Micro Break: The Fast, Efficient Holiday

micro break with john travoltaAs mini-break holidays become ever more popular, now is the perfect time to launch a new concept in today’s fast moving, time strapped world, the Micro-break. Simply sit on the chair and the carpet tips and rocks as you watch a TV animation of your flight and coach transfer, ending up on a tropical beach. At this point the TV lamp swings up, shining a heat lamp in your face. After soaking in the heat, you’re whisked home again, the whole experience lasting less than 3 minutes.

Microbreak was my first attempt at making a simulator ride and also my first attempt at 3D animation, so it was particularly exciting. It’s also my favourite because I really struggle with real holidays. Holidays are essential for people who have stressful jobs or hate their jobs. But I enjoy working and don’t find it stressful. I like travelling for work, to have a reason to go somewhere, but find holidays more stressful than work and often thoroughly depressing.

micro break detailThis simulator ride is built on the chassis of a 1985 Sega Space Harrier arcade game. This provides the wonderful tipping and rocking mechanism. The animation is filmed in a model landscape made of weathered lumps of PU foam, which originally came from a float used to lay a north sea gas pipeline.

Written by Tim Hunkin.

Micro Break is on display at Novelty Automation, a new London arcade of Tim Hunkin’s home-made machines. All machines are introduced on the website, but if you’re in London we suggest you just head over to 1a Princeton Street (a 5 minutes walk from Holborn station) and suprise yourself.

Meccano Food Mixer

Tired of replacing the food mixer every few years? Build your own & repair when needed.

meccano food mixer

Scanned from a 1970s Meccano manual. More here. Previously: How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware.

Mechanical 3D Printer

mechanical 3D printer“3D printing allows me to create products more swiftly and more efficiently than ever. But these products don’t feel mine. They are merely a product of this new technology. I love technology but how can I reclaim ownership of my work? Perhaps by building the machine that produces the work. Perhaps by physically powering the machine, which I built, that produces the work.”

Instead of building a traditional 3D printer, Daniël de Bruin decided to harken back to a past when pantographs and mills ruled the shop floor by making a device which doesn’t require software or electricity to work its magic. His 3D printer is driven by a 7.5 pound weight. “The weight allows me to be connected with the process because there’s no external force involved like electricity; it’s still me that’s making the print,” says de Bruin. “By physically building and powering the machine, the products that come out of it are the result of all the energy that has gone into it.”

For those who complain about the speed of FDM 3D printers, de Bruin says his machine is actually faster. It all comes down to a nozzle diameter of approximately 2mm – rather than the 0.35mm – 0.4mm which is the standard for most 3D printers. While there may be a slight loss in quality with his process, he says his old-school machine can print objects using clay material, pasta, starch bio plastics, and pretty much any material that can fit through the extrusion nozzle, which doesn’t require heat.

See & read more at Daniël de Bruin and 3Dprinterworld. Seen at the Milan Furniture Fair.

The Kume Shade: a DIY Insulating Curtain

kume insulating curtainsThe Kume curtain is a simple and inexpensive home-made insulating curtain that can help save money, keep our homes cozier and be kinder to the environment.

The Kume is a roll-up curtain that is composed of four distinct layers.

  • A front panel which acts as the first layer and seals the perimeter of the window opening when the curtain is closed
  • A moisture barrier which prevents indoor humidity from reaching the window and condensing on the cold glass and window frame
  • Wooden battens which maintain the fabric stretched out and thereby ensure that the curtain fits tightly against both sides of the window opening (the battens also create air pockets which further reduce heat losses through the curtain)
  • A back panel which acts as the final layer of insulation and helps seal the perimeter of the window opening when the curtain is closed.

kume insulating curtain insideWhy is a Kume curtain so effective at reducing heat loss?

  • Still air is one of the best insulators found in nature, and the Kume curtain contains a lot of it. First, between the fibers of the thick polar fleece that is used to make the curtain, and second inside the thin spaces that are created between the front and back panels by the battens.
  • When closed, the Kume curtain fits tightly against the top, bottom and sides of the window opening. By doing so it traps a layer of insulating air between the glass and the curtain, and prevents the cold air that forms against the glass from seeping into the room.
  • A Kume curtain basically works just like a good down jacket on a cold winter day. The air that is trapped in the thick layer of down creates an effective insulating layer, and the tight fit of the jacket around your waist, neck and wrists keeps your body heat in, rather than letting it leak out into the cold environment.

See and read more (including construction plans) at Kume Insulating Curtains. Via BuilditSolar. Thanks to Frank Van Gieson.

Building Dry Stack Stone Walls

dry stack stone wall finished 3

You might take them for granted when you see one, but building dry stack stone walls is not for sissies: [Read more…]

The Dobsonian Telescope

the dobsonian telescope“The design of this telescope is called a Dobsonian, after its inventor John Dobson, who passed away earlier this year. Dobson’s life took an unusual trajectory. He went from being a self described “belligerent atheist” to a monk in the Vendanta society to co-founding the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers.  Most of his life was spent bringing the night sky to people around the world and teaching people how to make their own low-cost telescopes.

As a monk, Dobson could not afford expensive materials. He kept the design inexpensive by using a simple mount and cheap materials: wood and cardboard. My Dobsonian was made by the now defunct Coulter Optical Company out of particle board and a cardboard concrete form. Its large 13.1 inch mirror makes it perfect for looking at nebulas, galaxies and star clusters even in light polluted urban areas.”

Find out more. Illustration.

Frugal Digital: Repairing, Hacking, and Repurposing Electronics

From alarm clock to medical tool frugal digital 2

Frugal Digital is a project that focuses on creating digital solutions in low resource settings like that of developing countries:

“Silicon technology is mostly about a culture of excess. It’s about the fastest, and the most efficient, and the most dazzling gadget you can have, while about two-thirds of the world can hardly reach the most basic of this technology to even address fundamental needs in life—including health, education, and all these kinds of very fundamental issues.”

“We work on projects to set the framework, create tools and provide inspiration for frugal innovators around the globe. Frugality is a way of thinking that optimizes given resources, up-cycles and has the spirit of improvisation. We aim to apply frugality to digital life and create solutions that are inexpensive, adaptable, use available resources and create valuable knowledge along with new solutions.”

Working with local tinkerers, Frugal Digital already made some interesting machines, mixing parts from different objects. A low-cost cell phone became the heart of a multi-media projector for education, while an alarm clock was rebuilt as an easy diagnostic tool to improve healthcare. Their community radio station introduces “air tweets”.

Via iFixit, who brings more good news for digital tinkerers: there is absolutely no shortage of disposed electronics.

The Making of an Indigenous Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Pankaj Sekhsaria investigates the culture of innovation in nanotechnology laboratories in India. He found the very first Indian Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), which was built in 1988, only seven years after the first one, for which the inventors were awarded a 1986 Nobel Prize. Sekhsaria shows how the making of this first Indian STM can be seen as a succesful application of what he calles “technological jugaad”.

Jugaad is an Indian word that does not have an easy equivalent in English, although “tinkering” and “bricolage” come close: it means reconfiguring materialities to overcome obstacles and find solutions; it can also mean working the system to one’s advantage and thus sometimes has negative connotations related to gambling and corruption.

table top scanning tunneling microscope

A table-top STM placed on the inflated tube of a car tyre that acts as a vibration isolating device. Picture by Pankaj Sekhsaria.

Sekhsaria traces the history of this technology and describes how “discarded refrigerators, stepper motors from junked computers, tubes from car tyres, bungee cords, Viton rubber tubing, weights from the grocers’ shop, aluminum vessels generally used in the kicthen and bobbins from sewing machines were only some of the components that went into the making of the first prototype and the other probe microscopes that followed”.

It is important to emphasize that there is nothing second-rate about this STM and the research it allowed. The research group has published its findings with STM in top-tier, international journals, and the doctoral graduates involved found postdoc positions in the most prestigious laboratories in both Europe and the United States. Pankaj Sekhsaria highlighted that while these Indian nanoscientists followed their own very “Indian” style of working around scarce resources, still they were able to produce superb, internationally recognized research.

Quoted from: “Good fortune, Mirrors, and Kisses”, Wiebe E. Bijker, in Technology and Culture, Volume 54, Number 3, July 2013. Pankaj Sekhsaria’s research paper is online and well worth a read: “The making of an indigenous scanning tunneling microscope“, in Current Science, Volume 104, Number 9, 10 May 2013.

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Africa Teaches the West How to Build a Car

Smati turtle 1 african car

Today’s cars look like spaceships and are built by robots in futuristic factories. At least, that’s the picture in the developed world.

In Ghana, West Africa, both the cars and the auto industry look rather different. In a neighbourhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take apart discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are suitable for African roads. All this happens manually and in open air.

Artist Melle Smets and researcher Joost van Onna, both from the Netherlands, set up shop in Suame Magazine and built a unique African concept car in collaboration with the local community: the SMATI Turtle 1. Their project calls into question western ways of dealing with technology, waste, employment and automation.

Picture: The SMATI Turtle 1

[Read more…]

Make Your Own $35 Straw Mattress

How to make your own $35 straw mattress. Previously: A mattress that lasts a lifetime.