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Impressive Demonstration of the “Incremental Launching Method” of Bridge Building

Commenting on the efficacy of levers, Archimedes reportedly said "If I had a place to stand, I could move the Earth." That "place to stand" is a key consideration in the building of bridges and elevated roadways. In modern construction, pylons are created at ground level, each a fixed distance apart from the rest. Pre-fab spans are then trucked in and lifted into place by a crane. But this assumes that the crane has a place to stand, a staging area. When spans must traverse deep valleys, water crossings, unfirm soil or roadways incapable of supporting the load, a crane alternative is needed.In 1907 the Canadian Pacific Railway solved this problem by devising the Incremental Launching Method: They created a 415-foot steel span on the north embankment of a river crossing in Ontario, and "launched" the entire thing from one side to the other between two massive pulley blocks, using steel cable and a pretty darn powerful hoisting machine. By the 1960s Venezuela had pulled it off with a concrete span, and in the 1970s we Americans developed a way of launching half-spans from both sides at once and getting them to meet up in the middle.I'd love to see YouTube video of these erections (yeah, I said it), particularly of the 1907 feat, but surprisingly they do not exist. We do have, however, footage of a modern-day Chinese construction company using the 21st-Century version of ILM. It is an incredible feat of engineering:Here's an animation that lets you more clearly see how the process works, and also reveals the pick-up phase back at the staging yard:Today the ILM is used around the world, from Scandinavia to Europe, Russia to India, Australia to Asia, with more than 1,000 bridges worldwide constructed via the technique. But it doesn't seem to be prevalent in the U.S., which prompted the National Cooperative Highway Research Program to launch a 2007 study [PDF] to find out why. Alas, it seems the study's answers are terribly American, related to everything from the obfuscation of financial details, a lack of education on the part of construction firms, and a difficulty with securing required permits for this type of construction. Being an American, I suspect it's more to do with money than anything else. "As is often the case in the highly-competitive construction industry," the report states, "the cost of these specialized bridge construction bid items are not widely published and are not available without considerable research into each specific project. Therefore, the projects presented in the following case studies do not present this information." It's no wonder we don't use the method much when we can't even figure out how much it will cost. Who'd have thought bridge-building would be like healthcare?

DiResta’s Cut: Corian LED Lamp

In his sprawling underground NYC shop, Jimmy DiResta has what seems like every tool and material known to man, all tucked away somewhere in the labyrinth. In this episode of DiResta's Cut, Jimmy whips out a tool and material we haven't seen yet in this series: A desktop CNC mill and a sheet of Corian. Watch as he turns it into an adjustable LED lamp:

Julie Anixter will be AIGA’s New Executive Director

AIGA is embarking on its second century with new leadership. Today the esteemed organization announced that, beginning in January 2016, Julie Anixter will take the helm after Richard Grefé's tenure will come to a close in December of this year.Anixter's unique career path has spanned numerous aspects of both the creative and business sides of design. She has focused on helping clients anticipate and adapt to the changing world—advocating, as she explains, for design to be "recognized as the force for good that it is; ensuring that the craft of design is valued, the discipline is taught more broadly, and the expert use of design helps us all navigate our information-laden world with greater ease." She has been involved with consulting, curation, business development, education, management, marketing, product, service and UI/UX development, and R&D for a host of brands and institutions including Chanel, GE, P&G and the U.S. Military. Most recently, she has held leadership roles at Think Remarkable Consultancy, Innovation Excellence and as Executive-in-Residence at the Disruptor Foundation.Her experiences connecting design, business strategy and technology in order to instill transformation and growth will be key attributes leading AIGA into its future, as the organization continues to expand the reach of design in culture and society. As Su Matthews Hale, President of AIGA's Board of Directors remarked, "Design is a powerful force in every facet of the creative and business disciplines, and in Julie, we found a leader who can be a connective thread across our increasingly diverse community of designers, innovators, educators, and advocates."Anixter's hire is not the only change for AIGA. The organization has also revised their strategic direction to be more focused on members and chapters, invested in an endowment and relocated the national office staff to the historic Woolworth Building in New York City. Under Anixter's leadership, the organization hopes to best leverage the creative energies of their ever-growing 25,000 membership population and advance the strategic role of design further.

My Vote for This Year’s Best Halloween Costume, and How Casey Neistat Built the Most Viral Costume

Call me a simpleton, but I think this is the absolute best Halloween costume I saw this year:Sadly there's no attribution, though the photo's all over social media. As awesome as that get-up is, in this day and age it of course was not the most viral. That honor goes to this mythical, Disney-appropriated character and his special mode of transportation:As you probably recognized at the end, it was none other than Casey Neistat, and co-conspirator Jesse Wellens of the PrankvsPrank YouTube Channel, behind the costume and rig. Here's how they (well, mostly Casey) put it together:Thinking back to the porcupine: You reckon that kid can't sit down until he gets home?

Making the Ultimate Minimalist Pen

In 2012, Brooklyn's CW&T raised more than $280,000 on Kickstarter for Pen Type-A, a stainless-steel upgrade to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C, a plastic gel pen with a cult following among writers, designers and other pen connoisseurs. But almost as soon as CW&T shipped its last Kickstarter reward, its founders had a realization—they needed to make another version. The Pen Type-B"We designed the pen and we were super happy with it, but we realized that it's not something that we can take everywhere with us," says Che-Wei Wang, who founded CW&T with Taylor Levy. "I literally took a Pen Type-A and ground its edges off so that it could go in my pocket. And that was silly."So the duo set about designing a new version—Pen Type-B—that could fit comfortably in your pocket, thanks to its newly rounded form. But the new iteration is not only more portable. "There's a big difference in all of the parts," Levy says. "We've tweaked tiny little things about it to make the pen itself work a lot better." Indeed, Wang and Taylor spent four years refining their design, testing numerous materials (titanium, aluminum, steel, brass) and finishes (glass bead blast, polish, black oxide), and sending drawings back and forth with the multi-generation machine shop in Vermont where they fabricated the first pen. Like its predecessor, Pen Type-B is precision machined from solid metal for ultra-high tolerances that create a piston-like effect between the body of the pen and its sleeve. But the latest edition also introduces a magnetic closure, which posed a host of manufacturing challenges. While Pen Type-A was milled and turned from a block of 304 stainless steel, Type-B uses three types of stainless steel of varying ferritic properties to achieve that closure. The tip is 400-series stainless (magnetic), the cylinder is made out of 300-series stainless (non-magnetic) and the dime screw at the end (for replacing the ink cartridge) is cold-worked stainless (slightly magnetic, but just the right amount). "We're just trying to balance magnetism on both ends so that it feels right," Wang says.Finding the perfect magnet to embed in the brass sleeve of the pen also proved tricky. The team initially started with rare-earth machineable magnets, which—despite their name—proved exceedingly difficult to machine. One day when browsing K&J Magnetics for another project, however, Levy stumbled upon a doughnut-shaped magnet with an interior chamfer that could perfectly hug the ferrous tip of the pen. "It was literally the perfect magnet," she says. The brass sleeve is made from two parts, the barrel and the end cap. These pieces are joined together through supercooling the end cap, and allowing it to shrink enough to be slip-fit into the barrel; then the cap expands so that it's permanently fixed and the seam between the two parts disappears. Machined using a massive gun drill, the barrel has super tight straightness tolerances and a mirrored interior finish on the sleeve. A rubber piece on the interior protects the tip of the pen behind the doughnut-shaped magnet. In addition, a flat edge was added to the sleeve to prevent the pen from rolling—off your desk and far, far away. The sleeve is left uncoated to allow for a gradual patina to build over time.In addition to the doughnut magnet, another prefabricated piece is the ink cartridge itself. As with Pen Type-A, Type-B uses a black gel .3mm Hi-Tec-C ink cartridge manufactured in Japan. "They really are the best," Levy says. "But they can be a bit finicky sometimes and hard to work with." Levy and Wang made small adjustments to the tip's outer and inner openings to help improve ink flow, adding a radial pattern of tiny holes near the pen cylinder tip. Those perforations create airflow into the pen that assists with that flow of ink, and that also equalizes the air pressure on the ink cartridge as the pen is pulled from its sleeve. Each raw cartridge ships to the factory in Vermont with a small rubber cap for protection and to keep the ink from drying out. Wanting to use every piece efficiently, the factory even went so far as reuse the typically discarded rubber cap in the sleeve of Pen Type-B, providing a tight seal around the tip of the pen and ensuring that it won't dry out when not in use. "They're basically salvaging this tiny rubber thing stuck inside this plastic cap for each pen," Wang says. Since the cap is used to keep the ink fresh, the factory had to be strategic about the amount of time the cartridges spend un-capped from its rubber counterpart. "There was a problem for a while where, if there was a pause in production, the pens would dry out," Levy says. "Last week, we asked them how they worked around that and they showed us a jig they built, so that the last operation in the production takes the rubber thing out, squeezes it (since it's rubber) and shoves it actually under the magnet already embedded in the tip. They're totally in love with solving little problems like that."As with any additional introduction to the manufacturing process, adding a magnet to the sleeve of the cap or changing small diameters added new layers of complications that rippled down to the final prototypes — requiring even more incremental tweaks to the pen. "From the width of the flat on the pen to how far the pen sticks out from the cap, just these little things," Levy says. She and Wang went through several prototypes, making minute changes to the length of the barrel, getting the flat edge to be just the right size. "They're all like little picky things because we're picky people," Wang says. "We're trying tackle all these issues as early as possible so they don't show up when they go into production." Levy and Wang see their Pen Type-B as an exercise in reducing the writing instrument down to its essence. They also promise that this is their very last pen—they swear. But perhaps they shouldn't be too quick to abandon the product category, given what is clearly a powerful demand for such obsessively considered writing instruments. The Type-B Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in mere hours, and it has now raised over twelve times its goal of $12,000, currently clocking in at nearly $165,000. Nonetheless, the pair is already onto their next project, which they say they might to turn to Kickstarter to fund as well. "[Kickstarter] just works for us," Levy says. On the last day of their campaign, though, she won't be watching the dollars tally up. "It makes you kind of crazy," she says of the individual Kickstarter notifications that you can turn on for every backer. "It's a bit of an unhealthy habit."

A Kiosk That Spits Out Free Short Stories

While slicing fruit, crushing candy and swiping faces have become commonly accepted forms of smartphone-based time killing, can't we do better, in terms of our intellectual health? Entrepreneur Christophe Sibieude thinks so. Thus he started Short Edition, a French "community publisher" that has users of its smartphone app trading short stories that they themselves write and consume. The Short Edition community is open to all ("male, female, old, young, blond, bald…"), and in four years has attracted some 140,000 members.In an effort to further immerse society in humble literature, Sibieude conceived of a kiosk that would dispense, for free, short stories. Placed in a train station, airport or one of France's famously bureaucracy-saddled municipal services buildings, the device would allow the line-waiter to disappear into a story, if only for a few minutes at a time.It sounds crazy, but what's even crazier is that the machines have actually launched. The Mayor of Grenoble, a city of 150,000 colloquially known as "The Capital of the French Alps," ordered eight of the machines placed throughout the city center. Users can select a one-minute, three-minute or five-minute story, and the machine instantly spits it out on recycled paper. (Amusingly, the stories still appear to be shorter than your average CVS receipt.)"The idea came to us in front of a vending machine containing chocolate bars and drinks, Sibieude told Agence France Presse. "We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments."While it might sound like an impractical idea to some, RT reports that interest in the machine is high:"We are getting a lot of requests from all over the world for this invention. Once we will sort out our costs, we will ship these machines anywhere – for maybe a month, several months or even for a few years," Quentin Pleple, one of Short Edition's founders, told RT.There is an unembeddable, French-language news video showing the machines here.

Yamaha’s Alternative to Driverless Cars: Robot-Driven Cars, Starting with Motobot

Tesla rolled out their autopilot feature this month, and it seems a sure bet we're headed towards a future filled with driverless cars. But Yamaha's working on an alternative: Robot-driven cars. The company's thinking is that for driverless cars to become pervasive, well, everyone must purchase one. Rather than making the millions of cars already on the road obsolete, Yamaha thinks you should just get a humanoid robot to drive your car for you.They've started down this road by producing Motobot, which apparently can drive one of their motorcycles, though they sure don't show the thing getting on and off:So let's assume Yamaha takes the next step and creates a 'bot that can actually drive a car. The all-important factor they haven't explained is what you do with the robot when he's not driving:- After he drops you off at the bar, does he stomp off to find and kill John Connor, or does he hang out in the car listening to the radio? – If I run into four friends when I'm out and want to give all of them a ride, do I kick the robot out and make him walk home? – To free up space, does he fold up and fit in the trunk, or can I tow him from the back like he's water skiing? – And do I want this metal creep sitting next to me all day when I'm stuck in traffic?For their part, Yamaha is making no bones about this robot's self-awareness and eventual desired position in the food chain. Listen to it narrate its own Prime Directives, which were clearly not written by Isaac Asimov:How creepy is that last bit, where he goes "I am Motobot. I was created to surpass you." You're going to surpass me, tough guy? I'd like to see you navigate a McDonald's drive-through without crushing the french fries in your lousy metal mitts.

ERNIT: A Piggy Bank for the 21st Century

The idea of gathering savings at home in a slotted container has been around for a long time—the first such example we have is a miniature Greek temple with a slot in the pediment and a locked opening in the back, dating back to the 1st century BC. But it turns out the beloved pig form, which has become a symbol of financial education around the world, was the result of a linguistic accident. In the Middle Ages, people collected their savings in clay pots and jars, made out of an inexpensive, orange-colored clay called pygg (pronounced "pug"). After the Great Vowel Shift of the 14th-18th centuries, the pronunciation of English vowels evolved, changing the "pug" sound into its modern-day pronunciation, "pig." After a time, the pygg clay was no longer widely used, but the "pig pot" had a ring to it and artisans began crafting the porcine vessels we are all too familiar with. Early examples of piggy banks. The removable plug element wasn't added until the 19th century and destruction was a necessity, so very few of these remain. [Image courtesy of vintagevirtue.net]Now that we're historically up-to-date, the question of the day is: What does the modern piggy bank look like? More often than not, we end up handling intangible money—studies have shown that since 2010 annual mobile transactions have increased from $52.9 billion to $431.1 projected for 2015. And without a real grasp of where (or how quickly) it's going, financial literacy is more complex than ever. How do we instill good habits and a sense of value in kids without the physical exchange of currency? This is precisely what 3 dads-to-be were contemplating while celebrating New Year's Eve a few years ago—a "what if" chat over a bottle of wine that would become ERNIT, a piggy bank for the modern family. "I believe designers have a responsibility for delivering improved solutions and this also includes cultivating everyday habits," says ERNIT's lead designer Lars Larsen of the motivation behind the product. ERNIT's curly tail and snout are reinterpretations of the classical features of a piggy bank. Visualizations of the saving progress in ERNIT's app. The new piggy bank typology that they've devised is a digital system composed of a wi-fi enabled interactive "piggy bank" and accompanying app. Kids are invited to set different goals for both large and small purchases, a new bike or a new soccer ball, for example. Once a goal is set, family members can begin sending money (or bitcoins) to the ERNIT app. In order to do so, adults have to set up a bank account and connect it to the app—so ERNIT isn't actually holding any of the money itself, just reading the balance in the account. A ring of LED lights around the pig's snout serves as a reminder of progress; when it lights up all the way around, the goal has been reached. A main concern of the design was finding a way for it to "bridge between parents and children," as ERNIT CEO (and former editor-in-chief of Denmark's largest financial magazine, Penge & Privatøkonomi) Soren Nielsen recently told us. "The design invites families to talk and interact. I see ERNIT as much more than just a toy for kids. It is made to start a conversation between generations both online and offline." The focus with ERNIT is really on the learning experience, not the object itself or even the money. In order to make the intangible tangible, the design mixes tactile, visual and aural experiences to create different ways of interacting with the product and understanding the distinct actions taking place. "That is why the buttons on the snout are big, the eyes are animated to show emotions and the piggy bank has an organic touchable shape and a soft surface," explained Lars Larsen, the founder of Kilo, and the lead behind ERNIT's design.With just about 3 days left in their Kickstarter campaign, the team is just a few ERNITs away from their funding goal. Watch their video below to see the little pig in action:

Father Studies Special Effects Online, Learns to Build Awesome Wheelchair-Based Halloween Costumes

Oregon-based Ryan & Lana Weimer have five children, three of whom have Muscular Dystrophy and require the use of wheelchairs. So several years ago Ryan began taking online courses at the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, in order to learn the modelmaking skills necessary to create costumes large enough to incorporate wheelchairs.So successful were Ryan and Lana's subsequent costume designs that they formed Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit dedicated to producing wheelchair-friendly costumes for families across the country. "Our vision is to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair," they write, "by transforming their wheelchairs into awesomeness."Here's Ryan and brother-in-law Daniel Saunders cranking the costumes out in the Weimer's garage, and the work will undoubtedly remind ID students of your hours in the studio:They face a seemingly impossible task: While they estimate there are "more than 121,000 children under the age of 15 confined to wheelchairs," this year the organization could produce just eight costumes. That's because each takes roughly 120 man-hours (not to mention $2,000 to $4,000 in materials) to craft. Here's Ryan walking you through one of the builds, giving you a sense of what goes into it:Again, I'm struck by how much this resembles ID school studio time. Which makes me wonder if industrial design students and departments couldn't do something to help Magic Wheelchair expand their capabilities. While materials costs are fixed, perhaps the processes could be improved? Fabricating bespoke items like these costumes requires the same shop-based problem-solving skills as your standard Prototypes class. Could the articulating mechanism for those wings be standardized and speedily produced, for instance? And/or could the sheer manpower of ID students already learning to build things be brought to bear?If you're a design educator or student, consider bringing Magic Wheelchair to the attention of your program. If every ID school's Modelmaking class was producing costumes and/or devising more efficient fabrication solutions, perhaps the gap between eight and 121,000 would start to close.

Hans Peder Sahl’s Beautiful Water-Cooled Workstations

Most objects we design and interact with, whether blenders, cars or computers, are enclosed. Meaning we can't see the mechanically marvelous operations happening inside them. That's why cutaway drawings, functional steampunk contraptions and Toyota's KIKAI concept are so fun to look at. So, too, are the "case mods" performed by the subculture of tinkerers who rig their computers up with robust liquid-cooling solutions, the better to deal with the high temperatures generated by the heavy processor use of intense gaming.Denmark-based Hans Peder Sahl is one such case modder, and with his background—he studied "engineering specialized in Integrated Design," according to his bio—he's able to skillfully combine what works well with what looks darned purty. Check out his liquid-cooled R40 Engineering Workstation project, where the simple act of adding liquid dye adds visual pop to his elaborate plumbing set-up:Sahl's earlier Project N.V. build introduced hard angles into the tubing and utilized milky-colored fluid, giving the piece a colder, more Tron-like aesthetic:It's amazing how much difference the color and the geometry of the plumbing has on the overall aesthetic. And if his color mixing experiments, below, are any indication, hopefully we'll see more variants from Sahl in the future.Check out the rest of his work here.