible detailing the history of airplane safety cards and why the first 90 seconds after an airplane crash are so critical.
- A compelling argument for why ‘Human-centered’ design is entirely problematic and how designers and engineers should learn to fear the consequences of their work.This reminds me of Lily Irani’s argument against design thinking (covered here on 2020-08-31), which centered around the practice of measuring a product’s design success by consumerist metrics - neglecting all other data.
Making & Manufacturing.
- Cast in India is an awesome film that explores the anthropological background of NYC manhole covers, most of which are made in Howrah, India - just outside Kolkata. What was most interesting to me was the complementary nature of artisanship and industrialization during the fabrication process. The director gave a little more detail in this interview and Strange Parts also did a cool short video on the topic.
- A fun, simple overview on the construction of the world’s longest floating bridge, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, in Seattle.
- Canadian cannabis firm Hempearth designed and built a hemp fiber aircraft that runs on hemp biofuel.
- Cricut tried to charge crafters to use printers they already owned.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- On machinerylubrication.com, a well argued (on both sides) overview of the age-old grease vs oil debate.
- If you’ve seen the Perseverance Rover’s raw image feed, you may have noticed a bunch of pictures of colorful circles on the rover body. These are camera calibration targets, which the team at ASU did a great overview of.
- Patagonia posted a bunch of repair guides on iFixit. I’ve mostly used iFixit as a source for fun tear-down videos but I love seeing companies use it as a platform to discourage wasteful consumerism.
- There are some very radioactive Soviet era submarines disintegrating beneath some of the world’s busiest fisheries.
Distribution & Logistics.
- After moving out of Seattle last year, one of the biggest things I miss is surprise viewings of airplane fuselage bodies coming up from Wichita via train, like this one here of a 737.
- A video of the fabrication and logistics of cork by Amorim, Portugal’s largest cork producer.
- For the first time since the 1960s, transatlantic flights aren’t following the traditional sky highway system, which can mean a lot for more efficient route planning.
- A dynamic map of ship movement and routes around the world.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A crazy cool analysis of why Japanese butter tableware looks nothing like what Americans are typically used to.
- I love the cleverness of wax motors and always find myself surprised at how many places they are actually used. Here’s an insightful teardown video of a wax motor which ends in a chopped in half motor.
- A fascinating, indepth, 1963 explanation on why Saturn V used kerosene as hydraulic fluid.
- Materiom hosts and maintains an open source database of recipes on how to make various things using local biomass to promote sustainable product design.
- Reading Folding Techniques for Designers has got me back to attempting to fold various kinds of origami. A tool I’ve been using to explore patterns is Origami Simulator, where you can upload folding pattern SVGs and visualize the patterns fully folded. I also love this neat list of resources all related to origami and the folding structures world.