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Yea or Nay? A Measuring Tape with a Built-In Mark-Maker


Here's the Quickdraw Pro, a tape measure with a built-in mark-maker:

As my eyes age, the main thing I prize in a tape measure is legibility of the tick marks. Beyond that I've begrudgingly accepted that modern tape measures are disposable, with the tapes prone to damage, or me just losing them.

What I've never had a problem with is making the actual mark, so I don't see the benefit of the Quickdraw (plus I don't want to maintain extra graphite rollers). But others might; so what say you, gimmick or useful?

Schwalbe Launches a Puncture-Resistant Lightweight Bicycle Tube Made with No Rubber


In seeking to create a lighter and more puncture-resistant inner tube, bicycle tire company Schwalbe ditched butyl rubber, the go-to material. The company's material scientists discovered that TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) was not only lighter in weight than rubber, but offered superior puncture resistance. Thus they made the entirety of their Aerothan inner tube--including the valve--out of TPU, which is 100% recyclable.

A lot of companies will say their product is 100% recyclable, but some of them mean theoretically--i.e. if you can find a recycling center with the appropriate equipment. Commendably, Schwalbe has taken this hassle out of the consumer's hands, and has set up its own hose recycling program to accept the tubes when spent. "The material of the used hoses is processed and then reused as a seal or insulation material," they write.

As for an explanation of the puncture resistance: TPU's flexible polymers exhibit a kind of self-healing behavior, and while they can't prevent a rusty nail from puncturing the surface, they do a decent job of shrinking the hole afterwards. This means there's no sudden loss of air after a puncture. Furthermore, " The special thing about [our production process] is the high-precision laser that welds the valve and hose," the company explains. "Our patented process allows extremely flat seams, which not only ensure precise driving behavior, but also play an important role in puncture safety. After all, the seams are exposed to extreme mechanical stress. It also had to prove in numerous tests that the seam holds up."

Only a true bicycle- or materials-nerd will sit through this, but if you want to hear a five-minute sober German description of the Aerothan's properties and details of its rideability, it's below.

Electrolux Creates a Vacuum Cleaner Made from 100% Recycled Materials


Electrolux has announced they've created a vacuum cleaner made from "used products such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and computers [originating] from Nordic households."

As you can see, there's no sexy hero shot of the finished product. That's because the exercise was more a proof-of-concept, to see what troubles they'd run into during the development process:

"More than 400 million metric tons of plastic are produced globally every year, but less than 12% of this comes from recycled materials. Therefore manufacturers have difficulty finding enough safe and consistently high-quality recycled material….
"To step up the pace, Electrolux is partnering with Stena Recycling in the collaboration Circular Initiative. The goal is to learn more about how to make the market for recycled plastics function as well as for virgin materials. The first concrete result is a visionary vacuum cleaner made of 100 percent recycled plastic and reused components from electronic consumer products. The prototype [was] developed to explore circularity in household appliances."

In undertaking the project, Electrolux is seeking to understand how to balance the regulatory requirements, materials quality and safety issues that manufacturers of household electronics have to contend with. And though they succeeded in creating a workable prototype, the road ahead will be a long one: The company's target is for "all Electrolux product ranges [to] contain at least 50% recycled materials"--by 2030.

Original Stop-Motion Puppets from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Going Up for Auction


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, by production company Rankin/Bass, is a stop-motion animation classic and the world's longest continuously running Christmas TV special; since its debut in 1964, it's been on the airwaves every year.

Incredibly, the original Santa and Rudolph puppets used in the production not only still exist, but appear to be in remarkable condition--and will soon go up for auction. "Years ago, I visited the owner of these puppets during one of the episodes of [TV show] Hollywood Treasure, and I was never able to shake them from my mind," writes Hollywood memorabilia collector Peter Lutrario, on behalf of auction house Profiles in History.

"Finally, after all of these years, he has decided to pass ownership of these enormously famous characters to a new owner. It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we make this special offering as we usher in the 2020 Holiday Season."

"Beautifully crafted by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro, the puppets are crafted of wood, wire, cloth, leather and yak hair. Santa stands 11 inches tall and Rudolph stands 6 inches."

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Auction 126" goes live on November 13th at 11am PST, with online bidding available.

Smart Solution: Laser Indicators to Make Backing Trucks Up to Loading Docks Easier


During my ambulance days, I had to pass a special driver's test before I could take on the driving duties. The hardest part was not what you'd expect--braking, obstacle avoidance, backwards figure-8's around cones--but parking the damn thing after a call. Our corps ran "box" ambulances so there was no way to see out of the back, and the specifics of our one-way garage required you to back the ambulance into the building at an angle, using only the side mirrors, with maybe a foot of clearance on each side. It took a lot of practice to pass that part of the test.

Way more difficult than that is backing an 18-wheeler up to a dock. If the driver misses, protective bollards can only do so much. And because no one's developed a widely-adopted backup camera system for trailers, a subset of warehouse facilities have installed docking bay laser guides for can't miss accuracy:

Image credit: mspyros

Price ranges (and presumably quality) seem to vary widely. Laser Tools Co. Inc.'s run about $600 a pop.

Cisco-Eagle's DockRight Laser Line Projector will set you back $1,900 per beam.

Laserglow Technologies' system, which appears to be the one in the top photo, runs from $990 to $1,887 depending on whether you go with single beam, dual beam and manual, motion-activated or button-activated options. I like their dual-beam design the best because it reads as a triangular wall.

DIY Prop Maker's Annual Halloween Horror Display is a Huge Hit


For horror movie fan and self-taught prop maker Noah Gutierrez, Halloween is the chance to show his stuff. Each year the Texas resident turns his family's front yard into a tableau representing the stars of horror movie classics: "Friday the 13th," "The Exorcist," "The Ring," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and more.

Years ago, Gutierrez started out by purchasing off-the-shelf masks and mannequins. But "that got to be expensive," he told local newspaper Rowlett Lakeshore Times, "so now I make my own and do everything."

"He said the heads alone can cost up to $300, so he began watching videos online and taught himself to make his own. He purchased mannequins for the bodies and added skin, bone and acrylic eyes to make them more realistic. He also shops around to find the perfect outfits so all of his props stay true to their movie, which can be a year-round effort."

At this time of year, the Gutierrez's yard has become locally known as the Nightmare on Hanover Court, and has transformed his sleepy neighborhood--which formerly had single-digit numbers of trick-or-treaters--into an attraction that hundreds of people come to visit from around the country.

You can see some behind-the-scenes photos on Facebook, and if you'd like to visit yourself, here's the info:

Address: 2309 Hanover Ct., Rowlett, TX
Hours: Saturday 6-9 & Sunday 6-9pm

When Going Green Backfires: Eco-Friendly Car Wiring in Newer Cars Apparently Attracts Rats


When my father-in-law's beloved Volvo began running roughly, he brought it into the shop. The technicians discovered rats had been chewing through the wiring. This puzzled my father-in-law, as over the years he'd parked other cars in his driveway, and none of them had attracted rats to the wiring; why the Volvo?

He subsequently learned that Volvo had switched over to an eco-friendly, biodegrable wire coating made from soy. As it turns out, this soy coating is apparently quite tasty to rodents. A Forbes article on the subject reveals that some owners of late-model cars made by Volvo, Honda, Mazda and Toyota have experienced the same problem. "The common denominator appears to be soy," the article states, noting that lawsuits have been filed. "Alas, no green deed goes unpunished."

The article reveals that owners of the affected vehicles have been taking matters into their own hands:

"[Volvo owner] JoAnn conducted an exhaustive Google search and discovered a new rat repellent: Coyote urine. She bought a supply of the Coyote formula from Home Depot for $24 -- plus shipping. Every night, JoAnn pours a little coyote piss around her tires. 'I dot my driveway with some too,' she says. She also places a Coyote urine-soaked sponge inside a tin pan near the car. She's not sure it's working yet and does not want to take her car in for any more repairs until she's rid of the rats once and for all."

Any manufacturers reading this: Please consider my wife's suggestion, which is to offer in-car snakes as an option.

Designing a Better Crime Scene Evidence Collection System


Exploratory designer Kate Strudwick currently works at the Google Creative Lab in London. But even when she was still a student studying Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College and Royal College of Art, she formulated insights that would steer her towards work that combines pragmatism with exploration. Here are some examples of these insights, revealed to DropOutMag by Strudwick:

Don't design in a bubble.
"I sometimes think that some designers can focus on making work for other designers in the bubble of the design world - there is nothing wrong with this - but I try to avoid this by collaborating with non-designers on a regular basis."
Don't design alone.
"Collaboration is at the heart of my work, whether with other designers, engineers or potential users and I strongly believe good design cannot be done alone."
Don't silo problems.
"In the past, if there was an issue you would get a specialist in that area to solve that problem. However, as the problems get bigger and more far reaching there needs to be a different approach. The world doesn't need more stuff made for the sake of making it - it needs ways of thinking that can actually make a difference."

These insights, coupled with her fascination of true crime podcasts and Netflix detective series, led Strudwick in an unusual direction for her graduate thesis: She began talking to detectives for London's Metropolitan Police Service, a/k/a Scotland Yard, a/k/a "The Met."

What role could a designer possibly play in solving mysteries? Through chatting with detectives, Strudwick learned that problems often cropped up "in the initial collection and preservation of [crime scene] evidence."

We've all watched scenes on TV where a detective pulls on a glove, picks up an object, and drops it into a Ziploc or paper bag, which then gets whisked away to the forensics lab. But Strudwick learned that this basic system "has resulted in increasingly large windows of opportunity for potential contamination of evidence at crime scenes.

"Forensic techniques are progressing rapidly, utilising the latest technology, and they are becoming increasingly sensitive to contamination — both physically and from misinformation leading to misinterpretation. This means the methods of gathering and processing the evidence, carried out by the police, need to become more stringent but there is a current lack of time and money available to invest in improvements - that is why I thought it would be an interesting area to explore."

Through interviews, ride-alongs and testing, Strudwick found that the contamination of evidence was often linked to the paper or plastic bags commonly used as collection vessels. She thus designed an evidence-gathering system called For.Form, which is essentially user-friendly packaging design for detectives.

The toolkit itself consists of:
1. A novel form-able material, that can be moulded around the evidence, keeping it in place and providing a shell to which it can be returned to the exact same position after forensic examination. This material can also be formed into an initial dome-like shape to cover and protect the evidence at the crime scene.
2. A flexible weight, to weigh down the dome at the scene to create a sealed protective chamber.
3. A frame-like sealing system, to trap the material, display the evidence and create a standardised sized packaging for more efficient storage.
4. Embedded RFID chips to enable automatic tracking of evidence through the chain of custody. It can also track who has handled the evidence and when, where and how many times it has been opened and contain any important information about the case.

Here's how it works:

"It was fascinating to work with members of the police and forensic scientists," Strudwick says. "I felt like a spy being able to access parts of a world that not many people will ever get to see. They were so open and interested in the design process as, for many of them, they had not really collaborated in this way before.

"For them, looking at how evidence is packaged was a challenge that they had either thought about or investigated before, but with such busy schedules they had not had the chance to scrutinise it further.

"I think many of them began to see the potential of future collaborations with people from creative industries to bring an outside perspective on an issue that they had previously considered."

If you yourself are looking for an area to put your design skills to use, you can learn from Strudwick's example. Find things that interest you, and talk to people who work in those fields. I think you'll find a firefighter is happy to tell you about the lousy handles on a fire truck, a gardener can tell you what tasks ruin their knees, an elderly person can detail their ritual for transporting heavy groceries from supermarket shelves to their cupboards. They may or may not be Kickstarter smashes, but solving problems is what you're trained to do, and you'll find no shortage of things to tackle.

via DropOut Mag

A Product Design That Would Never Work in America or China: "No Stack" Shipping Pyramids


I was amused to see that companies like U-Line and others make these "No Stack" pyramids to be placed atop packages:

Image source: RatMan00

The idea is that package-senders pay extra to have one of these affixed atop their packages, and throughout the entire shipping journey, no one puts anything on top of the box and damages it.

My first thought was "That's cute--but it'd never work in America." At least, not consistently. There's are entire Reddit threads (here and here) populated by comments about these things from truckers and shippers, and I'm admittedly just assuming they're American by the comments, like:

- "Work at Home Depot, can confirm they don't stop those that aren't paid to give a shit."
- "Use to work at UPS we'd just rip them off lmao"- "I get paid to stack. Not to care or read."
- "At my current job I have never seen one of those intact! Every single one I've seen here has already been crushed because people don't care."
- "We shipped and received fragile equipment all the time, and I never saw one of those intact. Always bent, but mostly squashed."
- " I understand most people don't work in freight/warehousing but it's all about hitting numbers and being fast/efficient…. When a fork lift driver is loading a trailer out, he is taught to treat it like tetris or a puzzle. If your pallet, with or without a cone, fits his puzzle when stacked with another pallet, thats whats going to happen. Not saying its right, just saying it what happens."
- "I am a shipping manager at a company that puts these on everything! They don't prevent a damn thing. Pallet show up to my customers all the time with these crushed."
- "In my experience, it has never stopped the trucking companies from stacking our equipment."

And hilariously:

"I see this is made of cardboard, that way you don't have to deal with pyramid-shaped holes in things."

There were just a handful of comments from shippers saying they do respect these things.

I could see these pyramids being respected in a country like Japan or Germany, where folks generally stick to the rules; I just can't see these offering reliable protection in America or China, for that matter. In my experience neither of these countries are consistently interested in providing great customer service. And where workers may not always be careful, the best you could probably do is follow this guy's advice:

"Before launching a delicate electronic product, we sent out a number of weighted and instrumented boxes with Tip 'n Tells, G-meters, and these cones via different shippers then chose the one that didn't mishandle the shipments (as much)."

Crowdfunding Smash: The Shell Modern-Day Travel Backpack


Never mind that the Tropicfeel Shell "modern day backpack" has become a crowdfunding smash, with $1.3 million in funding at press time; what's notable here is not just the bag's design--which appears to be quite good--but by what is omitted in the presentation video. See if you notice what I did:

So, this is the first travel bag promo video I can think of that does not mention, nor depict, air travel. All of the travel scenarios depicted are by foot, bicycle or car. There's no mention of which configurations of the modular bag will qualify it as a carry-on.

Part of this might just be the impracticality of filming in an airport or airplane when travel is limited. But I also think people are considering a future where air travel is greatly diminished, even after things supposedly "return to normal" as projected in late 2021; and that a once-crucial standard in bag design--will this thing fit in the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front of me--is fading as a major concern. Just a year ago, it would have been unthinkable to omit those capabilities from a bag pitch.

As for the bag's actual design: We've seen countless attempts to create the do-anything bag, one that has enough features and flexibility to be used in a wide variety of situations. From the "wardrobe" system to the modular add-ons to the location of the access points, I think the designers have done a great job here, and created something as close to the ideal as I've seen yet.

By the bye--you'll find this buried deep in the campaign page--the Shell is carry-on approved, at least in the 22L and 30L configurations. I wonder who noticed--and who still cares.

At press time the Shell had been successfully crowdfunded, with 30 days left to pledge.

The Ocean Cleanup and Yves Béhar Producing Sunglasses Made from Plastic Waste


Dutch inventor Boyan Slat was just 18 years old when he founded The Ocean Cleanup, a massive system for pulling plastic waste out of the world's waterways. By targeting both the Pacific Garbage Patch and the rivers that feed into it, Slat's specially-designed boats and garbage-collection flotation systems are aiming for plastics-free oceans by 2050. Just look at what they're doing:

The scale of what they're doing is just staggering:

The tons of plastic they've been removing still has monetary value--which Slat hopes to use to continue funding the project. Thus The Ocean Cleanup has teamed up with Yves Béhar's fuseproject to create a pair of sunglasses made from the harvested waste:

Here's a video on their process:

At $199 a pop the sunglasses aren't cheap, but 100% of the proceeds go back into funding The Ocean Cleanup's work. You can pick up a pair here.

Yea or Nay? The Bici Bike Rack System


Parking spaces for cars have a universally-accepted design: Two painted lines on the ground. Those designing bike racks have it much harder, as they're typically working within tighter space constraints and have to take anti-theft provisions into account. And I'm all for a variety of designers throwing their skills at this problem, but this new Bici design has me scratching my head:

"The architectural firm Zeller & Moye, with double base in Mexico City and Berlin, proposes a new device called Bici. The element designed is simply made of a 2.03 m long C-shaped metal profile with a opening to accommodate the front wheel of the transport vehicle. With its rail guide, it is easy to use and suitable for all types of bicycles. Bicycles can be installed indoors or outdoors, at home or in a bike parking.
"The installation, guided by drawings similar to an Ikea assembly manual, is simple and intuitive: first the head of the frame is fixed in place with the pin inserted in a hole drilled in the wall; then the foot of the frame is placed on the floor and fixed firmly with screws."

First off, for bike racks I'm not sure a "simple and intuitive" installation is the way to go; I'd want these things to be a bitch to install, so that they're a bitch to uninstall. If I'm a bike thief and I just have to pop a couple of screws to get the bike and C-channel off, I can throw that in the van in a few seconds. (In NYC at least, thieves have been known to remove bikes still attached to the railings they're shackled to. Presumably they're then whisked away to a chopshop where they can take their time freeing the bike.)

Secondly, I think asking end users of varying physicalities to push the bike up that angle, and safely get it back down afterwards, might be asking too much.

Thirdly, at least as depicted in the photos, I think I'd want a lot more space between each rack to maneuver my bike in and out.

Lastly, most bike rack designs are floor-mounted, which provides flexibility in placement. Having them rely on both a floor and a wall seems like a limitation with little benefit.

What say you, am I missing what's great about this design?

After Insurance Won't Cover It, Mechanical Engineer Builds Own Prosthetic Hand (and an Impact Driver Attachment!)


After losing four fingers on his left hand, fabricator Ian Davis learned his insurance wouldn't cover the cost of a prosthetic. "To be eligible for a prosthetic you would have to lose your palm as well," he was told, according to Interesting Engineering.

Davis then embarked on a mission to create his own prosthetic hand, adding functionality absent in off-the-shelf models. As one example, he's designed the fingers to be able to splay:

Davis has been documenting his progress on both his Instagram and YouTube channels. And intriguingly, he's now started experimenting with self-made power tool prosthetics that eliminate the "middleman" of fingers, and instead interface directly:

Davis' company is called Acme Works Fabrication, and in addition to following his social media feeds linked above, you can learn details of his builds on this Reddit thread.

He Made a Burger Fly—Now Food Photographer Steve Giralt Reveals the Magic


The name Steve Giralt may not be familiar, but undoubtedly you've seen his work. In a Brooklyn studio of custom-built rigs, high-tech robots, and next-gen slow-motion cameras called The Garage, he's exploded a medley of chips for Doritos, catapulted lava streams of chocolate for Hershey, and used innovative food photography and video work to defy the laws of gravity. Giralt calls his singular techniques "visual engineering," a fusion of mechanical physics and photography that blurs the line between art, science, and tech. Over the years, he has also created popular tutorials that offer a glimpse behind the magician's curtain: in 2016, his burger drop video rose to the top of Reddit and almost broke the internet, leading to a legion of mostly unsuccessful copycats. Recently, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Garage Learning, his subscription-based website and app featuring one-of-a-kind classes in filmmaking and photography, with corresponding Learning Kits filled with all the necessary tools for hands-on lessons in making stunning visual masterpieces. With courses available at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, Giralt hopes to transform even novice students into cinematographers, whether they're shooting on a pro DSLR camera or on a basic iPhone.


A field is born

Engineering is in Giralt's blood. "My dad was an engineer, my grandfather was an engineer, my brother is a computer engineer, my uncle was an engineer—I was surrounded by it my whole life." Despite this, Giralt gravitated toward art in high school. He picked up a camera and fell in love, later attending RIT in Rochester for advertising photography and then moving to New York City, where he began taking classes at the now-defunct 3rd Ward space. There he studied filmmaking, Arduino, MIG welding, electronic circuits, and Maya. "That's what sparked what I'm doing today," Giralt says of his cross-disciplinary approach. After launching a studio focusing on creating still photography for catalogs and food editorials, he got restless and began playing with engineering building blocks.

"I came up with this concept—I wanted to deconstruct the layers of a burger, and by deconstructing all the layers, I mean show them in detail." He realized that if he could somehow attach his camera to movable pieces of robotics, he could take previously unreachable slow-motion shots, creating dynamic imagery. "I'd never touched a robot before and never used a phantom camera, which is how you shoot slow motion," he explains, crediting his "engineering mind" with the inspiration. After perfecting the process, he was able to break it down, step-by-step, eventually putting it up on Vimeo. "I shared the whole process, but it was the behind-the-scenes images that everybody was crazy about. I was surprised. It's art meets science." This idea led to Visual Engineering, Giralt's storytelling form fusing robotics, advanced camerawork, and creativity, powered by Arduino programming, Maya, light welding, and epoxies. "I felt engineering and art shouldn't be so separated. You shouldn't have to choose," he explains. "And I feel that for a lot of people around the world, this resonates with them. They want to do more creative things in engineering. They want to do more technical things in art." 


Peeking into The Garage

Launched on October 20 and available on Kickstarter until November 30, The Garage Learning is the first online school to teach these techniques. Each class will also develop the tools necessary for creating complicated mechanical and electrical systems customarily reserved for university-level art classes. "It really builds on itself," explains Giralt of the classes, "and so much of the core of what the courses are going to be about. This form of art shows how technology can make amazing images happen and that you don't always need computer graphics." He points to a recent sequence shot on a Bolt motion control robot arm, which enabled his team to re-shoot the same sequence over and over again, seamlessly. Steve and the Garage team will teach all courses, bringing the knowledge they've gathered and innovated to photographers, food stylists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and makers of all stripes. Beginner classes will start from scratch, going over basics like viewing angles, composition, and basic equipment needs, "all the bases I learned in art school, but also the basics of applied engineering. We want to empower everyday people who are passionate about commercial filmmaking and photography while also teaching important skills like electronic circuit design, the basics of robotics, engineering, pneumatics," Steve continues, "and more than anything, it's about encouraging the idea of people playing around without the pressure of having to make a perfect end result, and breaking down those walls of trying something new." 

There's no better time than now

With many of us preparing for a long winter, Giralt sees The Garage Learning as a way for the homebound, possibly with curious, STEM-inclined children, to entertain and educate themselves. "We've seen already, with the free content we put out during quarantine, that there are those just running with it," he explains. So far, the few released tutorial videos have sparked in their viewers a great natural curiosity. With an online community of subscribers, working together, and sharing content among themselves, Giralt is optimistic about  the future. "I'm really excited to see around the world how people share ideas."

The Garage Learning is live on Kickstarter through November 30, 2020. —Laura Feinstein

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Burger King to Trial Reusable Packaging


Burger King is the world's second-largest hamburger chain, but they're aiming to beat top dog McDonald's in the area of sustainable packaging. The monarchy-themed fast-fooderie has decreed that reusable packaging shall be rolled out in the royal cities of New York, Portland and Tokyo, and here's what that packaging looks like:

I'm not sure if customers will go for this. The idea is that you order a meal and specify you want the reusable packaging, which you're then charged a deposit for. When you return it, the deposit is refunded. The packaging is then washed, though it's not clear where or how; the press release just states that this part of the process is handled by partner TerraCycle's "circular packaging service, Loop."

I admire the effort--but I'm not sure they've thought the UX through. For example, let's say I order BK takeout and ask for the reusable packaging. Later that week I return to BK with the packaging, and I order a new meal through the drive-thru window, and ask for the reusable packaging again. Do I say "but don't charge me for it, because I'm bringing back reusable packaging from last time" and they take my word for it while I'm still at the intercom?

Or do they ring up the second set of reusable packaging while I'm at the intercom, but then when I arrive at the window and produce the first set of reusable packaging, they then adjust the amount in the register?

I wonder if there will also be a gross-out factor. While the press release states that "Loop's cleaning systems have been created to sanitize food containers and cups, meaning each will be hygienically cleaned and safe before each use," I think this needs to be conveyed to customers visually; I don't think brown is a great color choice. If the packaging was white, and when I receive it I can see that it's gleamingly clean, I'd have more confidence in the system.

That being said, I wish them well with the program. It's scheduled to roll out sometime in 2021.