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The Making of an EV Advocate

Design News - 10 hours 1 min ago
Chelsea Sexton became an EV advocate after helping GM launch its EV1. (Image source: Chelsea Sexton)

Long before the Tesla Roadster, Chevrolet Volt, and Nissan Leaf, the first purpose-designed production electric vehicle (EV) from a major manufacturer in the modern era was the GM EV1. Produced from 1996 to 1999, and available for lease only, the EV1 (the only passenger car sold under the GM brand name) quickly developed a devoted and nearly fanatical group of “owners.” They were among the first modern US motorists to experience the excitement of electrical propulsion.

“Mentally, intellectually, the technology appeals to me, but what actually decided the course of my life in this was driving it for the first time,” Chelsea Sexton told Design News. Sexton was working for a Saturn Dealer in California when she heard that GM was looking to hire a dozen GM representatives to help launch the EV1. Although she was working at the dealership to pay her way through college, and GM wanted people with engineering degrees, she applied and was accepted to help launch the car at the end of 1996.

Jack of All Trades

“Initially, it was just meant to be a marketing job, but it ended up being everything but building the car,” explained Sexton. “Yes, it was marketing, but it was also training the dealers, and rating the training, and writing the brochures, and getting them produced, and creating all the public policy and incentives, and teaching the DMV how to register an electric car. We all had contractor licenses because we were getting chargers installed in people’s houses and in public,” she added.

Sexton was quickly drawn into the EV world. “What really drew me to the electric car was the performance. I was not a car person growing up, but I very much became one. I was blown away by the performance!” she said. “My life on that program lasted about six years. The first year and a half or two years were fairly bright and shiny, in terms of enthusiasm. There were small incremental shifts that became clear after the second or third year that they (GM) really didn’t want to do this,” said Sexton.

Crushing Dreams

GM’s EV1 program was discontinued in 2003 and, as the cars were only available through leasing, all of the cars were repossessed by GM. The lessors—many of whom loved their electric vehicles—were given no opportunity to buy their cars. Except for 40 EV1s that were deactivated and donated to museums and technical schools, the remaining almost 1,100 cars were crushed, sadly ending GM’s first foray into EVs.

“When the program ended, I couldn’t imagine going to work on the next Buick, and I left company—but I still never left EVs,” explained Sexton. “I did them independently for a while. I helped start Plug-in America, we did some protesting, we did all sorts of things. But while I had a couple of day jobs to help pay the rent, I pretty much never left EVs in some form since the mid-1990s,” she said.

The GM EV1 (1996-1999) was the first electric vehicle from a mass-production automaker in the modern era. (Image source: General Motors)

Dark Times

“The mid-2000s were darker years—there were still some things going on, but it was mostly off the beaten path stuff,” said Sexton. “From a vehicular standpoint, there were a few little automakers, but the main thing in the mid- to late-2000s, before the new generation launched, was the years of Prius conversions into plug-in hybrids.” Prius owners could purchase aftermarket kits that would increase the battery capacity of their cars to allow more pure EV range. “I was still involved, but those were the years that were primarily advocacy. There was a lot of policy work driving the conversations,” she explained.

The next generation of EV started in 2011 with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf and with the 2012 launch of the Tesla Model S. “I was really happy for the Leaf and the Volt. At the same time, we were obviously, understandably, a little bit skeptical,” said Sexton. “What was frustrating was for years after 2011 (along with Tesla), it was just those same three automakers. There were no sincere entrants beyond those three companies for years,” she said.

New Generation

Today, a new generation of electric vehicles is beginning to arrive with much longer range (over 200 miles). Every major automaker has made it clear that electrification is in their mid- and long-term future plans. “Yes, there are companies, especially on the premium side, that are aiming at longer and longer range. And there are cars like the (Chevrolet) Bolt that are aiming at longer range while trying to remain reasonably affordable. There is still a legitimate, but often overlooked place for things like the new Nissan Leaf, with a 150-mile range but still trying to get the price down—not trying to be all things to all people,” Sexton said.

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While Sexton can appreciate the engineering that is applied to the design and building of electric vehicles, she does not believe that it is only technology that will result in the acceptance of EVs. “We tend to get so obsessed with really granular things like battery cost parity, and assign all of future EV success to that one thing. It doesn’t matter what the costs of batteries are to some degree, because the success of electrification—and by extension, autonomy and a lot of other related technologies—is far more dependent on other things, like geographic distribution, emotionally compelling marketing, and stuff that is not necessarily within the wheelhouse of many engineers. But it matters very much to their careers and the success of their company,” Sexton explained to Design News.

Chelsea Sexton will provide the second-day keynote address at The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan on September 12 from 9:45-10:30 am. Her talk, “Driving Toward the Tipping Point in EV Adoption,” will explore her take on the three most important (and surprising) factors that the EV market needs to consider as it moves forward. It promises to be enlightening to both engineers and marketers whose success depends upon the public acceptance of the electrification of transportation.

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

North America's Premier Battery Conference.
The Battery Show, Sept. 11-13, 2018, in Novi, MI, will feature a keynote speech from Chelsea Sexton, along with more than 100 other technical discussions covering topics ranging from new battery technologies to thermal management. Register for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.

 

Researchers Print Microelectrodes on Gummy Candies for New Medical Applications

Design News - 11 hours 1 min ago

Though they are best known as a popular candy, gummy bears have found a different use as a transport for microelectrodes with increased biocompatibility, thanks to researchers from the Technical University of Munich.

A team there, collaborating with researchers at Germany’s Forschungszentrum Jülich Institute, has successfully used inkjet printing to attach microelectrode arrays to soft substrates including the gummy candies. This approach makes it easier than ever to use this technology in medical or biological applications, researchers said.

“Usually, microelectrode arrays are fabricated with optical lithography in the clean room, and we have for some time used clean-room fabricated devices for a variety of applications—including electrochemical sensing and stimulation of cells on a chip in vitro,” Bernhard Wolfrum, an assistant professor in electrical, electronic, and computer engineering at the university, explained to Design News.

Researchers in Germany used a gummy bear as one of several soft materials for which, utilizing an inkjet printer, they fabricated microelectrode arrays on more bio-compatible substrates. (Image source: Technical University of Munich)

These arrays can be used in numerous applications including, for example, to detect voltage changes resulting from activity in neurons or muscle cells to directly measure electrical signals in the brain or heart, he said.

However, while microelectronic sensors have been used for many years in medical and laboratory applications, they typically are made from hard materials, such as silicon. This is a disadvantage when they come into contact with living cells. In the body, for example, these hard materials can trigger inflammation or the loss of organ functionalities.

“As different applications require different designs—concerning both layout and materials—we have been looking for some time into simpler fabrication processes that can be easily adapted without the prior need of mask production,” Wolfrum explained.

Driven by an interest in developing a fast and cheap process for the rapid prototyping of a microelectrode array on soft hydrogels, researchers worked with a high-tech version of an inkjet printer to print the electrodes with carbon-based ink. To prevent the sensors from picking up stray signals, they used a neutral protective layer that they added to the carbon paths.

A gummy bear was just one of the materials used in the work. Others included polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, which is a soft form of silicon; agarose, a substance used in biology experiments; and various forms of gelatin, which included a gummy bear that was first melted and then allowed to harden.

“The technique allows us to rapidly fabricate different layouts of carbon-based microelectrode arrays on a variety of soft substrates—such as hydrogels—which is not easily done using conventional microfabrication,” Wolfrum said. “Furthermore, the printing approach makes it possible to readily modify the design layout without the prior production of lithography masks.”

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The method developed by the team can be used beyond rapid prototyping in research. It could also change the way medical patients are treated by allowing for soft structures to be used to monitor nerve or heart functions in the body or even serve as a pacemaker inside the body, Wolfrum said.

The team plans to continue its work to print more complex three-dimensional microelectrode arrays, researchers said. They also plan to study how printable sensors react selectively to chemical substances—not only voltage fluctuations—to inform further research.

“The possibility to quickly adapt the geometric layout of the interface and materials may help us to develop more efficient devices for cell stimulation and recording,” Wolfrum said. “Apart from this, one of the [other] aspects we are interested in is the development of printed 3D stimulation and recording devices that allow applications beyond the classical planar structures typically used in cell-culture experiments.”

Researchers published a paper on their work in the Nature journal Flexible Electronics.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 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.

 

Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to submit your registration inquiry today!

Here's Everything That Happened at Our Core77 Design Awards West Coast Celebration

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

We had so much fun at our 2018 Core77 Design Awards celebration at Kickstarter in New York last month that we decided to do it all over again in San Francisco! This time the party was generously sponsored by NewDealDesign and took place on their breathtaking office roof deck on Thursday, June 28th on a beautiful, clear evening in the Bay Area. The party was attended by some of this year's winners, jury team members, and other Core77 fans, which made for a night hard to forget!

Here's a look into what went down:

The bar was situated in front of this beautiful mural in the middle of the NewDealDesign offices.There were tasty snacks on hand including local cheeses and produceA big hit at the party was our Core77 craft table, which included screenprinting......and buttonmaking!Attendees got to take home their own handmade tote bags. The night of the party included picturesque San Francisco weatherOur celebration included mainstays like the silver 77s.......as well as some new twists that are still, well, totally in the tradition of Core77. The outdoor deck featured some very smooth stylings courtesy of Core77's original mascot, Diablo Diseño.  Core77 parties are the best place for networking, as perfectly demonstrated by this handshake photo! NewDeal's office is decked out with fun games like cornhole and ping pong, which were popular activities at the partyCore77 co-founder Eric Ludlum and Senior Producer Allison Fonder took a moment to congratulate this year's award winners and thank the 2018 jury team members, awards sponsors and party sponsors.1A group photo of the San Francisco crew of winners and jury team members! Congratulations to all!Core77 also took a moment to honor San Francisco-based Astro Studios and Mira Prism for their 2018 Covestro Materials Prize in this year's design awards. Seen here are Jeffrey Kozody and Brian Tracy (Covestro) alongside Oliver Henderson and Sean Missal (Astro Studios) as well as Eric Ludlum and Allison Fonder (Core77)Our generous hosts at NewDealDesign had a photo op featuring the Play Impossible Gameball, a project designed by them that won a 2018 Core77 Design Awards Interaction Award!  

Thanks for another year of partying hard, Core77-ers, and congratulations once again to all of this year's winners!

Click here to check out our full list of 2018 Core77 Design Awards winners

Evita Bouwmeester's Scanned and Rearranged Footwear Designs are Challenging the Fast Fashion Model

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Has anyone else become exhausted from seeing every brand on the face of the earth from Zara to Balenciaga to Nike attempt to wow teens with their latest iteration or rerelease of the dad shoe? All the different options now blend together, and I'm beginning to yearn for the day the trend cycles out (except putting comfort first, that can stay forever). This one track industry mind makes it exceptionally difficult to discover footwear designers exploring other ideas outside of the dad space. Cue my excitement when stumbling upon recent Artez Institute of the Arts and Dutch Shoe Academy grad Evita Bouwmeester's fascinating footwear collection while browsing one of my favorite resources, Concept Kicks.


Bouwmeester's  footwear collection, aptly titled Régénéré, aims to counteract the fast fashion model where clothing and shoes are copied by brands at all price points, forcing the industries to move at a quicker pace and use cheaper materials to keep up—like with the dad shoe. To create the collection's trippy silhouettes, Bouwmeester used a scanner to copy and rearrange design details found on popular sneakers. Some of the shoes even feature double mid- and outsoles, flipped and piled on top of one another. 

"My graduation collection Régénéré derives from my interest in the fashion industry, where high production speed, low prices and rapidly rotating collections define the industry. The fashion industry has changed into a productive machine, new collections are developed under high pressure, demanding products to be in store within weeks. As a consequence of this circulation speed, various items of the fast-fashion brands/chains, such as Zara and H&M, are inspired by or copied from collections of high-end fashion brands like Balenciaga, Prada or Chanel. To enable this process, the fast-fashion industry applies downgrading of product quality, material use and detailing of the exclusive-fashion. In fast-fashion it is not the question whether copying is used, but where and when inspiration turns into imitation.

In my research, I examine the possibility of breaking this fast-fashion circuit and thereby discuss the consumerism and our production needs within fashion. By using double, or even triple copies, I try to reach absolute limits of possibilities and, consequently, re-assess our meaning of originality and authenticity. By recopying, throughout a scanner, I aim to create a new shaping language, which transforms the already copied fast-fashion item into high-fashion footwear."

Régénéré is a beacon of hope, proving young designers are aware of fast fashion's problematic nature, especially when it comes to overwhelming repetition and low industry standards. Bouwmeester couldn't have designed this collection at a more appropriate time.

3D printing processUsing a scanner to copy and rearrange design details

Announcing the Winners of Our 2018 Core77 Design Awards Community Choice Prize

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

The votes are in! After tallying up your votes on who had the most exciting work of 2018 in the Core77 Design Awards, we have a grand prize winner of this year's Community Choice prize as well as 13 category winners.

The grand prize winner doesn't just earn a brag-able title, they're also taking home a ticket to our 2018 Core77 Conference taking place this fall in New York!

The 2018 Core77 Conference takes place in Brooklyn on October 25th and will focus on starting and running a design business or launching your own product line. We hope this conference will help provide our winner with tangible skills to take their design ideas to market and realize their dreams!

Grand Prize Winner: Design Build: Street Seats

This undergraduate course at The School of Constructed Environments at Parsons School of Design that enables students to partner with the New York City Department of Transportation to design and build social public city spaces in underused street space garnered the most votes from the Core77 community. As stated in their project brief, Street Seats' aim is to promote urban social and environmental sustainability—"the class is predicated on collaboration and the idea that a group can accomplish what an individual cannot."

A big congrats to these Parsons students for a job well done!

And congratulations to all of the 2018 Community Choice category winners!


The Occupational Outlook for Industrial Designers, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

If you're an industrial designer and you want to find out if you're getting paid the right amount, well, that's why we have the Core77 Salary Guide. But those of you simply interested in the profession as a whole may wonder if, in this age of digital, our profession's importance will increase or diminish.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' stats on Industrial Design as a profession…the outlook isn't fantastic. While ID isn't shrinking--by 2026 there will be 1,800 more ID jobs than there were in 2016--that's only a growth rate of 4%. Across the board, the average job growth rate is 7%.

"Consumer demand for new products and new product styles should sustain the demand for industrial designers," the BLS writes. But the fact that we can now do more with less (thanks, technology!) means firms need less of us than they once did.

So what can you working industrial designers do to ensure that, by 2026, you've held onto your current gig or are part of the 1,800 new ones? As the BLS states,

The increasing trend toward the use of sustainable resources is likely to improve prospects for applicants with the knowledge to work with sustainable resources.In addition, as more products become digitized and Internet-capable, applicants with experience in user interface (UI), user experience (UX), and interactive design (IxD) may have better job prospects.

The BLS has also compiled a lot of geographical data on where in the U.S. industrial designers work, and how the region affects their salary:

If you want to dive into those stats, they're all right here.

Reader Submitted: An Interactive Soap Dispenser that Educates Kids About Proper Hand Washing

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

mySafeguard is a concept of a smart soap dispenser with the purpose of teaching kids all about hygiene by making hand-washing a fun experience. It can visualize germs in a playful way, and a countdown timer makes the user experience very intuitive. An interactive projection is cast directly from the dispenser around the rinsing area to entertain and instruct kids on how to make hand-washing more effective. Parents can track progress of their little one's hygiene with a connected smartphone app that also offers kids incentives like more playtime if they wash their hands properly.

View the full project here

Design Job: Herman Miller is Seeking a Senior Art Direction Manager to Oversee the Brand's Visual Language

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Herman Miller's Brand Design Team based in West Michigan is seeking a talented and passionate design leader with a minimum of ten years of experience in art direction, design, and team leadership for our North America Contract business. This key position partners with our businesses and is responsible for the creation of concept development for executions across print, digital, and branded environments. The ideal candidate has a demonstrated interest in our brand, is a confident communicator, and is a collaborative leader.

View the full design job here

How Long Do the Appliances and Objects in Our Homes Last For?

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

For those of you that design appliances and/or household fixtures, how long do they last for? Some of you are privy to the client's planned obsolescence figures, but I'm guessing most of you just watch the BOM get whittled down, then reduce your estimate of that moving part's longevity.

While companies and designers can predict how long an object will last before it breaks, the people who really know are home inspectors. They examine houses and the objects inside of them after real-world use, and long after they were new.

Florida-based firm McGarry and Madsen Home Inspection combined the figures from their own experience with stats from the National Association of Home Builders and home inspection organization InterNACHI to come up with the following list. I've edited it down primarily to things that designers work on, but have included a few non-designed items out of general interest:

AIR CONDITIONING

Split System Condensers (outside unit) - 10 to 16 years

Split System Air Handler (inside unit) - 14 to 18 years

Ductless (Mini-Split) - 10 to 16 years

Window Air Conditioner - 5 to 8 years

PLUMBING FIXTURES

Water Heaters - 10 to 20 years

Faucets - 15 to 25 years

Sinks, Tubs, Toilets - 40 to 80 years

Shut-off Valves - 20 years

CABINETRY

Kitchen Cabinets - 50 years

Closet shelves - 60+ years

Medicine Cabinets - 20 to 30 years

SITE

Wood Decks - 20 years

Sprinkler Systems - 20 years

APPLIANCES

Gas and Electric Ranges - 15 years

Washers and Dryers - 12 years

Refrigerators - 13 years

Dishwashers - 9 years

Microwave Ovens - 9 years

COUNTERTOPS

Mica - 20 years

Cultured Marble - 25 years

Natural Stone - 50+ years

DOORS

Fiberglass and Steel Doors - 50+ years

Wood Doors - 40 to 50 years

Garage Doors - 30 years

Garage Door Openers - 10 to 15 years

WINDOWS

Wood - 35 to 60 years

Aluminum - 25 to 40 years

Vinyl - 25 to 40 years

Insulated Glass Windows - 20 to 30 years

ELECTRICAL

GFCI Circuit Breaker - 20 to 30 years

AFCI Circuit Breaker - 20 to 30 years

Wall Switches - 30 to 40 years

Wall Receptacle/Outlets - 50 years

Fixtures - 40 years

Wiring - 60 to 80+ years

PAINT AND CAULK

Exterior Paint - 7 to 10 years

Interior Paint - 10 to 15 years

Caulk (interior and exterior) - 6 to 15 years

____________________

These are just rough guidelines, of course. "While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful," writes McGarry and Madsen, "they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector."

The MoJack and the Jungle Jack: Two Different Approaches to Quick Lifting

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Now relocated to a rural environment, I'm learning about all sorts of new tools and objects I'd had no exposure to in the city. I've just purchased, and am now familiarizing myself with, a lawn tractor/riding mower. While researching the required maintenance routines I came across the Mo-Jack and the Jungle Jack, two very different solutions to the same problem.

A lawn tractor has a deck beneath it housing the cutting blades. These blades periodically need to be sharpened. Because the blades are attached from underneath, this presents the problem of how to access them. A non-professional user like myself can take the time to disconnect the deck, slide it out, flip it over and work on it that way. But a professional landscaper or mechanic, for whom time is money, would desire a faster way to access the bottom of a machine.

The MoJack tractor lift solves the problem this way:

The Jungle Jack takes a different approach:

The MoJack design seems more idiot-proof to me, as the weight of the vehicle rests on the suspension as it is raised. (Even a light-duty lawn tractor like mine weighs 600 pounds). I like the simplicity and greater speed of the Jungle Jack, but obviously greater care must be taken with the connection point.

Core77 readers who use/maintain lawn tractors, if you've got any efficiency tips or things you'd like me to research/write about, please sound off; I'll soon be able to speak your language.


How VR Is Changing the Game for Product Designers

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

A few years ago when my colleagues were designing an aging-in-place walk-in shower for Jacuzzi, they rented a nearby virtual reality facility to evaluate a simulated version of an early prototype.

The VR facility staffer donned a suit packed with sensors, and the designers on Bresslergroup's project team were able to ask him in real time to interact with different elements of the prototype. Observing how some of the controls were in a hard-to-reach area, the design team immediately saw the value of changing these and other design elements.

Today we have the ability to set up and interact with a VR-simulated prototype whenever we need to, and without leaving our office – and the cost is a fraction of what we spent to rent the VR facility just a few years ago. And the technology continues to grow more accessible. If you can figure out how to leverage it for product design, it can easily translate to faster turnaround and cheaper development costs.

Farewell, Foam Core Mockups?

Foam core mockups have been a staple for industrial designers since the beginning of our profession. Once an object gets bigger than two by two feet, it's often useful to build some kind of volumetric model to evaluate placement of controls, positions of openings and doors, and relative scale compared to the users.

I was taught in my first years of design school how to meticulously craft by hand a presentation-worthy foam core or foam model based on CAD drawings. Laser cutters and CNC machines make this process more precise, efficient, and speedier.

At Bresslergroup we frequently build these models for clients to conduct ergonomic assessments and get feedback on in-progress work. Models can be built with moving doors and drawers to simulate usage scenarios and evaluate workflow. In most cases we make refinements based on learnings derived from interacting with these models.

But the larger models, such as the one shown below of the aging-in-place shower, can take skilled designers days and even weeks to construct. And if a large change needs to be made to the model, it again takes time and significant effort to modify.

Transporting something of this size has its challenges. If a client isn't within driving distance, in many cases it's not feasible to deliver a model to a client's location. In the case of one model we built of a room-sized lab instrumentation system, we rented a truck to drive it (in pieces) to our client a couple of hours away. Then we re-assembled it on-site.

Hello, Virtual Reality Environments

Enter VR. Devices such as the Oculus rift and HTC Vive have enabled consumers and professionals alike to embrace the technology, experiment with it, and discover its potential.

At Bresslergroup we've integrated VR into our workflow. Our CAD planning still begins in our chosen CAD platform of choice – readying the design for VR requires no extra work. But instead of iterating with physical materials, we can now quickly jump into VR to explore variants more quickly.

VR makes quick work of creating and playing around with variants to test our assumptions. Native CAD files can be imported seamlessly into a VR environment in just a few minutes. (Above are screenshots of the shower imported into our VR environment.)

Once in VR, different variants and configurations of this model can be evaluated side by side in full scale. Watch the video, above, to see how we can manipulate and move the shower seat and reach for shelves and grab bars while in VR, adding to the immersive experience. When designing products such as these, not only is access important but so is the ability to reach critical areas.

Have VR, Will Travel: Our Portable Setup

The ability to quickly try things out in full scale is an extremely important tool in our design toolbox. But when we want to share the model with our clients, the ability to pack it up and take it on the road is key. Below is a GIF of me unpacking the kit and setting it up – as you can see, it's a lot more efficient than building, deconstructing, transporting, and reassembling a foam core model.

Our setup consists of an HTC Vive and a VR capable workstation and of course, a case to carry everything. We have developed a workflow to quickly bring in Solidworks models with textures and shading.

We expect our setup to evolve as quickly as VR evolves (which is to say, quickly). The new Oculus Rift is $199. In a few years you'll be able to get an HTC Vive for that price. Google Chrome now supports web-based VR for the Oculus Rift; and more apps are being introduced to enable us to upload a CAD model, create a scene, and send it to a client. With one click, the client will be able to open the VR scene and interact with our latest prototype.

Today VR is usable and affordable for ergonomics testing and to test our own and our clients' assumptions. This lets us iterate and improve a design before we build a prototype. Before VR, if designers and engineers didn't have the time or budget to build foam core models, they would end up with very expensive prototypes that would then require changes. Now we can make sure the first prototype we build is optimized for ergonomics.

In the future, we expect to be able to use VR for user testing. (Check out this report from the recent HFES Symposium by my colleague, Aditi Singh's – she writes about the trend of Using AR/VR Technology for Human Factors Research.) This future is close—and it's exciting.


Reader Submitted: Prepdeck: A Complete Meal Preparation System

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Prepdeck is an all-in-one meal preparation system loaded with over 45 features and accessories to help you prepare, measure, and store ingredients. The system is developed specifically to keep you tidy and organized when cooking at home.

View the full project here

Prototyping a Dust Mask with Integrated Eye Protection, Phase Two

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Here in Phase Two of creating a dust mask with integrated eye protection, industrial designer Eric Strebel demonstrates the balance between digital and manual: When to CAD and when not to CAD, and the benefits of modeling vs. leaving yourself room to shape things by hand, finding the form in a more natural, intuitive way.

Missed Part 1? It's here.

Adam Savage Releases EDC Two Bag

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

After Adam Savage debuted his EDC One bag last year, based on an old NASA design, he "immediately decided that I wanted to make a second bag," he writes, "for two reasons."

"First, the EDC ONE was sized for me and my specific needs, but I could see use for a smaller version that also pairs well with the original. I resolved to make a smaller bag, while retaining the same tool bag aesthetic."Second, some fans expressed disappointment in the cost of the EDC ONE. It's as inexpensive as I can make it, while still keeping manufacturing in the United States. So I did my best to provide an alternative product for those who would really like to have one."

Savage's EDC Two, again produced in collaboration with Mafia Bags and produced from recycled sailcloth, is manufactured largely from one panel (rather than the five required for the EDC One), which helps to bring the cost down. It's also smaller at 6" x 12" X 10" vs. the One's 8" x 15.5" x 10", and it's not merely the same bag with reduced dimensions: "Simply scaling down all three dimensions yielded a weird looking bag that looked more like a toy than a tool bag," Savage writes. "Eventually, after about 4 prototypes, we dialed in on a set of dimensions that felt exactly right."

The $145 price point is easier to swallow than the $225 One, and while it obviously depends on what you're hauling, it looks a lot more tote-able to me. Comes in both Savage's signature white (which makes it easier to see tools inside) or black for the fashion-minded set. Check it out here.


Brilliant Materials Insight: Human Hair Can be Used to Clean Up Oil Spills

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Here's a perfect example of analyzing a material's properties, then exploiting them to solve a problem. In 1989 an Alabama man named Phil McCrory was watching footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on television. The sad footage showed an otter drenched in oil--and McCrory observed that the water immediately around the otter contained less oil, as it had been absorbed by the otter's fur.

This was noteworthy to McCrory, as he was a hairstylist. As he explained to NPR:

And I was thinking, well, the otter was, you know, getting saturated with oil, then the hair that I sweep up should do the same thing. So basically, I took the hair home, put it in my wife's pantyhose, created a little imaginary [oil] spill [in a kiddie] pool, and cleaned the water up. Within a minute and a half, I had the water crystal clear, and all the oil was in the pantyhose loaded with hair.

Inspired by the footage, McCrory gathered a bunch of hair clippings from his workplace, stole a nylon stocking from his wife and stuffed the hair into the stocking. He then filled a kiddie pool with water and dumped some motor oil into it. When he submerged his pantyhose-and-human-hair sausage into the pool, he found that it soaked up the oil.

Today McCrory's company, Ottimat, harvests otherwise worthless human hair clippings--60 million pounds of it is discarded each year in the U.S. alone--to produce the nylon-stuffed sausages for oil spill cleanups. The sausages are chained together into long booms that are deployed around the affected area. McCrory's partnered with a charity called Matter of Trust, which coordinates hair and animal fur donations through their Hair for Oil Spills program. Here's how it works:


So what happens to the oil-soaked booms once they've done their job? It appears there's no clear answer:

- BP has declined to use the hair booms, stating that "they've had some difficulties in the use and disposal of hair booms in the past;"

- the BBC reports that "the options tried by the charity include feeding the whole mess to worms to break down into fertilizer;"

- the same article points out that chemist Malcolm Fox tested oil-soaked wool and "recycled the wool mats by putting them through an old washing mangle to recover the oil, which could also be used again;"

- McCrory himself suggests that "The oil saturated bundles can be burned as fuel and energy value of the petroleum they contain can be recovered."

Still, it's a brilliant first step to solving the problem of oil spill cleanups. Now someone needs to step up and figure out what to do with the cleanup materials.


Trump Wants New Paint Job for Air Force One, Here are His Guidelines. Your Submissions Please!

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

Did you know that Raymond Loewy designed the paint scheme for Air Force One? It was approved by JFK and Jackie Kennedy and has been the AF1 signature livery ever since. But Axios is reporting that changes are afoot, as "Trump wants a color scheme that 'looks more American' and isn't a 'Jackie Kennedy color.' He doesn't think the current blue (technically 'luminous ultramarine') represents the USA…. The president's preferred design is believed to include red, white and blue."

Got any ideas, Core77 readers? Give us a sketch, a rendering, anything!


Resource for Designers: Here's How to Get Instant Quotes for On-Demand Manufacturing

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-07-18 00:25

"The ease of being able to upload a part," says Josh Haldeman, an industrial designer for protective gear company Bullard, "and instantly know what it's going to cost me is phenomenal." Haldeman is referring to the instant online quoting process for Xometry, a company that connects manufacturers and fabricators with designers and producers who need things made.

Xometry has built up a network that, earlier this year, consisted of roughly 800 manufacturers across the U.S., and the company connects them via its portal to about 8,000 customers. The idea is that "a local machine shop in Pennsylvania can reach major companies like NASA, General Electric, and BMW," the company explains. The numbers are about to get bigger: Last week Xometry announced they've acquired MakeTime, another on-demand manufacturing company, and once integrated the total number of manufacturers jumps to 2,300, while the potential customers number about 10,000.

This is good news for industrial designers seeking manufacturing facilities with transparent pricing. If you want to dive in and check out their Instant Quoting Engine, here's the link.


The End is Near for MIL-HDBK-217 and Other Outdated Handbooks

Design News - Tue, 2018-07-17 05:00

For decades, the electronics industry has been stuck using the obsolete and inaccurate MIL-HDBK-217 to make reliability predictions that are required by the top of the supply chain (Department of Defense, FAA, Verizon, etc.). Each of these handbooks (some of which have not been updated in more than two decades) assigns a constant failure rate to every component. It then arbitrarily applies modifiers ("lambdas") based on temperature, humidity, quality, electrical stresses, etc. This simplistic approach was appropriate back in the '50s and '60s, when the method was first developed. It can no longer be justified, however, given the rapid improvement in simulation tools and the extensive access to component data.

So, why do some people in the electronics industry keep using these approaches? Four key misconceptions seem to breathe life into these archaic documents even after they have been proven wrong over and over and over again.

Misconception #1: Empirical handbooks are based on actual field failures.

Theoretically, this could be true. In practice, the process is a little more muddled. MIL-HDBK-217 is clearly not based on actual field failures because it has not been updated in over 20 years. Same with IEC 62380, which was published in 2004 and is based on even older field data. What about the rest, like SR-332 or FIDES or SN29500? Yes, they are updated on a more regular basis, but their fatal flaw is their very limited source of information. There are indications that the number of companies submitting field failure information into these documents is less than 10 and sometimes less than 5. How relevant is failure data from 5 companies for the other 120,000 electronic OEMs in the world? Not very.

And it gets even worse the deeper you go. Most of these companies do not identify the specific failure location on all of their field failures. Failure analysis when there is a high number of failures? Yes. Failure analysis on high value products? Yes. The rest of the stuff? Repair and replace or just throw it away. This results in a very teeny, tiny number of samples being the basis for these "etched in stone" failure rates. And what if this arbitrary self-selection causes some components to not have any field failure information? Only two options: Keep the old failure rate number or make up a new one.

It should give all of us some pause. The reliability of airplanes, satellites, and telephone networks could be, in some very loose way, based on an arbitrary set of filtered data from a self-selected group of three companies.

Misconception #2: Past performance is an indication of future results.

That disclaimer on mutual funds is there for a reason. Less than 0.3% of mutual funds deliver top 25% returns four years in a row[1]. Have you ever thought about why mutual funds are unable to consistently deliver? It’s the same reason why handbooks are unable to consistently deliver. Both are unable to capture the true underlying behavior that drives success and failure. Critical details, like how companies treat their customers or their R&D pipeline, are fundamental to the success of companies, but are often not accounted for by mutual fund managers because it's "too hard" and "too expensive."

The same rationale is used by engineers who rely on handbooks. The reason why one product had a mean time between failure (MTBF) of 100 years and another had an MTBF of 10 years may have nothing to do with temperature or quality factors or number of transistors or electrical derating. If you really want to understand and predict reliability, you have to know all the ways the product will fail. Yes, this is hard. And yes, this is really hard with electronics. How hard? Let’s run through a scenario.

A standard piece of electronics will have approximately 200 unique part numbers and 1,000 components. About 20 of these 200 unique parts will be integrated circuits. Off the top of my head, each integrated circuit will have up to 12 possible ways to fail in the field (ignoring defects). These include dielectric breakdown over time, electromigration, hot carrier injection, bias temperature instability, EOS/ESD, EMI, wire bond corrosion, wire bond intermetallic formation, solder fatigue (thermal cycling), solder fatigue (vibration), solder failure (shock), and metal migration (on the PCB). This means you would have to calculate 240 combinations of part and failure mechanisms. Each one requires geometry information, material information, environmental information, etc. And that’s just for integrated circuits!

But these are the true reliability fundamentals of electronics. And, just like stock pickers, if you capture the true fundamentals, you will get it right every single time.

Misconception #3: The bathtub curve exists.

There is a belief that the reliability of any product can be described by a declining failure rate (quality), a steady state failure rate (operational life), and an increasing failure rate (robustness). If this is truly the behavior of a fielded product, one can understand the motivation for handbooks that calculate a MTBF. To avoid the portion of life at which the failure rate declines, companies will screen their products. To avoid the portion of life where the failure rate increases, companies will overdesign their products. If both activities are done well, the only thing to worry about is the middle of the bathtub curve. Right?

The traditional “bathtub curve”—in which reliability is described by a declining failure rate (quality), a steady-state failure rate (operational life), and an increasing failure rate (robustness)—is based on a misconception. (Image source: DfR Solutions)

Wrong! The first, and biggest problem, is this concept of "random" failures that occur during the operational lifetime. If the failures are truly random, the rate at which they occur should be independent of the design of the product. And if they are independent of the design, why would you try to calculate the failure rate based on the design? One slightly extreme example would be the failures of utility meters because a cat decided to urinate on the box. This failure is truly random and, because it is random, it has nothing to do with the design. (Side note: No one ever got fired because the rate of these truly "random" events was too high.) This failure mode may be partially dependent on the housing/enclosure, but housings and enclosures are not considered in empirical prediction handbooks.

The actual failure rate of products in the field is based on a combination of decreasing failure rates due to quality, increasing failure rates due to wear-out, and a very small number of truly random occurrences. (Image source: DfR Solutions)

The reality is that failure rate during operational life is a combination of decreasing failure rates due to quality, increasing failure rates due to wear-out, and a very small number of truly random occurrences. The wear-out portion is increasing in frequency and becoming harder to identify because the shrinking features of the current generation of integrated circuits is causing wear-out behavior earlier than ever before. IC wear-out behavior is different than wear-out seen with moving parts and interconnect fatigue. Most failure mechanisms associated with integrated circuits have very mild wear-out behavior (Weibull slopes of 1.2 to 1.8). This meants that it can be really hard to see these failures in the warranty returns, but they're there.

Misconception #4: Reliability Physics cannot be used to predict operating life performance.

So, now we get to the real reason why these handbooks are still around: There is nothing available to replace them. At least, that can be the mentality. If you scratch the surface, however, there are other forces at play. The first is that human nature is to not ask for more work. Switching from empirical prediction to reliability physics will be more work. The activity goes from simple addition (failure rate 1 + failure rate 2 + failure rate 3 + …) to algorithms that can contain hyperbolic tangents (say that three times fast) and may require knowledge of circuit simulation, finite element, and a lot of other crazy stuff. For reliability engineers trained in classic reliability, which teaches you to use the same five techniques regardless of product or industry, this can be daunting.

The second is that the motivation to change practices is not there. In many organizations and industries, traditional reliability prediction can be a “check the box” activity without realizing the damaging influence it has on design, time to market, and warranty returns. Companies end up implementing very conservative design practices, such as military grade parts or excessive derating, because these activities are rewarded in the empirical prediction world. Many times, design teams guided toward these practices have no idea of the original motivation (i.e., “we have always done it this way”). If reliability prediction becomes a check the box activity, design is forced to go through the laborious design-test-fix process (also known as reliability growth, though it is more wasting time than growing anything). Finally, since handbook reliability prediction is divorced from the real world, the eventual cost of warranty returns can experience wild swings in magnitude for each product. These costs are not expected or predicted by the product group.

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Most engineers and managers will agree that critical decisions regarding design and reliability should be based on robust analyses and data. With the race toward autonomy, AI, and IoT, electronics reliability cannot be just an afterthought. Consumers are increasingly depending on electronics for safety. Reliability predictions must be based on real data and real-world conditions. In Part II of this article, we will address in greater detail the brave new world of reliability physics.

Preview of Part ll: Reliability Physics, A Brave New World

Industry-leading companies around the world are now using reliability physics to predict extended warranty returns and operational failure rate more accurately and with more consistency than any empirical handbook ever dared dream. Accomplishing this requires two actions: Capture the relevant degradation mechanisms (see the original 12 for integrated circuits) and use robust statistical techniques to extrapolate failure rates through the operational lifetime. When these two activities are combined, companies are, for the first time, able to truly see how any and all design decisions (part selection, derating, materials, temperature, layout, housing, etc.) affect failure rates, warranty returns, customer satisfaction, and organizational profitability.

 1 https://finance.yahoo.com/news/mutual-fund-past-performance-scorecard-171510113.html

Craig Hillman, PhD, is CEO of DfR Solutions.

 

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Robots Unleashed: The Complications of Mobility

Design News - Tue, 2018-07-17 04:00

In the age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), a mobile robot is not simply one that has wheels. Today’s collaborative robots can increasingly be thought of as small autonomous vehicles. They combine sensing capabilities, machine learning, networking, and more to perform a range of job functions in dynamic environments. Depending on their application, their features and capabilities can greatly vary, as a panel audience found out at the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Show in New York last month.

The Tug robots from Aethon are an example of AVGs or automated mobile vehicles. They move materails in locations such as warehouses and hospitals. (Image source: Aethon)

The panel, titled “Mobility: The Driving Force Behind the Growth in Collaborative Robotics,” was led by Design News senior editor Rob Spiegel. The panelists were Dave Saunders, CTO and co-founder of Galen Robotics; Karen Leavitt, chief marketing officer at Locus Robotics; and Marc Avallone, Aethon VP of channel management. Hearing the panel, what stood out immediately were the differences and yet similarities in the viewpoints of the three panelists, due to the different applications and purposes their robots serve. Among the topics they covered were the following points: what “collaborative” means to them, how they achieve their return on investment (ROI), cost trends, and the networking angle.

Defining Collaborative

When asked what makes a collaborative, cooperative robot different from other robots on the market, for example, Galen Robotics’ Dave Saunders answered the following: “As we have robots with more advanced functions or certainly robots with more mass or little pointy bits that could hurt people, how those robots are designed to remain safe while still interacting with humans is a really big challenge…What is ideal for the conceivable future is to have homogenized ecosystems, where you have pools of humans doing what they’re good at and pools of robots doing what they’re good at.” To provide some perspective, Galen makes surgical robots, which currently tend to be stationary. Yet they have many of the same challenges as mobile robots because of the safety requirements for them to operate around (and on) humans.

“Dave’s robots operate in a sterile environment, while my robots operate in the antithesis of a sterile environment—warehouses, which are not only not pristinely clean, but they’re dynamically changing constantly,” noted Karen Leavitt from Locus Robotics. “A robot could go down an aisle and it could look a certain way, but then it could come back a minute later and the aisle will look totally different. There could be a forktruck in the aisle, someone could have moved a ladder into the aisle…they may have dropped pieces of merchandise that end up on the floor…Robots must dynamically reroute themselves and be able to avoid humans—but only just barely (a little bit better than the Roomba, but with only the narrowest of margins) because warehouses are so dynamically changing and very densely packed.”

“During a peak season like the holiday shopping season,” Leavitt continued, “you could have dozens of humans and robots operating in a fairly contained space. So the robots have to be able to be willing to pass within just inches of whatever obstruction they see—be it a human, another robot, a piece of infrastructure…and they have to be constantly adapting their view of what constitutes infrastructure.”

“The other way to answer that question is to flip it on its head,” noted Aethon’s Marc Avallone. “You won’t necessarily just have robots that have the technological ability to work around people; you also have to train people to work around robots. That’s becoming more common. It’s very difficult to walk into a warehouse or manufacturing facility without seeing some of this technology. As it becomes more ubiquitous, the paradigm will shift. People will need to know how the robots are going to interact. They will know what the robots are going to do—much like people know to cross a city street when the light gives that signal at the crosswalk without bumping into each other.” His perspective, of course, is one of logistics, as Aethon focuses on moving materials through facilities ranging from heathcare to hospitality.

ROI and Lower Costs

Despite their differences, the panelists shared many similar views and approaches when it came to how they calculate ROI in robotics: labor. Avallone noted, “Labor is the biggest part of that. Whether you’re in a facility with material handling or in a hospital setting with pharmaceuticals being delivered, labor cost is the number one factor for ROI. Sometimes, it’s just the cost of time. If a robot can be programmed to do that, you don’t have any downtime.”

They also agreed on the fact that falling prices for sensors and other parts have greatly improved robotics capabilities. Leavitt stated, “We’re really seeing Moore’s Law at work here and it’s largely due to the automotive industry. The robots developed there can now be used in other applications and the price points have come down. If you can build a robot chassis that allows for the modular inclusion of the hard tech as scanners, vision systems, etc. evolve, you can swap out technology and swap in new using sensor fusion technology. As a result, you can continuously improve the robots and have functionality go up while costs go down.”

Robo-Communications

At one point during the panel, moderator Rob Spiegel asked, “What about connectivity? This past summer, in a hospital setting, I saw one of Marc’s tugs go by delivering pharmaceuticals from room to room. It picked up its materials on the first floor and delivered them on the second. Yet it had no arms to work the elevator. So connectivity is involved in ways that we didn’t think of; let’s talk about how robots are interacting with IT.”

Avallone responded, “Our robots are connected via WiFi to the fleet management system and elevators and doors. We also are connected for commands back to an MES system—for example, for a cart to be moved from one location to another. Each tug is connected to each other and the fleet management system.”

“Our robots operate in fleets as well,” stated Leavitt. “At peak ecommerce times of the year, those fleets get larger, so the robots have to communicate among themselves. 10 times a second, each of these robots is making a decision about what it’s doing next and what it’s seeing. This is done via WiFi. For example, if an aisle has an obstruction, it will notify other robots so they can reroute themselves. They also use some low-energy, local proximity networking to detect humans so they don’t pick the same orders or repeat other tasks.”

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Saunders weighed in: “All of our robots dial home; I have logs of every move made by every arm. That’s important to me because I don’t want any downtime for my robots that are supposed to be helping people. So this helps me predict maintenance. I also know if a robot is being used in a lower-utilization area.”

Find out more about the insight these experts shared about various aspects of collaborative robots by watching our Facebook Live video below:

Nancy Friedrich is Editor-in-Chief and Content Director of Design News. With a 20-year background in covering the electronic and mechanical engineering segments, Nancy has expertise across many areas. At Design News, she focuses on wireless and related areas.

 

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Reader Submitted: Möbel: A Foldable Chair Designed to Ease the Moving Experience for Students<font></font>

Core 77 - Mon, 2018-07-16 23:15

Möbel is a comfortable, attractive, and foldable seating system that makes the moving process much smoother. Möbel easily assembles and disassembles, so you won't have to worry about selling your furniture, or throwing it away, and having to buy a new one after you move. Instead, Möbel will move along with you wherever you go, and you don't need to worry about renting a big truck or calling friends to help you move it!

View the full project here