Author Archives: iyaoi_jeffreymatthias

3D Scanning

Ugh, what a difficult day. I spent a good part of it creating a set up for 3D scanning and feel like I got no where. But, lessons were learned.

I was working on getting the free software from DAVID to work to do basic scans. If it worked out, I was ready to start saving the $ (well, technically euros) to get the professional version of their software.  Just think, less than $600 to have something that puportedly works as well as the $3000 scanners out there. I am not saying that I won’t start saving, but I am not as inspired as I was hoping to be.

I believe my problem all came down to hardware limitations. I do NOT blame the software. First off, my laser was questionable from the get go. You need a “line laser.” I was using the Straight-line laser level that I stole (er, borrowed) from my neighbors this morning when dog-sitting. I don’ t think it is bright enough.

The second hardware issue was that I was using the webcam in my Macbook Pro. Now the camera itself is fine from a spec standpoint, but it is pointed at the user, which means that I had to set up the stage on top of my keyboard. It didn’t necessarily keep anything from working, but is sure did make it so that I ran out of patience sooner than I probably would have.

The software itself is Windows only, so I was running the Mac in Bootcamp with XP. The software ran just fine and it was relatively easy to figure out, though, admittedly, I did have to READ THE MANUAL. Terrible, I know.

So I am about to put an request for a free webcam out on Freecycle. I figure that is one of those items that people don’t use but feel like they shouldn’t throw away.

If I can come up with that, I have seen a pretty good line laser made out of a regular laser and a glass or acrylic cylinder.  I will work on constructing one. Of course, I will post results.

If I can get a rudimentary setup working, I will take a more serious look at the starter kit that they sell at the DAVID site. From the 3rd party reviews that I have read, it sounds like it is pretty good software.

3D printed iPhone cases

As I recently learned from Freedom of Creation, FreshFiber has launched a line of 3D printed iPhone cases. This touches on something that I have been working on, an iPhone “case” project that hopefully will see light of day within the next month or so.

I do have some reservations about their product, though.  While I think this is a great application for 3D printing technology, I am an iPhone user and I have been through a few different cases. The first one I had was super minimal. Since I carry the phone in one of my pants pockets and the my favorite part of the form factor was how slim it was compared to my Treo 680, I wanted a case that didn’t bulk up the profile. The one I got barely wrapped around the edges, was a single piece of plastic and was minimal as it gets. After a year of loving use (read abuse) I had to exchange my phone for a factory refurb because of some issues with the audio jack.

When I removed the cover that I had used for the last year, I discovered that because their wasn’t a perfectly tight seal between the phone and the plastic tiny particle of pocket matter had managed to get in between the phone and the case and proceeded to scratch the ever-living daylights out of the iPhone’s mirror black, oh-so-pretty finish. While the case certainly did its job against falls, it actually performed worse for scratches than a bare iPhone would have done.

Aluminum Prototype

I’ve begun to redesign classic pieces of (mid-century) modern furniture as knockdown/flat pack items. The idea is to be fully functional and life size. I will post soon about the whole goal and ideas of the Knockdown Knockoff line, but, right now, after a LONG night, I want to revel in what I consider to be a very successful prototype.

Here are preliminary, pre-touch-up photos of the chair. I will eventually give this design away in the Downloadable Design section of this site and it may end up as an Open Design in/on the site of a company that I am putting together for a Spring 2010 launch.

Anyhow, here are the pics:

The design is made of 1″ birch plywood with aluminum and black melamine veneer. It uses cross dowels to hold it together. The canvas upholstery references the earliest versions of the LC4 chaise. Unlike the original, though, the canvas snaps to the frame here so that customer assembly is easier.

This prototype allowed me to explore a few things including CNCing ply with the veneer already applied, canvas seating, and CNC setup for cross dowels without secondary processes. Aside from sanding and finishing the wood edges with low VOC finish, the frame was ready to go off the CNC.

Please let me know your first impressions.

Wireless electricity is NOT a good option for cell phones

I am getting very frustrated with all the attention to wireless charging systems that has been popping up lately. I think the technology is cool. And “space age” (though actually almost as old as our understanding of electricity). What no one focuses on, though, is that it is horribly INEFFICIENT. My understanding is that companies are striving for 50% efficient power transfer in the next few years. This means that if you are charging your cell phone, which already depends on crappy batteries, (ALL batteries are crappy, so don’t respond with something about lithium this or that) you are not only losing the power lost from the batteries, but also the power lost from transferring that power TO the batteries.

When I was working on a power wheelchair design for severely disabled people, I could see the absolute reason for why this technology can and should be used. In a case where something MUST be charged and the user has limited abilities, a 50% power loss is relatively unimportant. My old Interplak toothbrush from the early 90s used a wireless charging system because it couldn’t handle getting its contacts wet. Not AS important, but still understandable. But a phone charger? We need a standard style charger (which, I understand, is in the works) and they need to NOT come with our electronics. Buy it separately. That way, when you upgrade your phone, you can use your old charger. This will reduce our waste in production of needless chargers and make a wired charger EVER MORE efficient versus a wireless charger.

Rubber Sole

Despite the way this starts, this is NOT a shoe review.

I have spent this summer wearing a pair of Blackspot Unswoosher V2 shoes. Since the mid 90s, I have been a fan of John Fluvog’s shoe design. When I found out that he designed an “unbranded” pair of shoes that were to be manufactured in a sustainable, labor friendly way, I had to check them out. Here’s a glimpse at my Unswooshers:

There are only two kinds of men’s shoes in this world: those that can be re-soled and those that can’t. I detest companies that charge a lot of money for shoes that don’t have a mid-sole and therefore can not be re-soled (Steve Madden, for example). I pronate (put my weight on the outside of my foot when I walk) and with my 200-ish lbs, I can wreck poorly made shoes in less than 2 months.

The Unswoosher not only had a mid-sole but it has recycled tire soles. I’m not talking about what Timberland is doing where they are mixing the existing rubber with some virgin rubber and being molded into a conventional looking sole. The shoe has treads and it is awesome.

Turns out, even more important that knowing that come this winter I will leave the coolest looking tracks in the Denver snow, the soles show NO wear after 2 months of consistent wear. Apparently, me weighing a good deal less than a car has something to do with it.

So what do I take away from this? Colorado has 1/3 of the nation’s scrap tires. I understand that it takes work to separate the tread of the tire from the steel bands (unless you’re a late 90s Ford Explorer). Still, there is a tremendous resource here. What is insufficient tread depth for a car is more than sufficient for a person. Car tire soles could easily be offered as an option for when shoes get re-soled. I would love for my 12+ year old Frye boots to get tire soles the next (3rd) time they get soles.

I can not find a company that is doing this as an option for the repair market. Someone should. Let me know if you have more info about this.

Heart Mod

Suddenly I regret that I’m donating a coffee table. Had the project been a chair, the title could have been about “chairity” and I could have dies happy. Oh well, I’ll have to continue to plug along, I guess.

Anyhow, what you’re looking at is the “Heart Mod.” It’s a version of the Mod coffee table that I give away on this site that has a heart cut into it? Why you ask? I’m donating it to the Colorado AIGA (16th Annual) 2010 Heart Art auction. Part of the money benefits AIGA, but more importantly, half goes to Project Angelheart, who provide nutritious meals to people with life-threatening illness.

The Heart Mod is made from FSC certified 3/4″ bamboo plywood. It still needs its low-VOC finish and to have the edges knocked down. The CNC cutting time was generously donated by the Industrial Design department at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Thanks for Terry Dreher for doing the cutting and Ken Phillips for making the call to donate the table time.

One of the cool things about the Mod is that it assembles without hardware or glue and it packs flat. It’s one of the first products that will be available from my future (next month or so) online retail outfit.

Make sure if you’re in Denver to come to the event. And then bring lot’s of dough to buy yourself one awesome table.

3D printing Technology

So Replicator isn’t very excited about HP and Stratsys making nice nice and announcing that they’re joining forces to bring 3D printing to a desktop near you. I gotta say that I’m more inclined to agree with Joris Peels over at Shapeways. I think this that is HUGE. 3D printing represents our chance to move away from a world of asian mass production where a product run has to be 50,000 or more just to justify the cost of the injection molds. It allows for on-the-fly customization and production quality one-offs. It is our future: as long as we don’t let it get passed by.
HP gets into the coffee maker business

This technology is great. Anyone who sees something that has been 3D printed is impressed, sometimes even after they’ve heard how much it cost. It helps that, as an ambassader to 3D printing, I wear a printed stainless steel ring. That’s technology that is beyond what people imagine is possible. Then I tell them it cost me less than $7 to have made. Great. Cool. Except that the costs need to keep coming down and there is only one way for that to happen: more 3D printers and more 3D printing. While 3D printed parts don’t benefit from the efficiencies of scale, like mass-produced objects do, the printers do. They are made in a factory. The more that are made, the cheaper they are to make. The more that get sold, the cheaper they will become. I remember my families first Apple ][e computer. It cost something like $2500 in 1986. It didn’t have enough RAM to be able to copy a floppy in one swap. My cell phone blows it away. This is because people kept buying computers.

Replicator points out that Desktop Factory gave the industry a little PR boost and then fizzled. This is supposedly the same effect that HP will have. Except that this isn’t how it will go down. Raise your hand if you had heard of Desktop Factory before their big announcement. “Reading this blog is supposed to be passive,” you say, “what’s with making me raise my hand?” You and I both know you didn’t have to, so quit complaining. In fact, you probably hadn’t even heard of Desktop Factory until I just told you they existed and died. I won’t make you actually move, so we’ll assume you’ve heard of HP. HP has a huge customer base who up until two days ago hadn’t heard of 3D printing. Now they have. Without doing anything more, the industry has already been affected by this partnership. There are now a lot more potential customers for 3D printing. Not just for the printers, but for services that do all the work. Done.

Another point on Replicator is that HP will become attracted to the technologies of Stratasys’ competitors and the partnership won’t last. Who cares if HP becomes fickle? Let every 3D printer company try to be her date to the ball. As long as there is a company as big as HP (and who needs to find a new niche as badly as HP does) pushing this stuff, everyone wins. Every company that sells 3D printers, whether they’re getting the attention from HP or they’re HP’s most recent cast-off, will see more sales. Heck, HP may even make multiple arrangements (I’m not going to take the analogy there) with multiple companies for different technologies. All that matters is that the public knows what 3D printing is and that it is actually available to them. Everyone wins. In the comments on his post on Shapeways, Joris mentions that tomorrow he will compare this to the pizza industry. I will leave it to him to explain, but he’s dead on. So check out his blog tomorrow (I’ll add a link once he’s written it) and this thought will be better developed.

So how does this work out well for ‘jerks’ like me. Well, hopefully we can use ‘jerk’ like it used to be used. You know, a soda jerk? That was a person who sold soda. I sell 3D design. I can deliver a file or an object. Either way, with a greater public knowledge of 3D printing and even with a proliferation of desktop printers, I will have more work designing things for people. So either I’ll be a design jerk for selling designs or I’ll be a jerk because I’ll be in demand enough that I don’t have to be nice. Either way, HP + Stratasys is awesome for me and other designers like me.

NOTE: I also see this as being HUGE for the open source 3D printer groups like Makerbot and RepRap. I also think that these companies are really where the desktop printer industry will grow from, but I’m an Open Design kind of guy.

my wallet hurts

This post is largely my apology for ignoring this site for a little while. I’ve been busing selling limbs to pay for some computer upgrades. I’m not down to 1 arm, one leg, and a single kidney (metaphorically).

Graduating is expensive. I’ve been sort of floating along until my student Solidworks license expired. It did. Oh boy, did this last week brought some expenses. I’ve now purchased a proper Solidworks license and am a subscriber. I decided to take the difference in moving to a Solidworks Professional package and invest that in some render nodes for Maxwell Render. I’ll let you know how that works out.

I’ve ordered the hardware for the nodes. They’re 2 i7-860 2.8 Ghz quad-core processors with the appropriate motherboards and CPU coolers to overclock them. So basically, right now at least, I’m going with two more computers along side my MacBook Pro. The funny part is that the render nodes will be actually faster than my main computer… just not as pretty. I am adding the cheapest Solidworks certified card to one of the nodes so that I can do my work on it if I so choose.

All in all, total for 2 very fast computers without monitors or keyboards came to about $1700. I spent a while calculating the cost of making 3 machines with Core 2 Quad processors or 2 machines with the i7s. Everything pointed to going with the two i7 because the hyper threading ability apparently makes a good difference when rendering.

I’ll be excited to share my results.

Also on the slate for last week: clean installs of Mac OSX and Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. This was precipitated by the installation of a 500GB (7200 rpm) hard drive. It was time to move up from the 250GB (5400 rpm) drive that was in it. Fortunately, drives are getting cheap, even in the 2.5″ size.

Competitive 3D Print

This Year’s IDSA National Conference is themed DIY: Threat or Opportunity.

Seriously? Wasn’t the time for this about 4 years ago when talking about it could have actually made a difference in how things played out? We’re already at the “DIY: how to stay in business by not sucking” point. The answer to IDSA’s question is already here. DIY is absolutely an opportunity for anyone who is excited about the new technologies available to us and wants to experience what it’s like to help shape the future. It is only a threat to those interested in maintaining antiquated systems for getting ideas to users. If you like how things have been for the last 20 years (I know, it’s longer, but how much is open to interpretation), well, tough cookies. The good news is that you won’t be in business much longer anyway, so you won’t have to worry about what happens after that.

Ok. I’m coming off a little strong about it. And the changes won’t be overnight, but they are coming. And it’s a good thing. $3000 just became the entry price for a competitive 3D printer. I no longer need injection molding to get a plastic part run off. And now I don’t have to over-produce to hit a price point per item. Is there still opportunity for designers here? Oh, yeah. Now more than ever. Any of us with a good (or bad) design can get a product to market. The designers should have the advantage. We should be able to get better products to the market. If there’s a demand for it, it is risk free to move to a larger production run.

Tad Toulis told me this weekend that there is a kid in China that has an Alias seat and can do what I can do without my fancy schmancy degree. Sadly, I’m pretty sure it’s true. One of the biggest differences between a designer and an amateur is practice. Technology is getting cheaper and that means that the access to the equipment and tech to “practice” is becoming widespread. So what to do?

Figure out how to do more than draw pretty pictures. Don’t depend on the history of design to keep you employed, depend on your skills to keep you employed. Figure out how the new technologies are changing things and put yourself at the front of the industry. Or keep designing plastic trinkets for injection molding until you’re out of a job. Your call.

Pleasant Surprise

Groggily, I stumbled into my home office this morning and was confused by the number of inquiries I had from Etsy users about The Mod. Then Rasberry, my lovely wife, insisted that I take a look at the Etsy finds email. It clicked. Well, mostly. It took a little longer that I’d like to admit for me to put two and two together.

The Etsy Gods saw fit to include The Mod in their email. This is very nice. Anyhow, to see the actual mailer that went out, click here.

It’s a good way to start out a day. It made up for the tequillla headache that I probably shouldn’t talk about on this supposedly professional site.