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How to Cast Clear Resin Parts

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Industrial designer Eric Strebel got a super-cool commission from a client who restores vintage items like this soundboard:


What was needed were the clear plastic windows that cover the VU meters.

As these parts are no longer manufactured, Strebel was tasked with somehow replacing them in his shop.

Strebel figured he could use his ID know-how to create silicone molds from one of the surviving parts, then cast them in clear resin.

As he demonstrates the procedure below, he gives you plenty of useful tips along the way: Everything from how to restore and repair the master part before making the mold, to a cool trick for casting labeling information into the mold itself for future reference, to using a shop machine as an impromptu vibrating-bubble-getter-outer.

Here's how he did it all:

Great results!


Clever Package Design Trickery: Bike Company Prints Flatscreen TVs on Shipping Cartons, Reduces Damage by 70%-80%

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof makes high-quality electric bicycles for urban markets. Already a hit back home, in 2015 they began shipping their bikes to the U.S., and ran into a problem: "A lot of them were arriving to their new customers damaged," the company writes. "Annoying for them and expensive for us. We couldn't say for certain, but US handlers didn't seem to take as much care as we'd hoped."

The design team talked the problem through: Should they design sturdier boxes, or come up with better packaging materials, or try different shipping companies out? Then company co-founder Ties Carlier had a clever idea:

Our boxes are about the same size as a really big, expensive, flat-screen television. So we put an image of one on every box. We assumed handlers would care a little more about that. And we were right.

That small tweak had an outsized impact. Overnight our shipping damages dropped by 70-80%. We sell 80% of our bicycles online, which means we still print TVs on our boxes. More than 60,000 of them have now been shipped directly to our riders worldwide.

via Kottke

I'm a Student. Should I Submit My Work to Design Awards?

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

As a student, it can be difficult to convince yourself to invest money in something related to your professional career such as an awards program, let alone investing in a turkey sandwich for lunch. Though it may seem difficult to envision what applying to something like an awards program gets you, winning one offers several hidden benefits that could help your design career in the long run.

View the full content here

Hong Kong Protestor's Latest DIY Defense: Tiny Brick "Stonehenges" vs. Police Water Cannon Trucks

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Protestors in Hong Kong have been using traffic cones and leafblowers versus tear gas canisters. As the unrest stretches into month five, they've now come up with a low-cost way to stymie police vehicles: They've been building these little brick "Stonehenges," as observers have called them.

I know what you're thinking: Those are a problem for cops on scooters, sure, but not so much for larger vehicles. In fact the structures are not meant to stop vehicles, but simply to slow them down, particularly the ponderous water cannons the police have been rolling out. So what the police now do is first send out a larger vehicle topple the bricks, and then the water cannons roll in afterwards. And as you can see from the video, it does indeed make the journey slower for the latter type of truck:


What is the Third Wave of Design? 

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Did you miss out on the festivities at this years Core77 Conference, "The Third Wave"? Don't sweat it, as we are rolling out many of our presenters' presentations over the next few weeks.

Those of you who did not attend the the 2019 conference may be asking, "what exactly is the Third Wave?" Luckily, Core77 partner Allan Chochinov started the conference day off with an informative and entertaining explanation.


Yea or Nay? Circular and Radial Bar Graphs for Presenting Information

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Living on this rural farm, my vehicle situation is opposite from many in the suburbs: I need a truck, but I don't want to get one. Nevertheless I was reading up on the Ford Ranger and its competitors on Car & Driver, when I came across this peculiar take on the bar graph:

Image credit: Car & Driver

What the hey? I found this circular arrangement chaotic, confusing to read and much harder to get a quick visual sense of comparisons.

After poking around a bit, I couldn't find quite the same style as was in the C&D article, but it does seem a subset of information designers have begun toying with circles. I believe they're doing this out of a desire for novelty rather than an urge to more clearly present information. Take a look at this "dazzling" (those are the creator's words) radial bar chart:

Image credit: Vizzlo

Or these circular barplots:

Image credit: Circular Barplots

Image credit: Circular Barplots

Image credit: Circular Barplots



And this circular stacked barplot:

Image credit: Stack Overflow

Even aside from the tiny text, does anybody actually enjoy tilting their heads this way and that? Does anybody actually find these easier to read?

Ford Unveils Electric Mustang Mach-E

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

This week Ford unveiled their electric Mustang Mach-E (which unfortunately sounds like "Mustang Mocky" when said aloud).


I didn't find much to get excited about in the $60,000 car's specs. It's basically a Tesla competitor: Very fast, electric, can be had in all-wheel drive, and has cutesy names for the driving modes like "Whisper, Engage and Unbridled." So instead I've been looking over the physical design of the car in search of something noteworthy.

Supposedly inspired by their storied pony car, the Mach-E's design doesn't appear very Mustang-like to me; it seems they've simply lifted some visual cues from the original model, like the pony badge on the grill and the three-bar taillights.


The crossover SUV form factor and lack of an engine doesn't do much to increase interior storage space. The Mach-E's trunk offers 29 cubic feet of storage space, or 59.6 cubic feet with the seats folded down; my Volkswagen Golf station wagon offers 30.4/66.5 cubic feet, respectively.

The Mach-E does, however, have an extra trunk in the front, occupying the bay typically taken up by an engine. It's only 4.8 cubic feet--"enough to comfortably store the equivalent of a carryon luggage bag," the company writes--but one thing I did find interesting is that it's drainable. "customers can easily pack it full of ice and keep their favorite beverages cold – perfect for that pre-game tailgate or trip to the beach."

The interior has the same issue that most modern-day cars do: A gigantic screen that does not integrate well with the dashboard. I really do feel that in fifty years, design historians will look back at this era of automotive design and say "During this period, no one really knew how to harmonize the then-newfangled touchscreen with the incumbent design of a dashboard."



Ford is also trying out a new feature with the Mach-E: "Phone As A Key technology. Using Bluetooth, the vehicle can detect customers' smartphones as they approach, unlocking the Mach-E and allowing them to start driving without getting their phones out of their pockets or using a key fob. A backup code can be entered on the center touch screen to start and drive the vehicle in the event a phone battery dies."

I'm not sure that's something customers want or need, but that seems to be the way technology is leading us these days. Which brings me back to the overall point of this car: The Big Three auto manufacturers cannot like that upstart Tesla came out of nowhere, became the "It" car, and is now expanding into larger vehicles. Ford, like everyone else, knows they have to go electric to compete. That they chose to slap the Mustang badge on this car makes it seem like this is a marketing-driven vehicle.

Still, I don't doubt that it will sell well. I'm guessing there are enough Boomers with a 60k vehicle budget who well remember the excitement around the original Mustang, released during their youth, and who'd like the benefits of electric. But to me the Mach-E just feels inexorable, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Ford is now taking pre-orders for the car here; a $500 deposit secures yours, which will be ready staring in late 2020.

The Weekly Design Roast, #25

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Children's beds, for parents who are very confident in their stud-finding abilities

Benefits of this Lucite bar stool:

1) Curled bottom area catches and displays bar snack crumbs, spilled beer

2) Clear footrest clearly reveals dirt left from shoe soles

3) Scratches easily

4) Becomes more invisible the more you drink

Some assembly (and PhD in Spatial Geometry) required

"I'm going to climb into our 'sofa' now, which of course requires both arms. Can you throw me that book once I'm in the middle?"

Perfect for holding your coffee while you're walking through rain that's coming in at a 45-degree angle. And you can tip it back to drink when the rain comes in from the other direction at a 45-degree angle.


"Hey Jeff, are you and Stacy free this afternoon? I need some extra hands to turn my seating area back into a white sphere"

"The client I designed this for is a couple that fights a lot, but that still want to watch the same TV shows at the same time"

"Most of the time, it's a chair for one. But it transforms, for those times when you want to sit in a shallow sofa with a backrest at armrest height, and armrests at backrest height, next to someone else."

"By artfully twisting the backrest to change places with the seating surface, I was able to reduce the sofa's capacity from four people to two, without losing the four-person footprint."

This "Telekinetic Obstacle Course" is an alternative to ghosting or having uncomfortable "We need to talk" conversations. Simply put the headset on and stare intently at the objects, saying nothing. After a couple hours/days of this, your girlfriend will break up with you automatically.

Design Job: Combine Your Love of Graphics & Architecture as a Graphic Designer at SHoP Architects

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Company: SHoP Architects Location: US – New York, New York Job Level: GRAPHIC DESIGNER Graphic Designer SHoP is seeking a talented, visionary, and motivated Graphic Designer to join our Identity Team. This position serves as an integral part of our public relations and business development capabilities, working

View the full design job here

Jon Sauer's Incredible Rose Engine Turning Patterns

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

With nearly 30 years of experience on it, Jon Sauer is a master of the tricky-to-use rose engine lathe (which we looked at in "Production Methods: How Complicated Radiating Patterns are Engraved in Metal"). Using this machine here…

…Sauer cranks out ornamental carvings of astonishing intricacy and variety:




He's even released a book of his patterns (though it's currently out of stock) and sells smaller versions of his turnings as buttons on Etsy.

You can see more of Sauer's work here, and/or follow him on Instagram.

The Maximum Viable Product

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

This essay was originally published by Michael DiTullo on LinkedIn

During the summer I drove from San Diego, CA to Portland, OR with my wife and dog. We stopped off in Redding, California, specifically to experience the Calatrava designed pedestrian bridge that crosses the Sacramento River and connects two portions of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. All thanks to my wife and partner, Kristina, who plans all of our travel. Not only is the bridge stunning, like all Calatravas, it is also the world's largest functioning sundial. Did the town of Redding need to hire an internationally renown architect to build this bridge? No they didn't. Could it have cost less? I'm sure it could have cost much less. Would Kristina and I have stopped with our dog Enzo to have lunch and enjoy the town if it was just a regular old bridge connecting two parts of a park? No we wouldn't have. The Turtle Bay Exploration Park was packed on a 90+ degree day. Much of this foot traffic seemed to be for that bridge.

It isn't likely that making a functional sundial was part of the brief sent to Santiago Calatrava. We don't even know if the sundial function was part of his original intent. It is possible that during the iterative process Calatrava realized it started to look like a sundial and he perhaps ran with it. This is the benefit of hiring a well trained, experienced, and high skilled professional for a project and giving them a little room to run. This bridge is not the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). If it was, no one would be there. This is the Maximum Viable Product. This is the most he could get through the system, not the least.

As designers we need to not only know how to get things made (#realdesignersship), and not only solve problems for real users (#usercentereddesign) we also have to convince those that hold the final decision making power in the process that they should help us to build things that people love. The goal is to make something of value not only for its immediate utility, but also something that engages that aspirational side of the human psyche. As designers we can do that a bit more than anyone else in the product development process.

We can never forget to advocate not only for industry. Our products have to be profitable and made within the context of commerce. We have to of course design products for users. If we are not solving real problems for real people, what are we actually doing? To those two things I'd like to add a third defining principle, we have to design for culture. We should at least strive to create things that are embraced by the culture as a whole and encourage people to look up toward the horizon. It is a difficult thing to test for and hard to predict, but we can try. By naming and defining it as a goal we at least have a higher chance of achieving that. I talk about some of these thoughts on the about page of michaelditullo.com but seeing the Sundial Bridge in person really drove it home again. On the flip side, the glass and metal floor of the bridge gets so hot there is a sign warning about dog paws, so I had to carry Enzo across, but we didn't mind :-).


Unocup Duo Designs Dos Into Uno

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Convenience is like coffee (a stimulant), once one gets a taste of it, it's hard to go on without it. Coffee lids, like plastic straws, water bottles, and plastic bags, typify obscene objects of convenience. Briefly utilized, single-use objects that end up having vast, and at this point pretty predictable, long term impact upon the planet. In New York City alone, about 1.5 billion coffee lids are used annually (4 million a day), a slice of the approx. 412,500 lbs of coffee lids that are thrown into the ocean. These large numbers are only a fraction of the actual environmental impact of coffee lids, which also includes the energy used for manufacturing, the extra material (petroleum in the case of many plastics), the shipping, and the storage. Even though many consumers are likely aware that 'disposable' coffee cups are not great for the environment, it's still a struggle to kick that convenience addiction.

Designers Tom Chan and Kaanur Papo don't want to take our convenience from us, but they do think all that waste is troubling. In an attempt to allow habitual coffee consumers around the world to have their coffeecake and eat it too, the duo has developed Unocup, a cup that aims to remove the need for the excess coffee lid, by having the cup's lid built into it's single-material design. The design has been described as, "origami-like," as it relies only on the paper cup material and 3 flaps at the top of the cup that are easily folded to form a lid and opening for sipping. If being eco-friendly isn't enough incentive for users, the cup also claims to offer "less spillage, and sturdier holding" than the lid and cups we're used to.

image courtesy Cara Vision

In my own experience at coffeeshops in New York, the 'disposable' coffee cup and lid is the default. I've yet to encounter a coffeeshop that simply does not offer the 'disposable' cup, but only uses mugs or customer's personal to-go cups. Obviously, this makes sense from a business perspective as the 'disposable' cups and lids meets the industrially-manufactured expectations of the customer: a mode of ingesting coffee that does not require sitting still, and will not be a burden (in the most mild sense) to the customer in any material way. Not to mention the fact that 'disposable' cups are also cheap to manufacture and purchase for businesses. The design of Unocup is an attempt to negotiate with our collective expectations of having coffee-on-the-go. Offering an alternative that is less materials for the consumer to use, and less materials for the business to buy.

image courtesy Cara Vision

Less is good, especially since the 'disposable' coffee cups are rarely ever recycled. With the lids, it is especially terrible as they are often made of centuries-lasting plastics that can often contain harmful chemicals. Even when they are compostable, they still cause big issues if they aren't actually composted. In the US, it isn't as if there are compost bins on every corner, or recycling bins for that matter, and so the likelihood of coffee cups being composted or recycled once a customer leaves the shop drops dramatically. In that sense, all eco-friendly disposable cups are kind of a joke (at least in the US), because obviously to-go cups are explicitly designed to leave the shop.

So if we don't want to change our habits, and if we live in one of the many places where there is no good infrastructure for waste removal, how can we possibly reduce our impact on the environment? Making things simpler might be a start. For businesses switching to the Unocup, it could make sorting trash and trash removal easier. With this single material option, it cuts the amount of necessary sorting in half, making recycling or composting less complicated, which is something that is direly needed in most places.

image courtesy Cara Vision

image courtesy Cara Vision

Making things easier to recycle or compost, makes us all feel better. Which is part of Unocup's goal. To reassure us that we can help the planet, while also drinking from a 'disposable' coffee cup. Typically, when I see "Saving the planet," and "streamlined for mass production," written on the same product page, I am overcome with skepticism. Yet I admit Unocup does offer a notable ecological insight. It reduces. While initial prototypes of the design were called, "Triocup," as the functionality of the cup is contingent on a 3-fold structuring concept. Its new name is much better and ultimately communicates the promise of that reduction: taking two products and making it one, requiring one waste receptacle instead of two.

Lead image photo by Brian Yurasits

Is Apple Sleeping? Motorola Returns to Human-Focused Design Dominance with Their Incredible Folding Smartphone

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago


If there's a flip phone design that you miss, it's likely Motorola's old Razr, or maybe even the Star-Tac. The flip phone era was fun to experience, from a design perspective, because there was plenty of room for designers to experiment; then everything went Glass Rectangle in 2007, and nowadays manufacturers compete on bezel size and technological features we neither want nor need.

Well, Motorola is showing that they're back in the design game with the resurrection of their Razr brand--which handily combines the smartphone and flip phone form factors:




So how did the designers pull that fancy hinge off? The answer is four years and 26 prototypes. Check out how it works:

I think the outer screen that shows notifications, in the phone's compact form, is brilliant. It's the kind of human-focused touch that Apple no longer possesses, and Motorola's design team (and whatever executive backed them) deserves props. Let the other manufacturers chase technological demons inside the glass rectangle. I don't care about face recognition, don't need a better camera, don't care about meaningless size differences on the millimeter scale. What I want is a phone that actually fits in a pocket and where the screen only gets big when I need it to. And Motorola appears to have delivered.

Next we'll have to wait and see if the thing is actually durable. Fingers crossed.

Michelin Challenges Creatives to <i style="">Upcycle</i>

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago


Michelin North America is celebrating its 20th global design competition, Michelin Challenge Design, in 2020 by challenging entrants to Upcycle previously recognized works.

"The world is pursuing ways to do more with less by using fewer resources and raw materials in the creation of innovative solutions for people, the planet and the economy," said Nick Mailhiot, chairman of Michelin Challenge Design.

Artists, designers, engineers, architects, urban planners, futurists or teams are challenged to find a second life or purpose beyond reusing and recycling from one or more of 300 previously recognized Michelin Challenge Design entries.

The entries should visually communicate how their repurposed Upcycle design increases societal, environmental or economic value.



Three winners will be honored at a private reception during the Movin'On global sustainable mobility summit, June 3–5, 2020, in Montreal, where their winning entries will be displayed, and design portfolios reviewed and networking opportunities with Michelin Challenge Design jurors.

Portfolio Review: 2019 Michelin Challenge Design second place winner Robert Crick (UK) (center) presents his portfolio to Craig Metros (Ford), Chris Chapman (Hyundai), and Stewart Reed (Jury Chairman) during the Movin'On Summit in Montreal as winner Jintae Tak looks on.

Created by Michelin in 2001 to encourage and recognize young designers around the world, Michelin Challenge Design has become one of the most prestigious global design competitions. Jury members are the advanced design leaders for major mobility producers and experts from the global sustainable mobility community.

Through the first 19 challenges, Michelin has received more than 14,000 entries from 134 countries.

Recent winners and finalists have included entries from: South Korea, India, United Kingdom, Russia, Algeria, United States, Italy, Germany, Columbia, France, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Czech Republic, Australia, Indonesia, Belgium, Turkey, Mexico, Albania and Bahrain.

You can see all the previous winners of the Michelin Challenge Design on their website. Below is a video documenting the finalists and jury members from the 2019 competition.

Anyone interested in preregistering can do so now at www.michelinchallengedesign.com. The entry portal for submissions will open Jan. 1, 2020, and close on March 1, 2020.



Facadism: When Architects are Forced to Design New Buildings Behind Existing Facades

Core 77 - 19 hours 24 min ago

Over a decade ago, an anonymous writer/photographer known as "Gentle Author" set out to write 10,000 stories, at a rate of one per day, about life in London's Spitalfields district. (To our largely Yank audience: Spitalfields could roughly be likened to Manhattan's Lower East Side--formerly working-class, later seeing an influx of creatives and new immigrants, now grown eclectic but gentrified.) The resultant blog is Spitalfields Life, and Gentle Author's deep archive shows that s/he stuck to the plan and aims to complete it.

Among the many urban phenomena within walking distance of GA's stretch of London are multiple examples of a peculiar architectural occurrence: What GA calls "facadism the unfortunate practice of destroying everything apart from the front wall and constructing a new building behind it."

UCL student housing in Caledonian Rd, winner of the Carbuncle Cup 2013. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

Whenever you see an old facade with a new structure behind it, this tells you that a building of distinction once stood there that could not simply be demolished and the compromise which arose was to keep the front wall. None of these facaded buildings should have been destroyed, but it happens because the economic forces driving redevelopment are greater than the legislation to protect what exists already. The recent rise in façadism is a barometer of how far the power balance has shifted away from conservation towards redevelopment. The result has been the loss of too many important and attractive old buildings that once enhanced our city and their replacement with generic monoliths.

Bayswater Rd. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

No-one believes the original building still exists because the front wall still stands. There are a few examples where an attempt has been made to hide the join but, in my experience, this is a fiction that developers do not strive to maintain. Mostly, retaining the facade is an unwelcome condition of planning permission when their preference would have been complete demolition. Abnegating responsibility, the developers either complain that they were forced to keep the front wall or occasionally boast that they retained the period features, while the local community grieves that a beloved building and landmark has been destroyed. Nobody really wins and the uneasy physical form of the buildings manifests the tensions which arise in such compromises.

Staycity Aparthotel, Blackheath Rd, Deptford. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

The front wall alone can never be a sufficient replacement for the loss of a building. Even the assumption that it could be raises questionable notions about how we experience the urban landscape. Cynically, it implies we perceive the world as mere surface and it does not matter if what is behind changes, as long as the superficial appearance is preserved. Yet a facade becomes a mask when it conceals a building's change of use – from a philanthropic institution into luxury flats or from a public building into a corporate headquarters – distracting our attention from the reality of the transformation.

Union Hall, Union Street, Borough, opened as Surrey Magistrates Court in 1782, facaded for offices in 2005. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

Unsurprisingly, architects dislike the requirement of incorporating an existing facade into a new building, which may have been conceived in the hope of fulfilling their own design without such compromise. Yet too often financial subservience overrides self-respect in these cases. No wonder the treatment of the facade is often perfunctory and the resentment is visible. These circumstances explain the strange discontinuities in this hybrid architecture where sometimes a gap is inserted between the facade and the building, and the architectural styles of the facade and the new building are often at odds with each other. It is disappointing when architects pay so little attention to the architectural whole and the rest of us have to live with these grotesque monsters that confront us only with what we have lost.

Archway Rd, Highgate. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

Replica of the facade of Gaumont Cinema 1914 built in 2018 in Pitfield St, Hoxton. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

Corner of Berwick St & Broadwick St, Soho. (Image via Spitalfields Life)

Gentle Author has amassed enough examples of this practice that s/he's released a 122-page book full of them, The Creeping Plague of Ghastly Facadism. The cover's quite cheeky, as it's got both an outer and inner cover:

You can order the book here, and you can check out the original Spitalfields Life blog here.

Amcor boldly leads industry conversation with ‘Choose Plastic’ initiative

Design News - Mon, 2019-11-18 09:42

As a global leader in developing and producing responsible packaging for food and beverage, pharmaceutical, medical, home and personal care, and other products, Amcor is boldly stepping up to the plate to promote plastics as the material of choice. With a goal of educating consumers, customers and other stakeholders on the benefits of plastic packaging, Amcor (Ann Arbor, MI) recently launched a “Choose Plastic” marketing campaign. The multi-pronged initiative, which includes a new web page, an informative brochure and other materials, is designed to:

  • Tell the “PET story” with truth, strength and conviction, clearing up common misperceptions regarding plastic packaging;
  • demonstrate where PET stands versus other packaging types, including glass, cans and Tetra aseptic boxes;
  • help customers educate their employees, legislators and consumers on the benefits of plastic packaging.

“Plastic packaging gives our customers a safe, responsible and recyclable way to deliver products to their consumers,” said Eric Roegner, President of Amcor Rigid Packaging (ARP). “PET is infinitely recyclable and its carbon footprint is less than glass and other packaging materials. But there is still room for improvement, which is why we are working together with our customers and industry partners to boost recycling rates, increase the proportion of recycled content in the plastics we use, and reduce the waste in landfills and nature. Our goal is to create an overall positive impact for all stakeholders.”

Not only are PET bottles and jars lightweight, shatterproof, transparent, recloseable and resealable, studies also show that they are infinitely recyclable, generate up to 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other packaging types, require fewer fossil fuels to produce than aluminum cans and cost less to transport than glass. Additionally, 90% of the PET that goes into recycling bins gets recycled, while only 49% of cans, 40% of glass and 16% of Tetra aseptic boxes get recycled.

Roegner also noted that 97% of Amcor Rigid Packaging’s bottles and jars are designed to be recyclable. The company has pledged to develop all of its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025.

In addition, Amcor is working with organizations such as the Plastics Industry Association, NAPCOR and The Recycling Partnership to promote plastics, increase recycling rates and drive greater use of post-consumer materials. Amcor is also working with environmental organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Trash Free Seas Alliance to eliminate plastic waste.

“PET has a positive story to tell,” added Roegner. “Together with industry partners, we want to make sure that story gets told.”

8 Great Movies With Heroic Engineering

Design News - Mon, 2019-11-18 05:00

The new film, Ford v Ferrari, has us thinking about other movies where engineers get their due for problem-solving and invention. These aren't space operas or faster-than-light theories, but real problems solved by methodical processes.

Apollo 13. Engineers on the ground scramble to save astronauts from an accident in space.

Ford v Ferrari. Race engineers methodically solve the problems with a race car to make it faster and more durable.

The Martian. An astronaut stranded on Mars improvises with the assets at his disposal to survive.

The Aviator. Howard Hughes advances aircraft design with inspired engineering.

No Highway in the Sky. An aerospace engineer troubleshoots metal fatigue on a new airliner -- while flying on the plane.

October Sky. A coal miner in West Virginia designs rockets in response to President Kennedy's call to surpass the Soviets.

The World's Fastest Indian. Inventive New Zealand motorcycle racer continuously improves the design of his streamliner Indian motorcycle to break speed records.

From the Earth to the Moon, episode 5, Spider. The fifth episode of HBO's miniseries on the Apollo program focuses on how the engineers at Grumman Aviation overcame weight constraints to develop the lunar module.

Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.

Using Batch Manufacturing to Produce Personal Products

Design News - Mon, 2019-11-18 04:30

Of all professions, musicians are certainly the most attached to the craftsmanship of their instruments. In an age where repetitive tasks are increasingly assigned to machinery, recreating the magic of a custom-made guitar is an invaluable advantage.  

Fender, symbol of musical revolution whose products are associated to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, are now providing their customers with an online guitar mass customization tool. The service allows users to choose between several famous designs, wood patterns and colors to make every guitar unique. This service demonstrates that customization is not only possible, but profitable.

With the help of versatile machinery, repetitive tasks can be automated despite variation between products. (Image source: EU Automation)

An industry trend involving mass customizable products has been predicted as far back as 1992 by author B. Joseph Pine II. In the following years, established brands have attempted to test the waters around the optimal compromise between personalization and low-cost production. From editable Marmite jar labels to Coca Cola logos being replaced with consumers’ names, customization has demonstrated its efficacy in attracting the public eye.

According to Capgemini, personalized marketing is a priority for 90 per cent of all marketing and communication professionals. To achieve this goal, however, it is necessary to stay updated on customer trends to ensure your product is customized in a desirable way.

Target a Larger Market

Successfully pivoting from a mass production system to one focused on mass customization can be challenging. Manufacturing often incentivizes highly specialized machinery, making custom production lines for every variation of a product an inefficient tactic. The difficulties customization brings towards scalability can appear to cancel out the advantageous flexibility small producers benefit from.

While the shift towards personalized products may be challenging, the rewards it offers decisively outweigh the costs. As customers can create a stronger feeling of ownership over customized items, customers that were previously outside of your target audience are now more likely to find value in your product.

Most importantly, customized items require user input to be produced in the first place. This level of communication between customer and manufacturer ensures that production accurately mirrors demand, reducing costs for storage and money lost in unsold goods.

Opportunity to Automate

Flexibility is just one example of how customization can benefit businesses willing to invest in small batch manufacturing. With the help of versatile machinery, repetitive tasks can be automated despite variation between products. This approach allows manufacturers to have one standardized approach, saving significant margins in organizational and management costs.

One example of a small business that benefitted from automating mass customization is Voodoo manufacturing. The Brooklyn-based 3D printing company has integrated mobile cobots in its production line, using them to free up printers once their current task is complete. Helpfully, the mechanical arms are able to handle products of multiple sizes and shapes, allowing high degrees of customization.

Voodoo manufacturing immediately noticed the benefits of their approach. Since no human workers are needed for a batch to be produced, the 3D printers can keep producing products throughout the night. More efficient use of machinery allows the manufacturer not only to take on larger and more challenging projects, but also to deliver existing products in almost half the time.

The Software and Hardware Involved

Mass customization can be demanding on the software capabilities of a manufacturer, as well as its hardware.

For those truly looking for the most advanced software tactic, digital twinning allows for a manufacturing process that can predict failures ahead of time. Simulating your manufacturing process using data from smart sensors could allow batches to be virtually tested. Testing if products or cosmetic customization are preferable ahead of time allows manufacturers to choose the option that is most effective, without wasting valuable materials.

However, when starting a mass customization process, obtaining new hardware will be the first step to a new line of production. Having quick and reliable access to new and obsolete machinery can provide a further degree of freedom to customization. In fact, sourcing the right industrial components is central to creating a manufacturing process that is not only efficient, but also malleable to new designs, particularly if customization requests span outside of the expected fields.

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If you want to join the mass customization movement or test the waters with products outside of your company’s traditional repertoire, find out how EU Automation’s global network of industrial automation parts can help you to take on the same levels of customization, workmanship and pride as the customer guitar creators. Jimi Hendrix may have sung “Wait Until Tomorrow,” but there really is no time like today. 

Mark Howard is the North America country manager at industrial equipment supplier EU Automation. Mark and his multi-lingual team scour the globe to find quality obsolete, new and reconditioned parts to get industrial machines back up and running.

How AI at the Edge Is Defining Next-Generation Hardware Platforms

Design News - Mon, 2019-11-18 04:00

The Center for Advanced Electronics through Machine Learning (CAEML) has been very active in the newly-established machine learning track at DesignCon, helping to present many quality papers from the hardware design community.

Celebrating its third anniversary this year, CAEML has been at the forefront of machine learning and its applications in hardware and electronic design. Much of the center's research has direct applications in the area of hardware and device management through machine-learned inference – from proactive hardware failure predictions, to complex performance modeling through surrogate models, to high dimensional time series prediction for resource forecasting.

This article will take a look at some of the results of this research and its applications for AI-defined, next-generation hardware platforms.

IoT Is Demanding AI at the Edge

There has been an explosive growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in recent years. Analysts at Gartner predict the IoT will produce about $2 trillion US in economic benefit in the next five to 10 years. Managing so many devices becomes a major challenge. And to that effect, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has come up with a three-tier framework to manage IoT devices: enterprise, platform, and edge.

Of the three tiers, managing IoT at the edge tier has become one of the hottest topics in recent years. As seen in Figure 1, the initial generation of IoT management was cloud-centric, where sensor data were collected from the field, then processed and analyzed at the enterprise or platform tier. However, a tremendous amount of data needs to flow back to the cloud and a huge amount of data processing power is needed to structure and analyze it.

Figure 1: The three-tier IoT management framework.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), combined with availability of various field sensor data, allows for intelligent IoT management using AI at the edge. When inference happens at the edge, the net traffic flowing back to the cloud is greatly reduced, while the response time for IoT devices will be cut to a minimum since management decisions will be available on premise (or on-prem), close to the devices.

Figure 2: Cloud-based IoT management.

A good amount of research has been done in the area of AI inference at the edge to support IoT devices. The bulk big data collection of sensor data and training of AI engines can be done at the enterprise or platform tier and the resulting AI models can be downloaded into the edge tier and intelligent management through inference of sensor data.

A variety of scaled-down AI hardware, such as GPUs, vector processors, and FPGAs, has been proposed to provide the efficient and cost-effective inference at the edge. This is possible because typical IoT functions are relatively simple and repetitive. A well-trained model can be easily fitted into a simple inference engine and perform the necessary tasks.

Figure 3: IoT management using edge inference.

 

Small, Medium, and Deep Learning Models for Edge-based AI

It is easy to assume the edge tier approach with simple GPU inference hardware for IoT can be scaled up for more complex hardware system such as compute server, storage, or network system management. However, upon close examination of the applications for complex hardware system management, the answer is not that simple. We can roughly divide the challenges for complex hardware system management at the edge into three groups: small learning; medium learning; and deep learning models.

Figure 4: Three classes of models for edge inference.

The small learning models represent machine learning inference models that have a feature size that is less than 100. They are typically reliability-related applications such as hardware/software failure predictions and security applications such as ransomware detection. While the models can be small due to the small feature sizes, their throughput may be high (up to millions of inference/second) and the latency expectation can be very low (less than millisecond response time for security/detection applications).

The medium learning models are machine learning inference models that have a feature size above 100 and can go up to hundreds. They represent complex system performance models that can be used to perform dynamic system optimizations such as application latency, file system throughput, or high speed channel optimization. Applications’ tuning and channel optimization are typically more tolerant of response time (in seconds or tens of seconds) and their throughput will be less due to finite channels and applications running at a time in a system.

The deep learning models are high dimensional models that have a feature size exceeding 1000. They represent models that require the highest compute power to train and perform inference. They represent customer demand resources such as network or data forecasting in a cloud or enterprise environment. Fortunately, these kinds of resources forecast are limited to minutes to tens-of-minute time intervals. However, since most of the clouds or enterprise environments are different and will be constantly changing, online training is a must for these deep learning models.

Researching Small and Medium Models for Inference at the Edge

CAEML has been conducting a lot of research around the above three models.

The small learning models are mostly ensemble predictive classifiers (for failure prediction or application detection) or abnormal detection classifiers (for virus or ransomware detection). It has been shown that causal inference is a very useful tool for feature selections for these types of classifiers.

As shown in Figure 5, as sensor signals or system status are being collected, causal inference can be used to detect which of the signals are useful for the prediction classifier and the optimal sampling window to feed into the classifier.

Figure 5: Causal inference for feature selection and sample window setting.

In CAEML’s research, it has been shown that causal inference can result in a reduction in needed sensor/system signals by removing unnecessary or dependent signals. The result is a net decrease in network traffic and storage needed for sensor signals.

Also, because the time interval for each signal can be optimally set, it enhances the accuracy of the prediction results. Better accuracy with less traffic was one of the key factors that Hewlett Packard to deploy a proactive hardware failure prediction service in its Enterprise Infosight solution, for example.

Going forward, it has been observed that ensemble classifiers are not beneficial for normal AI hardware such as GPUs with vector processing.

Table 1: Relative execution time for ensemble classifier multi-core processor (Sk-learn) vs. GPU (CUDA-Tree). Larger is longer execution.

As shown in Table 1, execution time for 10-50K ensemble classification took longer using a GPU than a multiprocessor CPU. This is because most ensemble classifiers induce a lot of branch divergence in the GPU that results in significant degradation in performance. New proposals are being made at CAEML to investigate special hardware that can accelerate these kinds of classifiers for security applications at the edge.

CAEML has also investigated using generative surrogate models for system performance prediction and optimization. Generative models are machine learning models that solve for joint distribution of the inputs and outputs together – i.e. given an output from a system, what is the likely distribution of the inputs that will result in such output?

Figure 6: A generative system model.

This is different from discriminative models, which are the conditional probability of an output given a set of inputs – i.e. what will be the output given a set of inputs?

Figure 7: A discriminative system model

CAEML researchers from Georgia Tech published an excellent paper on using a generative polynomial chaotic expansion surrogate model for performance prediction at DesignCon 2019. Normally these generative models are very complex and can be limited by the curse of dimensionality in practice. However, a previous DesignCon paper by Hewlett Packard Enterprise has shown a high dimensional system performance model can be mapped to a lower dimensional vector principal component analysis (PCA) space. A generative surrogate model in PCA space will be an ideal method to handle the medium learning performance tuning and predictions.

Figure 8: Speed up of optimization steps by optimizing in PCA space instead of original feature space.

Deep Learning for Inference at the Edge

For high dimensional deep learning models, CAEML researchers have looked into using deep Markovian models (DMM) or long short-term models (LSTM) for high dimensional time series predictions. This model is very similar to smart grid power demand forecast that involves thousands of households or hundreds of cities in a state.

Typically, an observation window is set up and demands are sampled at a regular interval to give demand forecast in the next few hours to 24 hours ahead. Because the resource demand of a complex cloud or enterprise system is very different between customers and changes over time, it is necessary to have online training in addition to inference at the edge. This is the highest compute resource needed for edge inference/training.

Figure 9 illustrates the complexity and difficulty of inference at the edge for complex compute, network, and storage systems. IoT devices can utilize a pre-trained model and set up the edge inference engine pipeline to handle the simple inference with tremendous throughput with their GPU vector processors with multi-threading.

Figure 9: Smart grid power consumption prediction showing dependency on time of day and day of week.

In compute, storage, and network systems, multiple types of inference (small, medium, and deep learning models) that require different time intervals (from milliseconds, to seconds, to tens of minutes) are not ideal for multi-threading vector processors as the inference tasks are constantly switching between various models.

As illustrated in the Table 2, below, as the number of samples increases, the GPU performance degrades faster than a multicore CPU. Therefore, it is important to consider the complexity of the inference at the edge before committing the necessary hardware to support the inference task.

Number of Samples

(Million)

Sk-learn on

multi-core CPU

(Seconds)

CUDA-Forest on

Nvidia GPU

(Seconds)

Improvement

(X)

1

4.4

13.1

2.9

2

8.1

31.1

3.8

4

15.2

53.0

3.5

CAEML researchers have provided the necessary algorithms and methodologies for developing edge inference for all three classes of models. However, it is up to individual member companies to apply these technologies and tailor them for their own deployment.

Chris Cheng is a distinguished technologist on the hardware machine learning team at Hewlett Packard's enterprise storage division. He is also chairman of CAEML’s industrial advisory board and co-chair of the machine learning track at DesignCon.

3D-Printed Artificial Coral Designed to Bolster Endangered Reefs

Design News - Mon, 2019-11-18 03:30

Coral reefs are one of the nature eco-systems that are being affected by global climate change, and scientists are seeking ways to help save the marine life that depends on them for sustenance.

One solution to help improve the health of coral reefs comes from researchers at the University of Delaware, who have found that 3D-printed coral models can supplement depleted coral resources and still help maintain a healthy marine system.

Shown here are 3D-printed coral models of Acropora formosa, a type of coral found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The 3D printed models of differing complexity were secured to an area of a reef with low-complexity, then observed to understand which habitat the fish preferred. (Source: University of Delaware)

The team, led by Associate Professor Danielle Dixson, came upon their solution while researching another idea, she told Design News. Dixson is a researcher in the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s School of Marine Science and Policy.

“We were initially interested in investigating the role of topographic complexity--how many tiny holes there are for animals to hide in--on coral reefs,” said Dixson. “To do this study, we needed to come up with a way to create more and less topographically complex structures to test our research hypothesis. Using 3D printing allowed us to image a real coral and then add or subtract branches, keeping the relative size the same but changing how complex the print was.”

The team later realized their invention could help solve a real-world problem—to help some of the fish in coral reefs still have places to live in safety. “Coral reefs are under threat from a number of different environmental stressors,” including climate change, tourism damage and boat damage, hurricanes etc.,” said Dixson. “Either way, reefs are often left after a stressful event with less topographic complexity.”

Without this protection, these marine creatures could die prematurely. “Topographic complexity is really important because it provides space for small fish, especially juveniles, and invertebrates to live in,” said Dixson.

A New Solution

Dixon noted there already is a solution being used to replace damaged parts of reefs, but they each have their own drawbacks. “Current restoration methods rely on outplanting coral fragments into reefs that have begun to degrade,” said Dixon.“While there are benefits to this, the coral fragments are often small, and the corals that are fragmented are typically the species that have the best survivorship and the best growth rate after outplanting. These are not necessarily the most important corals or the most structurally complex corals.”

The process also is extremely time consuming because corals growth very slowly, so the fragments need a lot of time to reach a size that can help organisms on the reef, she said. “The 3D prints solve these issues,” said Dixson.

The team tested their solution with damselfish that live in the tropical waters off the island of Fiji. What they found is that 3D-printed objects do not impact the behavior of the damsel fish or the survival of a settling stony coral.

They fabricated their 3D coral in a 3D printer by replicating a coral skeleton using 50 iPhone images of the coral taken from all angles. They printed four different artificial coral models from low-cost, widely available filaments, including polyester and two biodegradable materials--one made from cornstarch and another made from cornstarch combined with stainless steel powder.

The team published a paper on their work in the journal PLOS.

Field Tests and Fish Behavior

In their tests, Dixson and her team discovered that fish showed no preference between materials used to 3D-print artificial corals. This allowed researchers to use a biodegradable corn-based PLA, which naturally degrades over time. The team deployed artificial coral made of this material to help replenish the coral on the Fiji reef, where they are currently observing the results.

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The solution is meant to be temporary and promote the growth of natural coral, with the artificial material eventually dissolving and giving way to new corals. “The corals are able to have real coral larvae settle on them and grow into corals, so it is our hope and hypothesis that the corals could be put on a reef and would naturally become covered with live corals,” said Dixson. “Live corals take a long time to grow into a substantial structure, so while they are growing the 3D artificial corals can work as a temporary refuge for fish and invertebrates that rely on complex habitat.”

The team is currently conducting field trials to examine more closely how animals interact with the prints in a natural setting, and expect to base future research using artificial coral on these results.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

 
DesignCon: By Engineers, For Engineers

January 28-30: North America's largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!