Tag Archives: form

This Jaw-Dropping 19th-Century German Bridge Uses Its Reflection To Form A Perfect Circle


Dirk Förster

Nestled among the verdant foliage in Kromlau, Germany’s Kromlauer Park, is a delicately arched devil’s bridge known as the Rakotzbrücke, which was specifically built to create a circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it.

h/t: atlasobscura


Natalie Uomini

Commissioned in 1860 by the knight of the local town, the thin arch stretching over the waters of the Rakotzsee is roughly built out of varied local stone. Like many similarly precarious spans across Europe, the Rakotzbrücke is known as a “devil’s bridge,” due to the colloquialism that such bridges were so dangerous or miraculous that they must have been built by Satan. While the bridge (as with all the others) was created by mortal hands, its builders did seem to hold the aesthetics of the bridge in higher regard than its utility.


René Mettke


svolks


A.Landgraf


Henning Herrmann


Michael Bertulat


Design You Trust. Design, Culture & Society.

This Jaw-Dropping 19th-Century German Bridge Uses Its Reflection To Form A Perfect Circle


Dirk Förster

Nestled among the verdant foliage in Kromlau, Germany’s Kromlauer Park, is a delicately arched devil’s bridge known as the Rakotzbrücke, which was specifically built to create a circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it.

h/t: atlasobscura


Natalie Uomini

Commissioned in 1860 by the knight of the local town, the thin arch stretching over the waters of the Rakotzsee is roughly built out of varied local stone. Like many similarly precarious spans across Europe, the Rakotzbrücke is known as a “devil’s bridge,” due to the colloquialism that such bridges were so dangerous or miraculous that they must have been built by Satan. While the bridge (as with all the others) was created by mortal hands, its builders did seem to hold the aesthetics of the bridge in higher regard than its utility.


René Mettke


svolks


A.Landgraf


Henning Herrmann


Michael Bertulat


Design You Trust. Design, Culture & Society.

Milan Design Week 2017: Form Follows Fiction

As the industry’s biggest annual trade fair, the Salone del Mobile is certainly an occasion to reflect on the state of design today—both implicitly and explicitly as certain schools and organizations take the opportunity to critique the commercial pretense of both the Salone and the mobile. This year, two venues in particular captured a more cerebral notion of design week, though the skepticism—about making more stuff—also took various forms around Milan.

Once again, Atelier Clerici—a perennial exhibition set in the eponymous Palazzo in the heart of Milan—served as a kind of embassy for Dutch design, anchored by the Design Academy Eindhoven and a half-dozen kindred spirits. (Full disclosure: I am currently a student in the Masters Design Curating & Writing program at the DAE.) Curated by Jan Boelen, the head of the Masters in Social Design, the heady exhibition was conceived as a high-concept critique of contemporary newsmedia in the context of design weeks, Milan, and reportage in general. Set in a darkened mock TV studio, the slick production value of #TVClerici relegated artifacts to the periphery of the double-height space, such that the daily performances would literally take center stage. 

Enter a uccaption (optional)

Once again, Atelier Clerici—a perennial exhibition set in the eponymous Palazzo in the heart of Milan — served as a kind of embassy for Dutch design, anchored by the Design Academy Eindhoven and a half-dozen kindred spirits. (Full disclosure: I am currently a student in the Masters Design Curating & Writing program at the DAE.) Curated by Jan Boelen, the head of the Masters in Social Design, the heady exhibition was conceived as a high-concept critique of contemporary newsmedia in the context of design weeks, Milan, and reportage in general. Set in a darkened mock TV studio, the slick production value of #TVClerici relegated artifacts to the periphery of the double-height space, such that the daily performances would literally take center stage.

With the galleria transformed into a black-box playhouse, #TVClerici could best be described as an overambitious bit of theater, brazenly skipping ahead to meta-meta-level critique as a performance about media. In that sense, the concept soared over the heads of visitors without quite scratching the surface of the sensationalist culture it set out to expose, not so much a mirror for society but rather another spectacle among others. After all, a daily series of scheduled performances — staged, semi-scripted segments—are not fictional events but decidedly real ones.

Contrived though the “look behind the curtain” may have been, the concept stopped short of onanism, thanks largely to the pseudo-professional production (down to the trucker caps) and earnest dramaturgy (i.e. recent grad Olle Lundin). All told, #TVClerici did offer commentary on specific issues in culture —gender, identity, etc. — precisely by renouncing design and aspiring to art.

The balance of the offerings at Atelier Clerici were rather more conventional, with several notable presentations in the gilded halls of the neoclassical former residence. As a counterpoint to the void of the stage, two other exhibitors opted for a single massive plinth in the center of the room. Amsterdam-based periodical MacGuffin (pictured above) literally and figuratively examined the sink—each issue explores a single subject at length—while the Envisions collective reprised their graphically arresting mise-en-scène of models and form studies. (Other participants included Het Nieuwe Instituut, Fictional Journal, Space Caviar, Z33, and more; see more images below and find more details here.)

See more images of Finsa by Envisions here.

If Boelen’s boldest statement was to bring the Design Academy from the periphery of Milan (i.e. Ventura Lambrate) to the very heart of the city, it was another exhibition tucked in a relatively quiet corner of town that posed a veritable counterpoint. Isolated if not insulated from the other design week festivities, Cascina Cuccagna, a converted urban farmhouse, hosted another polemical group exhibition. 

Forgoing the knowingness of a hashtag for a pithy declaration, Capitalism Is Over was clearly billed as “a provocation or parody,” its overarching message (per the title) at once blunt and pointed. Curators Raumplan commissioned editorial and documentary photography to illustrate the point, the former imagery serving as a kind of ad campaign, the latter physically and metaphorically sited at the center of the second-story space. (In the wings around the courtyard, smaller galleries offered an eclectic mix of projects in varied media, from data visualization to spoken word, to round out the exhibition.)

The spirit of the Capitalism Is Over comes in the guise of architecture photography: On one hand, “But It Used to Be So Cool” documents Olivetti’s headquarters in Ivrea as a throwback to post-war prosperity; on the other hand, “Bigger Faster Cheaper” offers Gursky-esque imagery of IKEA and Amazon logistics hubs in Piacenza. The typewriter company, of course, represents the boom time between 1945–1975, Trente Glorieuses, since eclipsed by the rise of neo-liberal economic models that have resulted in the likes of IKEA and Amazon. The two series of photographs invite facile, fertile comparison—vaguely nationalist nostalgia versus unbounded robo-futurism—in the face of a so-called post-capitalist era, the “fictional framework” of the entire exhibition.

It was a sentiment that resonated not only throughout the Cascina Cuccagna—Capitalism Is Over also included a few room-sized installations and a single “stockroom” gallery with design objects (pictured above)—but also in other exhibitions in Ventura Lambrate.

While Kvadrat launched the much-publicized upcycling initiative Really., Design School Kolding took a more poetic approach to repurposing waste materials and offcuts. For Super Supermarket, the Danish academy partnered with the textile manufacturer and 13 other brands, from Fritz Hansen to Ecco to Royal Dansk, repackaging scraps of leather, metal, plastic, and even potato pulp into faux-grocery items. Thoughtfully conceived and executed, the retail setting offered a delightfully subversive twist on both consumption and upcycling, coming as close as possible to having one’s cake and eating it too.

But perhaps the most compelling fiction came from yet another school. Further afield in the Lambrate district, Burg Halle staged How Do We Deal with This?, a performative investigation into the topic of borders. The chainlink fence and whitewashed medical setting alluded to more pressing problems in society, those for which design alone may not be able to offer a solution, literally encapsulating the placebo effect of late-capitalist consumer culture in the form of a pill.

Ostensibly about geopolitical borders, the metaphor applies to design as well: Where do we draw the line between art and commerce? At Atelier Clerici, the DAE’s transgressive presentation format was a kind of sleight of hand, eliding the distinction between the design and how it is represented. Did #TVClerici overstep the definition of design by extending it to include media writ large—i.e. conflating TV “production” with the design and manufacturing of objects? Moreover, will capitalism ever be “over?”

Either way, the show must go on.


Core77

How to Get a Grasp on Form Development

Sketching 101 is the bread and butter of any ID education program. Learning how to create lifelike shading and proper call-outs are tips that any design student will remember, but what if you’re a student struggling with something a bit more fundamental i.e. coming up with interesting forms that veer from the elementary? Core77 discussion board contributor Gazoo outlines their form-related concerns in a recent board post: 

“This has always been my weak point in my portfolio and I know it’s currently hurting my chances at finding a new gig. I’ve pretty much got everything else checked off the list from the feedback I get from employers: good research, diverse set of ideas, informed decision-making, CAD execution etc…. That’s not to say my forms are bad, but there’s just not the creative surfacing that some directors look for.

My sketch technique is good, whether it’s digital or marker, but the forms just don’t come to me easily. I draw shit for at least the first 2-3 hours and then my forms slowly become more ‘mediocre’. I know practice makes perfect, but at some point, I feel like I’m just getting good at drawing bad forms. I reference Pinterest for inspiration but that only gets me so far. Has anyone else had success stories in improving this skill set? What are some specific strategies in exploring form that helps you?”

Luckily for Gazoo, a number of experienced designers with years of sketching and ideation experience were around to help steer our reader through this difficult dilemma. 

For the sake of easy reading, we’ve compiled all the best tips in list form for those of you struggling with the same problem:

Look at what’s around you

“One thing that can help better understand form is to practice a lot of just deconstructing existing things. Sketch cars, people, objects and spend time really understanding how the forms get created on paper…Looking at a car, breaking down a single panel and thinking “what is the surface, how would I draw it, how might I CAD it, and how would I manipulate it?” Sometimes just trying to reconstruct an existing object in sketch and 3D helps you appreciate what went into building a shape, and that shape now becomes part of your form vocabulary you can use.” Cyberdemon

“Start building a library of forms (pinterest boards). Maybe re-sketch or trace sketches or products you like and see how they treat the forms and how they come together. Most people with your problem think of primitive shapes first….how to tweak a square, rectangle, sphere. Maybe start with abstract shapes instead.”– FH13

Learn with your hands

“I would also not give up on practicing with good old fashioned clay or foam. Building a form with your hands is the purest way of appreciating the sculptural qualities of something. – Cyberdemon

Open sketches up to new possibilities 

“I think you are a bit fixed in your mind when doing explorations. A lot of form design starts with a free mental visualization and your ability to manipulate form in your mind. Picture a sphere or ellipsoid in your mind and start to sculpt it. Experienced designers do this in fractions of seconds and know how to get it to paper. On paper, you can simply start freely drawing lines. Colani always advised to start with freely drawing curves and then evolving them towards 3D forms, eventually making them realizable. I also advise to work with river clay if you are beginning at form development, it greatly stimulates the brain and your creative flow.” – ralphzoontjens

Start loose, zero in later

“You may be thinking too linear if your forms are based on features and existing geometry…Instead of thinking of outlines think of main form characteristics. Maybe a character line or one main detail that drives the overall look. Maybe sketch out with markers very loosely so that you are not confined to the “outline” of the product.” – FH13 

Be open to criticism

“One thing that might be useful is to post a critique of your own work. Being self critical helps you look for opportunities on where to improve” – Cyberdemon

Or simply give in to the fact that nothing is original..

“I steal. I see a form I like, I take it. Always have, always will…What I don’t do is copy.” – iab

____________________

What are your tips for good form development? Share your comments in the thread below or within the original Core77 discussion board!

(banner image source: Adityaraj Dev‘s Coroflot portfolio)


Core77

Who Knew? British Coins Form a Coat of Arms When Arranged Together

In 2008 the UK’s Royal Mint held a design competition to redesign the obverse sides of coins. Designer Matt Dent, then 26, beat out 4,000 competitors and took top prize. 

Dent based his designs around the UK’s Royal coat of arms. Here’s what that looks like:

The trio of lions at top left and bottom right represent England; the harp represents (Northern) Ireland, and the lone lion represents Scotland. Ironically Dent originally hails from Wales, which gets no love on the crest, while England takes up two spots.

Dent’s design for the one pound coin featured the coat of arms in full:

And when you arrange the coins of smaller denominations, here’s what you get:

Pretty cool, no? American money is dull in comparison.

Speaking of money, Dent took home £35,000. If the Royal Mint had a sense of humor, they’d have paid him in his new coins.


Core77

Alternate Form Factor for TVs: Sony’s Short-Throw Projectors

Televisions have gone from being pieces of furniture made out of wood to boxes made out of plastic and metal to glass rectangles that hang on your wall. Is its form factor done evolving?

Perhaps, perhaps not. The box-like short-throw projectors of the sort produced by Sony might one day unseat them—well, assuming everyone watches TV in the darkened environments required by projectors, or if projection technology makes some kind of quantum leap in terms of brightness.

Here’s Sony’s Portable Ultra Short Throw Projector, which is about the size of a toaster, yet can project images with up to 80″ diagonals while sitting just inches from the wall:

The product’s “lifestyle” video can’t seem to decide if it’s a proper TV or a novelty item:

The limitation of the $ 1,000 device is its 720p resolution. Those willing to pay a lot more can step up to their 4K model, which is the size of a flattened blanket chest and looks truly impressive:

As for how much more, we’re talking fifty times more. The 4K unit costs a whopping $ 50,000. I think it’s safe to say the flatscreen will remain the dominant form factor for now.


Core77

Industrial Design 101: Quickly Generating Abstract Form Ideas With Simple Materials

If you’re designing a tool, a shop jig or a minimalist housing for an electronic device, you’ll pretty much hew to the Form Follows Function rule. But there are plenty of other object categories—say, footwear, automotive or furniture—where you have an opportunity to integrate more abstract trappings.

This can require generating form ideas from beyond the realm of function, and at industrial design school they teach you several techniques for this. Here’s one of the quicker, easier and cleaner methods, as demonstrated by industrial designer Eric Strebel. All you need are some sheets of paper or cardstock, a sharp knife, and either a stapler or tape:


Core77

What Causes These Nature-Made Circles to Form in the Sand?

Imagine being an archaeologist in the 1930s and finding, etched into a fossilized chunk of sandstone, a perfect circle. Far too perfect to have been drawn by human hands. Or imagine being a Viking coming ashore onto Iceland for the first time, and finding perfect circles in the sand of the same sort you’d seen on the coast back in Sweden. This is what they would’ve looked like, and it might’ve taken you a moment to realize where they came from:

Image credit: David Marvin

Scratch Circles or Scharrkreise, as they’re known, have popped up everywhere from Iceland to Sweden to Finland to the shore of Lake Michigan as photographed above, and even in the fossil record. At least one gent cited in this paper [PDF] was studying them as early as 1935.

The way that they form is simple, as explained by photographer David Marvin:

Etched by windblown, dried dune grasses, the circles take shape when the wind causes a bent stalk of grass to pivot around on its axis, scratching out an arc or full circle in the sand.

Scratch Circles range in diameter from roughly four inches to sixteen inches (10cm to 40cm), and are occasionally half-circles or partial arcs. And apparently some folks use them to predict the weather: Sometime in the mid-20th-century the nature writer, marine biologist and environmental pioneer Rachel Carson wrote that “Arcs, especially on the southeast side of the grass, mean unsettled weather, so they say; whole circles foretell fair weather because they show the wind to be blowing alternately from different quarters.” It makes some degree of sense, and prior to Weather.com I guess you could do a lot worse.

Image credit: David Marvin

It’s safe to assume ancient people with even basic observation skills could deduce how they were formed (unless they were looking at a fossilized sample, which must’ve had them stumped if the vegetable matter had decayed). I wonder if Scratch Circles were what inspired the first compasses.


Core77

What Causes These Nature-Made Circles to Form in the Sand?

Imagine being an archaeologist in the 1930s and finding, etched into a fossilized chunk of sandstone, a perfect circle. Far too perfect to have been drawn by human hands. Or imagine being a Viking coming ashore onto Iceland for the first time, and finding perfect circles in the sand of the same sort you’d seen on the coast back in Sweden. This is what they would’ve looked like, and it might’ve taken you a moment to realize where they came from:

Image credit: David Marvin

Scratch Circles or Scharrkreise, as they’re known, have popped up everywhere from Iceland to Sweden to Finland to the shore of Lake Michigan as photographed above, and even in the fossil record. At least one gent cited in this paper [PDF] was studying them as early as 1935.

The way that they form is simple, as explained by photographer David Marvin:

Etched by windblown, dried dune grasses, the circles take shape when the wind causes a bent stalk of grass to pivot around on its axis, scratching out an arc or full circle in the sand.

Scratch Circles range in diameter from roughly four inches to sixteen inches (10cm to 40cm), and are occasionally half-circles or partial arcs. And apparently some folks use them to predict the weather: Sometime in the mid-20th-century the nature writer, marine biologist and environmental pioneer Rachel Carson wrote that “Arcs, especially on the southeast side of the grass, mean unsettled weather, so they say; whole circles foretell fair weather because they show the wind to be blowing alternately from different quarters.” It makes some degree of sense, and prior to Weather.com I guess you could do a lot worse.

Image credit: David Marvin

It’s safe to assume ancient people with even basic observation skills could deduce how they were formed (unless they were looking at a fossilized sample, which must’ve had them stumped if the vegetable matter had decayed). I wonder if Scratch Circles were what inspired the first compasses.


Core77

Google, Ford to form autonomous vehicle partnership

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Ford and Google are expected to announce a major partnership to develop self-driving vehicles during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

Continue reading Google, Ford to form autonomous vehicle partnership

Google, Ford to form autonomous vehicle partnership originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 21 Dec 2015 22:19:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Autoblog

Volvo V90 wagon leaks in die-cast model form

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The upcoming Volvo V90 wagon breaks cover in the form of a 1:43-scale die-cast model. No matter, this smaller version gives us a good idea of what to expect from Volvo’s new flagship longroof.

Continue reading Volvo V90 wagon leaks in die-cast model form

Volvo V90 wagon leaks in die-cast model form originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 20 Oct 2015 12:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Autoblog

Say Hello to the Form 2: A Bigger, Better, More Reliable New Desktop SLA Printer

As hype cycles go, the interest in 3D printing has been waxing and waning since, say, Martha Stewart got her hands on a MakerBot. As other manufacturers have been struggling to find their footing, the upstarts at Formlabs have been expanding on all fronts—settling their legal issues, launching a handful of functional resins—and are pleased to present a brand new piece of hardware: Today sees the unveiling of the Form 2 desktop stereolithography 3D printer.

The Form 1 looked the part when it debuted to the tune of nearly $ 3 million on Kickstarter in October 2012, as a fully formed, consumer-ready product, in stark contrast to the laser-cut wooden panels of the first Cupcake CNCs and Thing-o-Matics. Indeed, for better or for worse, the Form 2 is instantly recognizable as a Formlabs machine: Characterized by a cube of electric-orange polycarbonate—transparent to the eye but impervious to UV—the build chamber sits atop the familiar aluminum base, its footprint slightly enlarged to the effect that the base looks more like a pedestal than before. The control panel has been upgraded from a single button next to the digital display to a proper touchscreen, but, other than that, Formlabs largely abides by the existing design language for the hardware.

Of course, it’s the internals and intangibles that really matter. As one might expect, Formlabs’ first new model since their launch boasts improvements across the board: substantially bigger build volume, 50% more powerful laser, the onboard touchscreen to complement various software dashboards, and more. “We went all the way down to the studs and built it again,” says Colin Raney, formerly head of IDEO Boston and CMO of Formlabs as of 13 months ago, noting that the prototyping process had entailed 3D printing parts in-house (with the Form 1+, of course).

Raney is effusive about the new machine and its impressively upgraded specs—he notes the 42% larger build volume at a couple of points in our conversation—but he’s also a realist (and, by his own admission, “not a big 3D printing person”). Hence, his acknowledgement of what he calls the “dirty secret of 3D printing”: “Shit fails a lot.”

Just about anyone who has used a 3D printer—hobbyist or professional, FDM or SLA—knows that it is not by any means an exact science. Raney likens 3D printer users to musicians who become intimately familiar with their instruments, where each machine has its own idiosyncrasies. “Once you sink four or five hours into something that fails, you don’t have to do it too many times before you’re like, ‘Screw this.'” Beyond any single feature, reliability is paramount, and Raney is confident that the Form 2 will deliver.

But perhaps the real secret—one that remains largely unspoken—is that 3D printing has *always* been best suited for prosumers, and Formlabs has long positioned itself as such. There are any number of reasons as to why 3D printers never quite achieved the two-cars-in-every-garage phase; Raney, for his part, offers a brief history of 3D printing.

If you back up, 3D printing is 30 years old—they used to come in these really expensive, huge machines, that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you put them in your prototyping shop if you’re [a big company like GE or Ford, and you have a technician run them, and all of your engineers make models and send them to the prototyping shop where they print them.

Then around 2009, there were these projects called RepRap and Fabbit Home, and that’s when they started to make the desktop FDM machines that ultimately became MakerBot and UltiMaker and all this stuff… so the hobbyists really love the fact that they can build this thing and it’s awesome, but then beyond that, this whole thing has kind of stuttered.

Formlabs, then, offers the best of both worlds: “A combination of those two ideas coming together—the really high-end technology and great parts, and the [higher degree of] access, so if you’re a designer or an engineer, that thing can sit next to your desk.”

Raney drives the point home with an analogy about established prosumer categories, acknowledging that “it’s not cheap, but it’s the price of a loaded laptop.” $ 3,499 doesn’t seem like that much considering that, “someone who gets into photo or video will pay just as much for a camera.”

But whereas the average DSLR presents the user with a dizzying array of manual features, Formlabs is looking to simplify the interface—if not to point-and-shoot, then at least to full auto—which is precisely why a couple of the major updates on the UX side might be traced back to the putative ancestor of the 3D printer. You know, the desktop peripheral that you access with a quick tap of Command+P, so ubiquitous that it is absurd to think that 3D evangelists prognosticated that an underwhelming ABS extruder could ever be nearly as widely adopted. 

Formlabs isn’t the first 3D printer company to introduce a cartridge system for loading resin, but there’s no denying the convenience factor: “One of the biggest pieces of feedback that we got was the resin can be messy, so we put the cartridge in,” says Raney. “Like a 2D printer, it will just dispense materials, so you don’t have to open it up, you don’t have to pour it in, you don’t have to scrape things…” The jury’s still out on, say, a Keurig coffeemaker, but it definitely makes sense for a 3D printer—imagine if you had to pour ink or toner into your old HP or Epson. (Raney also emphasizes that “it’s not a DRM move,” noting that users can load their own resin the old-fashioned way, by pouring it into the tank.) 

And lastly there’s the fact that the Form 2 is wi-fi enabled, which is commonplace for regular printers but is especially useful for a 3D printer, as it allows for custom notifications and a seamless dashboard experience across multiple devices in addition to simply being able to send files wirelessly. In fact, Raney cites wi-fi as an example of a technology that has long surpassed the point of novelty to effectively recede into the background of everyday life—i.e. you only notice when it doesn’t work. “We’re moving out of the stage of being fascinated that we can just print—now that needs to be kind of a given.” 3D printing needs to become similarly frictionless. “It’s kind of like wi-fi, [where] at first we were like, ‘Holy shit, there’s no wires, this is so amazing!’ And now, the wi-fi just needs to work… it needs to become really boring.” 

Printed parts from the Form 2

For now, though, he’s excited about both the core audience—industrial designers and engineers—and other less obvious but equally specialized professions, which inspire new challenges for the various teams at Formlabs, from materials science to UI. Just as the Castable resin, launched last year, has been a boon for jewelers, the relatively straightforward interface (and high resolution) appeal to dentists and doctors. “One of the biggest uses of stereolithography is Invisalign braces,” Raney relates. “[The orthodontist] scans your teeth and the model works up the individual teeth and takes it through an algorithm to straighten them, so it takes it through all of the stages. They print all of the teeth out and then they vacuum-form the retainer to the top of it.” 

It simply wouldn’t be possible without the technology: “They have to 3D print it, because you need really sharp detail—your teeth don’t have that many indentations to hold these braces—and it’s completely one-of-a-kind.” In short, “anything that is around the body or the human”—i.e. that which entails personalization—is a potential growth area. But perhaps one of the more unexpected use cases of desktop SLA has been for stop-motion animation: some two years in the making, French animator Gilles-Alexandre Deschaud completed the 3D-printed three-minute short film Chase Me earlier this year. 

It turns out that Formlabs initially found out about Deschaud’s project via their customer service channels (“we sent him some more printers and some resin”), an indirect upshot of launching on Kickstarter in the first place. The crucible of delivering backer rewards was a blessing in disguise, as Formlabs found themselves with in-house sales and customer service teams, which has allowed them to sell directly to customers instead of through resellers. 

“We can learn a lot more about what our customers or users are actually doing,” says Raney, “and we also have to hear when it doesn’t work, which is really good humble pie, because it helps us make the printer better.” Whether it’s the target audience of prosumers — designers and engineers who rely on 3D printing for their livelihood — or passionate hobbyists like Deschaud, Formlabs remains committed to the end user and the Form 2 is a step towards that frictionless experience. “It’s just people trying to run a people-oriented business… that has lasers.”


Core77

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 1: Bernal Spheres

As fears of overpopulation took hold in the 1970s, NASA began giving serious thought to building space colonies. In the years since, they managed to solve Earth’s population problem by sending everyone to live in my neighborhood in Manhattan so that my landlord can keep raising my goddamn rent. But before finding that solution, there were a variety of space colony design renderings produced.

The first question they faced: What should a space colony be shaped like, what should the overall form factor be? I’m not talking about a colony built into the side of an asteroid or on the moon, because we already know the answer to that: You just build a city and put a big glass dome over it, duh. Bor-ing.

The Windex bill would be astronomical

No, I’m talking about an unattached colony that can, like, drift around and stuff. So the first problem to solve for is gravity. Because if space colonists were just floating around all the time, the reduced wear and tear on our footwear would make sneaker companies go bankrupt, and we’d need to have some kind of economy up there.

So to create gravity, a design called the Bernal Sphere was proposed. This was actually an older idea, first conceived of in 1929 by scientist John Bernal. You may recognize Bernal’s name as he is not only still alive, but recently gained additional fame for portraying crowd-favorite Shane on “The Walking Dead.”

The gigantic Bernal Sphere—designs ranged from two miles to 10 miles in diameter—was meant to be hollow and filled with air, along with 30,000 people that presumably didn’t have outstanding debts on Earth. The sphere would be attached at its two “poles” to massive motors that would rotate the thing like a rotisserie.

This would generate gravity-simulating centrifugal force along the internal “equator” of the sphere, along which people could build houses, have picnics and wear out Nikes.

On either side of that equatorial zone would be huge windows, and mirrors positioned outside of the sphere would direct sunlight in through them. In the photo below we’re looking into one bank of windows, through which you can see the ring of the opposite bank.

The polar areas of the sphere would presumably be uninhabitable, as you’d get really dizzy there. In the renderings we can see that the polar area is covered in forest, but we could also probably use that area to like, dump old air conditioners and stuff.

So why a sphere, with all that wasted space? The shape was proposed as being optimal for containing pressurized air, which seems like kind of a silly trade-off; can’t we just make it whatever shape we want and, like, buy better O-rings somewhere?

Others agreed with me, maybe not about the O-rings, but that the shape was decidedly not optimal. Next we’ll look at some better solutions.

Click here for part 2


Core77

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 2: O’Neill Cylinders

For forming a free-floating space colony, the Bernal Sphere we looked at earlier solved the problem of gravity, but didn’t solve the problem of being, like, totally lame. In an effort to not be totally lame, in 1976 American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill proposed an alternate design comprised of two huge cylinders.

I’m American, so I assumed those pods on the outer ring are jail cells; but I read that they’re actually supposed to be farming pods.

These O’Neill Cylinders would each be two miles in diameter and 20 miles long. They would be side-by-side but not directly touching, and would be connected at their ends via rods. Each cylinder would spin to provide internal gravity via centrifugal force, and they would spin in opposite directions. The thinking is that this would keep the collective structure balanced, whereas just one cylinder spinning would cause the craft to veer out of position.

That’s the official reason given for having two cylinders, but the wise among us can see the real benefit. Having two cylinders gives the thousands of people living inside each tube a perfect way to discriminate against each other. People in Cylinder 1 could think of people in Cylinder 2 as a bunch of uneducated hicks, and give that cylinder a nickname like the Rube Tube. The people in Cylinder 2 could think of the people in Cylinder 1 as a bunch of pseudointellectual jackasses (though they would not be able to think of a clever nickname for Cylinder 1 because they are a bunch of uneducated hicks).

The other brilliant part of this design is the fact it involves huge cylinders. NASA is comprised primarily of men, and certainly was in the 1970s, and we men love funding huge cylinders. We really enjoy building submarines, blimps and foot-long hero sandwiches. No one can say why.

But the weird part about O’Neill’s design is how sunlight is admitted into the interior. Each cylinder is divided into six stripes running lengthwise; in alternating fashion, three of these stripes are habitable land, while the other three are windows to admit sunlight. I call it weird because if the cylinders are constantly spinning, won’t that create a potentially-irritating strobe-light effect as the sun whips around and around? If each cylinder were a 20-mile long nightclub I’d call it efficient, but in most of the renderings it looks pretty parksy.

One alternative O’Neill Cylinder design does away with the lengthwise stripes, and instead covers the entire interior with land and has a huge window in one end of each cylinder. With this design you keep the station oriented so that the sun stays put in this end window and appears stationary. But this might suck if you lived at the other end of the cylinder; you’d always feel like you were in the end of a tunnel with a train coming towards you.

By the way, these cylinders are so large that it’s believed they can actually have clouds and their own weather systems inside.

So while I am inexplicably drawn to the long, shaftlike shape, I have to dismiss this design unless someone can explain to me how to get rid of the club-lighting effect.

Next we’ll look at a design that’s a sort of hybrid of these first two concepts.

Click here for part 3


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Space Colony Form Factors, Part 3: The Stanford Torus and Beyond

So far we’ve seen two space colony form factors that arose from a 1975 NASA-backed study. The Bernal Sphere was round, the O’Neill Cylinders cylindrical. This third concept, proposed as part of the same study, is a sort of combination of the two that takes the cylinder and bends it into a circle.

Known as a Stanford Torus, it’s named after the university where the study took place. The torus shape—I’m guessing “torus” is either Greek or Latin for donut or bagel—provides its gravity by rotating around its hub, and at a suggested 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in diameter could theoretically support some 10,000 people inside. Sunlight would be bounced from mirrors in the hub into the living space, providing the effect of “overhead” sunlight.

I find the visual effect of being within a large torus more interesting than that of the Bernal Sphere or O’Neill Cylinders; it kind of looks like you’re in a valley that slopes up and out-of-view on either side. An additional benefit versus the O’Neill Cylinders is that with the latter, there is a feeling of finite space; jogging along it, you would eventually reach the end and have to turn around. The torus on the other hand provides infinite scroll, which would make chase scenes more entertaining.

Here’s a fly-through of what a Stanford Torus might look like:

Design god Syd Mead famously produced renderings of a Stanford Torus in his concept work for the space habitat in the 2013 sci-fi film “Elysium.”

However, space geeks are quick to point out that that’s not technically a Stanford Torus, because as depicted in the movie, the habitat features no “roof;” the inside of the torus is absent and open-air, allowing ships to fly in and out of it.

That would make it what’s known as a Bishop’s Ring:

A Bishop’s Ring is essentially a gi-normous Stanford Torus, with the theory being that if it were made from carbon nanotubes rather than steel, a much larger structure could be built: Some 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles, roughly the driving distance from New York City to Miami) in diameter and 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide, providing a livable surface area roughly the size of India. Towering sidewalls stretching 200 kilometers (120 miles) in height would actually obviate the need for a “roof” and the design could be left open-air; science eggheads say the gravity generated would be enough to hold the atmosphere in place, and the open-air design would allow TIE Fighters and such to fly in and out.

Sci-fi author Iain M. Banks has taken the concept of the Bishop’s Ring and run with it. In his Culture series of novels, Banks envisions something called Orbitals: huge Bishop’s Rings that stretch to 3,000,000 kilometers (1.9 million miles) in diameter, up to 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) wide, containing landmasses the size of proper continents.

In Banks’ fictional world, these Orbitals are tilted towards a nearby star, and thus their rotation not only provides gravity, but a proper day/night cycle. The theoretical surface area would be up to 120 times more than what we’ve got on Earth.

While nothing like an Orbital will ever be constructed in our lifetime, Banks’ fictional creations did inspire a real-life object that many of you may own: A little video game called Halo. That game and its sequels have netted $ 3.4 billion in sales since 2001. It’s strange to think that a sci-fi author’s imagination unwittingly helped propel the Xbox console to success.


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The Updated Nook HD+ Is Still Fighting The Tablet Wars

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The Nook HD+ came out last December to mixed reviews. The device had a great screen but problematic bugs caused laggy performance and low scores. The company has come out with an updated version and we took a look.

The 9-inch Nook HD+ is a Retina-quality tablet with a very simple mission – it wants to replace the iPad in the entry-level tablet market. It runs an acceptably fast 1.5 GHz processor that powers a 1,920×1,280-pixel screen. This means images are exceptionally bright on the device and video is more than acceptable. When we first looked at the HD+ in December on Fly or Die, I gave the HD+ a fly even with its limited functionality at the time and its lack of a camera.

The B&N party line is that this device is updated and I suspect there’s a reason they are running through these with a new round of reviews. Because I didn’t write a formal review when it first came out – I was far more impressed by the Nook HD – so it’s worth revisiting this tablet.

As it stands, the Nook HD+ is primarily a “dumb tablet” with a few smart tablet features. You can run a number of apps and games and view Nook Video alongside other video from providers like Crackle and Ultraviolet. This update also improves the speaker (it’s still mono) and improves performance.

Sadly, the quirks that plagued the original HD+ are present here. When turning on the device, for example, you see a brief “scrambled” picture that suggests a problem with either the backlight or the LCD. This “fuzz” appears sometimes while moving through apps and screens but it doesn’t show itself when you’re reading a book.

In terms of absolute performance the Nook suggests solidity but not pep. Switching between screens, at least while reading, is acceptably fast and much faster than it was in the initial launch. As for general app performance I saw a bit of an improvement over the previous software iteration but nothing to write home about. The HD+ is awful in direct sunlight, so don’t even think about going outside with it. This is an indoor ereader.

I think, sadly, the 9-inch tablet market has been flattened by the phablets and 7-inchers of the world. That said, the form factor is still good for folks looking for more screen real estate or larger fonts. For those customers, the HD+ excels. It is almost half a pound lighter than the iPad and even lighter than the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch. At $269 it’s priced just about right and, for a brief period, you could get a Nook Simple Touch for free with purchase. That promotion is over but you do get a $50 credit from Barnes & Noble for books and content.

So here’s what worries me: the ereader world has been stagnant since the holidays and the two-for-one deal, while generous, didn’t seem to bode well for B&N. This very slightly updated HD+ is a solid piece of hardware but it’s still not quite up to, say, the standards of similarly outfitted – but not similarly priced – Android tablets. The Nexus 10, is $100 more than the HD+ and, by all metrics, a better device. The iPad with Retina display is a bit more expensive, to be sure, and may not be exactly the device the novice, ereading user is looking for. However, the performance and build quality is far superior.









So who should get an HD+? I think folks who love to read on bigger screens. While there is a plethora of video content available, that’s not the draw here. The three main draws are, in order, price, price, and price. If you’re already a Nook user and you’re looking for a bigger reader, this may be the model for you. If you’re looking for a real tablet, you may need to look elsewhere.

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The Updated Nook HD+ Is Still Fighting The Tablet Wars

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Sendicate Takes Its Email Newsletter Service Out Of Beta, Launches An API

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Sendicate, a startup aiming to make it easy for businesses to create beautiful email newsletters, is moving out of beta testing today with the launch of version 1.0. In addition to removing the beta label, the company is launching an API, so that other products can integrate with the Sendicate service.

When the company launched its open beta in November, it was pitched as an attempt to reinvent email newsletters for the present day without being weighed down by legacy technology. In advance of today’s launch, co-founder and CEO Chad Jackson also said that Sendicate is an attempt to meet the needs of publishers, marketers and e-commerce sites that want something more than a generic email service but can’t afford an expensive enterprise product.

“There’s really nothing in the middle,” Jackson said. “If you have 100,000-plus customers, you’re stuck with the same tools as someone running a list with five people. … [With] the really enterprise level tools, you can’t even create an account with them. If you say, ‘Hey I want to send 50,000 emails,’ they won’t even talk to you.”

You can see Sendicate in-action in the video below. One of the main points being emphasized is the ability to try out your newsletter with a wide range of customizable design templates, with the content being tweaked to match each template. It also has a slick, simple interface for managing your messages and subscribers. As for pricing, there’s a self-serve option that’s free for customers with fewer than 500 subscribers, with an increasing monthly fee that reaches $499 for more than 75,000 subscribers. And Jackson said Sendicate is also launching a concierge/managed version, which will include “dedicated account management, design and strategic services, template production, results optimization, custom integrations, etc.”

And now, thanks to the API, customers can use Sendicate with other services. So far, the API has been used to build integrations with mobile guestbook Guest’d , web automation service Zapier, and e-commerce service Magento (in the form of a Magento plug-in). I’ve been told to point potential partners to this Ruby gem which is supposed to help with API integration.

Even in the beta period, the company says that it sent more than 10 million emails from more than 2,000 customers, and that in March, email volume went up 40 percent while revenue went up 50 percent. (Those customers include Bobbi Brown / Estee Lauder, LiveIntent, Gyft, Focus Forward, and A Hotel Life.) Jackson also pointed out that Sendicate was an honoree in the Webby Awards – specifically the web services and applications category.

Sendicate is also announcing that it has brought on Evan Whalen as CTO and co-founder.

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Sendicate Takes Its Email Newsletter Service Out Of Beta, Launches An API