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Eco Gloves: Disposable, Compostable, Plant-Based Anti-Germ Gloves

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

Eco Gloves are a sustainable and convenient alternative to disposable latex gloves (like the kind I've been using at the gas station and supermarket). They're individually wrapped (by pair), made of plant-based materials like cornstarch, and both the gloves and the packaging they come in--which is also plant-based--are compostable.

The individual packages, which come 24 to a bag, are roughly condom-package-sized, so you can tuck these into pockets and wallets.

Here's the part of the FAQ you're probably curious about:

Q: What is the permeability? Will viruses be able to penetrate through your gloves? Do cleaning chemicals compromise the material?A: Our gloves are made from premium based cornstarches and are durable enough to withstand the toughest of jobs. At a thickness of 60 microns, they will not leak, break or easily tear under normal use. As long as the integrity of the gloves are maintained (i.e. gloves are not used if soiled or torn), viruses will not be able to penetrate through our gloves. Similarly, cleaning chemicals will not compromise the material of the gloves because the gloves are strong enough. The material is designed to only degrade or break-down in a compost environment and will not degrade under normal use.

At press time Eco Gloves had been successfully Kickstarted, and there were still 49 hours left to pledge.

See Also:

Brass Antimicrobial "Hygiene Hand," Designed So You Don't Have to Touch Things, is Killing it on Kickstarter

The Strangest Commercial I've Ever Seen: "Preparations for the Next Season & Bonus Trick for the Underwear!"

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

Varusteleka is the name of a military surplus and outdoor gear retailer in Finland. Lately they've been running ads on YouTube, in that typically annoying space right before the video you want to see starts. I usually can't hit "Skip Ad" fast enough, but this one, er, drew me in:

It gets funnier: They're using the video to flog the seen-on-screen clothes, like this Finnish M62 Camouflage Jacket, and when you click the link you see the (incredibly low) USD price, along with a helpful conversion:

And the copy for the "Russian fur hat with Soviet cockade, fake fur (Used without the cockade in this video)" provides this information:

The rest of the copy on the site is pretty funny (to me), but veers into some things I cannot print here, for fear of being attacked by SJW's.

Tesla Engineers Reveal Their Ventilator Prototype, Made from Car Parts

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

James Dyson may have designed his ventilator the fastest, but Tesla's engineers are getting there, too. Just weeks after Elon Musk volunteered Tesla's services, here are the company's engineers showing you their prototype. They're making good use of already-on-hand automotive parts and even the infotainment system for the Model 3, here repurposed as a controller:

The Design Differences Between Quickly-Evolving Face Shields

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

Face shield donations are coming fast and furious these days. Ford, Apple, Prusa Research and Foster + Partners are just a few of the organizations pitching in with different designs, which have by necessity evolved rather quickly. Let's look at the design changes.

First off, what's needed with a face shield is a curved, transparent sheet that stands off of the face. All designs accomplish this by incorporating a forehead band that serves as both a spacer and, in concert with an elastic band, the thing that holds it onto the user's head.

The designs diverge depending on the production method and materials used. The classic face shield design (from just a few weeks ago, when these could be produced at a leisurely pace) uses a thick strip of foam as the forehead band:

Now that we need many of these in a hurry, the design has quickly been evolved depending on what volunteer producers have on hand. 3D-printed designs like this one by Prusa Research, replace the foam with this two-arch design for the forehead band:

Prusa's initial design, RC1 in the photo below, was printed in the compressed shape you see in the photo. That allows you to fit more units onto the bed, but a trade-off revealed in testing was that the built-in springiness produced a lot of pressure on the user's temples. Updated design RC2 takes up more space on the bed, but it removes the temple pressure, and the design update also moves the facemask out further to accommodate goggles.

Adding holes to the forehead band confers a materials savings.

Printable plastic is what they have, so that's what they use. One downside is that 3D printing takes a long time; deep-pocketed Ford reportedly started out 3D printing the forehead bands, then switched to expensive-but-faster injection molding.

Apple's laser-cut design, which I struggled to make out in Tim Cook's Twitter video, is comprehensible now that Foster + Partners has released clear photos of their design, which appears to be similar.

The innovation here is production speed. Both the face shield and the forehead band can be laser-cut "in under 30 seconds and the elements can be assembled in under a minute," F+P writes. "With a single cutting machine, we were able to cut and assemble components for 1,000 visor masks in a day, representing a reduction of days in the time taken to produce 3D-printed alternatives."

The band is silicone rubber. Initially I'd thought the face shield and forehead band were the same material, which would save on sourcing, but F+P is using 0.5mm PET-G for the shields and polypropylene for the forehead band. They describe the latter material as "soft," though I'm not sure how comfortable it would be to wear for long stretches; unfortunately some sacrifices have to be made, as this is an emergency. Perhaps people could donate those self-adhering window insulation foam strips from a hardware store? If the foam were notched to accommodate the bend, perhaps they could quickly be added to the forehead bands on-site by a volunteer.

Then again, adding foam might obviate a key benefit of the F+P design: "An important advantage is that the visor can be easily disassembled, cleaned, sanitised and reused, addressing the growing shortage of raw materials for visor production," F+P explains.

As dismal as these times are, it's pretty exciting to see so many people pitching in and using what they've got to help out. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this improvisational innovation.

Apple to Make One Million Face Shields Per Week

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

This week Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter to announce the company is making face shields, at a production target of one million per week, for healthcare professionals. (This is on top of the 20 million facemasks that supply-chain wiz Cook managed to summon up for donation.)

Like many of you, I screenshotted the crap out of the video, hoping to get a definitive look at the design:

Alas, it's not possible to see much detail:

It does look like they've done away with the bulkier forehead strip of the incumbent design, which makes me quite curious. I'm also wondering whether what you see above is the finished object, or if they will be adding some type of foam on the forehead strip. Any guesses?

Behold, a Tesla Cybertruck Camper Concept

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

I didn't realize that folks who pre-ordered a Tesla Cybertruck have already set up a fan website. CybertruckOwnersClub.com has a well-trafficked forum section, and it is there that we encountered these two camper concept renderings by an owner-to-be:

Image credit

So, that's a thing. Please discuss?

Would Living in a Round House Be Awesome, or Would It Suck?

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

So like the rest of you, I'm distracting myself from worst-case COVID-19 scenarios. My latest mental escape of choice is looking at photos of dome houses, which look cool as hell.

Well, of course they always look good in photos--a professional photographer could've made my first Brooklyn apartment look good. But when I start looking at floorplans of round houses, I'm thinking that living in them would actually suck.

In these panicked times, there is no room for nuance, grey area or anything but total allegiance to one of two extreme viewpoints. You must decide whether living in a circle would be Awesome or would Totally Suck. Here is a sampling of floorplans to help you decide.


- Visual discord as a result of trying to reconcile rectilinear furniture with curved walls, and/or weird trapezoid-shaped rooms

- Wasted space where rectilinear furniture meets curved surface

- Can pay for built-in furniture to meet curves, but that gets pricey

- DIY'ing built-in furniture to meet curves will require tons of scribing and difficult-to-nail curve cutting

- Unusable space where walls meet floor at weird angle

It looks like you have to build a big-ass circle, one so large in footprint that you essentially flatten the curve (sorry to use that phrase) of the wall, before the issue of rectilinear furniture in a curved space starts to go away.


- Round shapes better disperse hurricane-force winds

- More efficient to heat if you have a central fireplace

- Your house will become a landmark used by neighbors giving directions ("You're gonna pass this weird round house, then take the next left")

Anyways, your verdict: Yea or Nay?

Why COVID-19 is Throwing Off the Accuracy of Weather Forecasts

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

A surprising repercussion of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the accuracy of weather forecasts has gone down.

Weather is a big deal on a farm, and I use both the Dark Sky and AccuWeather apps to prepare for what's coming. But a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the forecasts going wonky. They'd say a week of rain was coming, and it wound up being clear. Or vice versa. And temperatures were off.

Now I've learned why: The mass grounding of flights. I had no idea weather forecasters harvested data from commercial airlines, but according to the World Meteorological Organization,

"The significant decrease in air traffic has had a clear impact [on forecast accuracy]. In-flight measurements of ambient temperature and wind speed and direction are a very important source of information for both weather prediction and climate monitoring."Commercial airliners contribute to the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay programme (AMDAR), which uses onboard sensors, computers and communications systems to collect, process, format and transmit meteorological observations to ground stations via satellite or radio links."

United Nations News gets into the actual numbers, and points out that things are worse in Europe than in America:

"Before the COVID-19 era, commercial airlines took around 700,000 daily readings of air temperature, wind speed and wind direction. This data and much more is fed into WMO's Global Observing System, which supports weather and climate services and products provided by the 193 WMO Members. "In Europe…air traffic readings are down by 85 to 90 per cent…. The impact has been less severe in the US, where commercial airline traffic data is down by 60 per cent, WMO said."'At the present time, the adverse impact of the loss of observations on the quality of weather forecast products is still expected to be relatively modest', said Lars Peter Riishojgaard, Director of WMO's Earth System Branch. 'However, as the decrease in availability of aircraft weather observations continues and expands, we may expect a gradual decrease in reliability of the forecasts.'"

While we still have satellites, ground-based weather stations and weather balloons, it appears the massive amounts of data harvested by airplanes is pretty crucial in meteorological modeling. With less planes in the air, there's a lot less data. Guess I'd better do what the older folks do down here, and start relying on my own joint pain to warn me of when a storm's coming.

A Beautiful "Observation Tower" as Countryside Escape Home

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

After purchasing a parcel of land in the Tennessee hills, the new owners built this beautiful, and relatively small "countryside observation tower…the first in a series of structures on the property," according to Style Blueprint, a female-run and female-targeted digital media community. In this time when many of us could use a little escapism and eye candy as well, this structure is well worth a look.

"The idea was to have a small getaway for the owners," says Jamie Pfeffer of Pfeffer Torode Architecture, the firm that designed it, "and to have a place where they could entertain and enjoy the natural setting."

Pfeffer collaborated with Ben Page of Page|Duke Landscape Architects, who points out that they "used native, indigenous materials and were particularly careful to make sure the existing tree canopy was essential to the final design."

The structure itself is pretty compact: With 680 square feet spread over three storeys, we estimate that it sits on a footprint that's roughly 10' x 20'. But if the downstairs appears tight…

…"all of the compression that was emphasized below is relieved" when you reach the top storey, Pfeffer states.

I...want to go to there.

"Pendulum Thinking": How Reimagining Design Roles Can Transform the Product Development Process

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

This article is part of a Series for Core77 called "Pendulum Thinking" by Tokyo-based design studio Takram—to learn more about the studio, read through our introductory interview with Director Yosuke Ushigome.

A look into Takram's London HQ

To put it simply: Pendulum Thinking overcomes the tension between design and engineering, speculative thinking and tangible concepts, future vision and real-world applications to result in robust, efficient, transformative product development.

Over the years, we've transitioned through five different 'generations' of product design – Hardware, Electronics, Software, Network, and Service – each resulting in effective and efficient development processes that become the benchmark or norm. But as we shift from analog products driving the global economy to digital experiences leveraging data as currency, product development requires a new breed of design thinker to overcome the inertia that can plague more established development processes.

"Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success."— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO.

A solutions-based approach that follows a relatively linear trajectory via product and feature iterations to market-ready (market viable) solutions, design thinking stems from software, network and service design. While a solid platform for needs-based iterations, and increasingly embraced by the business world to unlock competitive advantage, transformative innovation requires the ability to simultaneously manage and consider all elements of product and experience design, including hardware, electronics, software, network, and service innovation to realize the full value of a project or initiative.

The merging of design thinking, and business strategy is typified by the convergence of management consultancies and design agencies. Paradoxically, acquisitions by the likes of Accenture and the launching of IBM "iX" and Deloitte Digital to leverage 'design' is matched by some of the largest and most well-regarded design consultancies, such as IDEO and Ogilvy, stepping back from the actual 'doing' of design to focus more on their consultancy work.

So, what does this mean for clients? Are they engaging a management consultancy or a design agency? Are these 'hybrid' agencies solving problems or communicating solutions? Meaning is becoming more important than function, so it might make sense to bring consultancy and communications together, but where does this leave the actual 'doing' of design?

"Today, the creative process requires the organic integration of multiple specialties and expertise, calling for us to cross the boundaries of various disciplines. Instead of handling the elements separately, we must consider them as an integrated whole, and connect and weave them together to tackle complexity without simplification."— Kinya, Founder of Takram

The issue with convergence is the more complicated the problems hybrid agencies are tasked with solving, the more departments, stakeholders, and egos typically become involved, which is not so much 'a problem shared' but more justifying an agency or department fee. As projects have become more abstract or complex and stakeholder priorities diverge the further downstream the development journey, projects can become mired in office politics, resulting in inertia and a potentially compromised final product.

"We're no longer living in an age where success can be achieved merely by fulfilling tangible needs and solving obvious problems. We frequently find ourselves confronting 'insoluble problems'… We must recognize the inherent risks in presuming that the once-established problems and projects are irreversible, and to blindly advance the project through a 'waterfall' sequence"— Kinya, Founder of Takram.

Modern innovation requires a different mindset to meet the challenges of today. While the internet has allowed for digital services to remain in a perpetual beta state, products are no longer measured purely by look or specifications, as would befit a 'waterfall' approach, but by user-experience that relies upon an integrated and holistic approach to design and engineering and experience that a cascading sequence of activities cannot effectively manage.

SELFORG, a speculative project in which we dreamed of a 'softer world' where fiber material technology has developed to become a society's main material. We often produce futuristic visions and prototypes, not just to discuss the future, but as a way to navigate our current self by swinging between future vision and back to today.

And therein lies the rub of applying more traditional development processes, even that of traditional 'design thinking', to transformative innovation; when the journey isn't solutions-based, linear or one-dimensional, product development necessitates a different mindset to navigate the interconnected and divergent requirements of design and engineering, abstract and concrete, speculative and grounded, thinking and making. Such compound problems require a unique expertise to oscillate comfortably between the different requirements of a project while deftly navigating the complexities of an organization.

We call this ability, Pendulum Thinking, which is an empathetic mindset enabling Takram members to engage multiple different perspectives, departments and disciplines in the course of a project, constantly switching between the role of designer, engineer, and user to facilitate and streamline the development journey.

Effective business leaders will have a similar ability, able to view the panorama of an organization (from the top down) while navigating the micro-challenges of a department or division (from the bottom up). By approaching a problem from multiple different angles and benefitting from the input of different perspectives, they generate a compound understanding of the wider issues without losing sight of the day-to-day realities.

POWER LOUNGE for Haneda Airport is a great example of Takram members pushing themselves— a UX/UI designer was the lead on this project. The unique layout came from rigorous user testing and interviewing, similar to how apps are tested.

In a similar fashion, by engaging multiple specialists in the course of our work, each bringing a deep and nuanced understanding and expertise, the exposure to challenges and disciplines beyond our own personal experience gives Takram members the opportunity to continually advance, grow and evolve as design practitioners and, by actively sharing, teaching and dispersing knowledge across the studios, the collective benefits in subsequent projects, which enhances Takram's capabilities as an agency of transformation.

This is the very essence of Takram and Pendulum Thinking. Able to navigate complex product development challenges, Pendulum Thinking imbues the unique ability to rapidly analyze and deconstruct a problem, considering hardware, electronics, software, network and service implications to generate a multi-faceted understanding and, by extension, possible solutions or workarounds. A hybrid mindset, oscillating between that of vision-maker and problem solver; designer and technical engineer; hypothesizing and prototyping rapidly generates a sense of direction in a project when problems (and solutions) are unknown.

Every project is different, and our approach bespoke, but rather than haphazard or random, Pendulum Thinking is the ability to constantly change and re-evaluate, remaining free from any preconceived or fixed notions to deliver a carefully constructed investigation that relies not only on the ebb and flow of personal discourse within the individual, but also on a set of methodologies that facilitate the convoluted journey from problem to solution.

The methodologies that facilitate this journey, "Prototyping", "Storyweaving" and "Problem-reframing" follow the same mental oscillation between think and make, concrete and abstract, problem and solution.

In the next edition in our series, we will introduce Prototyping and the valuable intelligence we gain from being able to rapidly develop, test and validate ideas, concepts and use-cases in parallel with design and experience to streamline product development.

Dima Golubchikov's Incredible Modified BMW R9T Motorcycle

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

Yowza! Russian custom motorcycle builder Dima Golubchikov has been modifying a BMW R9T touring bike, and got it ready in time for the Motovesna International Motor Show…which was of course canceled over COVID-19 concerns. But luckily for us, he's decided to share images of the bike online:

Check out the detail shots:

"Teamwork with Mikhail Smolyanov and John Reed Design," he writes. "Health to all friends!"

Golubchikov's company is called Zillers Custom Garage, and they do fantastic stuff--check out their Instagram.

At a Whole Foods in Maui, This Person Goes Overboard (Literally?) to Protect Themself from COVID-19

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

Shot at a Whole Foods in Maui:

Image source: Maui 24/7

Image source: Maui 24/7

I guess if you've got the gear on hand, sure, why not. And after you drop the groceries off at home, you can go back to your hobby without needing to change.

Industrial Designer Dad Helps High School Daughters Rock the "Safely Drop an Egg" Challenge

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

A father and industrial designer, who has asked to remain anonymous, provided these videos. He and his kids are cooped up during the COVID-19 crisis, with remote classes in effect. "My two girls, who are seniors in high school, had a physics project to do," he writes. As it turns out, their project is very similar to what our first assignment was in Industrial Design school: Design a vessel to safely house an egg dropped off of a balcony.


Students were allowed to use whatever materials they could get their hands on--but with stores in lockdown, that basically meant whatever you could find at a hardware store or supermarket.

"The closest open store was our local Ace Hardware. They had:- Rubber bands- Straws and pool noodles- PVC tubing"Design

The school provided dimensional guidelines:

ID Dad added a further restriction: "The one rule I had was, they weren't allowed to copy all of the different designs you could find on YouTube," he writes. But that didn't mean that their father couldn't give them some design guidance. "I suggested trying to determine the center of gravity, and to think about how they wanted the egg to fall. I had them sketch up ideas, and we talked through about each one about the pros and cons.

"Given our materials, we settled on arches and circles as a big theme in how we wanted to protect the egg. Also wanted to make sure we displaced the energy to the structure and not the egg."


"We tested five designs, and four worked:"

As for the one that failed?

"This one broke on impact, but I know how to fix it," ID Dad writes.

"I'm going to model it in Solidworks and 3D print it. Will have 3D printed rubber bumpers as well. The rubber bands work amazingly well."

The Latest "Draw Famous Logos From Memory" Challenge: Car Logos

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

The folks over at Vanmonster.com wanted in on the "draw famous logos from memory" thing that's been around for the past few years (see bottom), opting for car logos. One hundred people were asked to draw the logos of brands popular in the UK (where the sketch quiz was given), and we've picked some that overlap with US-popular brands.

And I have to say: I can understand screwing up Alfa Romeo's logo, or reversing the quadrants in BMW's rondel--but how on Earth do you mess up the Audi or Toyota logos? I can only assume some of the tested folks have never seen a car.

Alfa Romeo







You can check out the rest here.

Also See:

- People Trying to Draw Famous Logos from Memory, Part 1

- People Trying to Draw Famous Logos from Memory, Part 2

- A Visual History of the BMW Logo

- A Visual History of the Corvette Logo

Super Cool Japanese Kei Cars Designed for the Disabled

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-04-08 20:19

In America, folks with mobility issues must turn to aftermarket companies (like this one) to modify their vehicles for their needs. But in Japan, where the population is aging, design considerations for the disabled are baked in right at the factory. Carmaker Daihatsu manufactures an entire "Friendship Series" of automobiles (in the company's bread-and-butter size class, the kei car category) that are designed to make life easier for those with mobility issues.

The company has different models aimed at different needs and size requirements. To carry a wheelchair-bound passenger, Daihatsu's "Sloper" design features a retractable ramp mounted in the rear. Buyers can opt for the smaller Tanto or the (relatively) larger Hijet or Atrai models:

Tanto Sloper

Hijet Sloper

Atrai Sloper

For the passenger who is not wheelchair-bound, but finds ingress and egress difficult with a conventional car design, they offer the Atrai Rear Seat Lift:

Atrai Rear Seat Lift

For the driver who is not wheelchair-bound, but finds ingress and egress difficult with a conventional car design, Daihatsu offers the Move Front Seat Lift and the Tanto Welcome Seat Lift, whose driver's seats both turn and lower electronically:

Move Front Seat Lift

Tanto Welcome Seat Lift

Lastly, for the driver that does use a wheelchair yet is not completely confined to one, the Tanto Welcome Turn Seat allows them to wheel over to their car, stow the chair in the rear via a small built-in crane, and access the driver's position via the turning seat:

Tanto Welcome Turn Seat

The question is: As America's population continues to age, do you think our domestic manufacturers will start to do what Daihatsu's doing? I'm not so sure--while America undoubtedly has or will have greater numbers of people with mobility issues than Japan does, I haven't seen any U.S. car companies take an interest.

Carbon 3D-Prints Test Swabs, Face Shields to Help Relieve COVID-19 Shortages

Design News - Wed, 2020-04-08 09:22

Digital manufacturing company Carbon announced today that it is producing around one million 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swabs weekly for COVID-19 testing and has the capacity to manufacture millions of them per week. Carbon also reported that it is collaborating with its customer adidas to print and donate face shields to U.S. healthcare workers and first responders.

The Resolution Medical Lattice Swab is manufactured using Carbon's Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology and KeySplint Soft Clear material from Keystone Industries. FDA-registered Resolution Medical is distributing the test swab, which has been classified as a Class I 510(k) Exempt in vitro diagnostic medical device.

The hollow structure of the Resolution Medical Lattice Swab optimizes specimen collection. Image courtesy Carbon.

As has been stressed repeatedly by medical experts and media covering the pandemic, patient testing swabs are among the most critical medical supplies needed by healthcare providers. Expanding the availability of testing supplies and testing frequency is a vital part of the timely identification of COVID-19 patients and helping to curb the pandemic’s spread, said Carbon in its news release.

The new Resolution Medical Lattice Swab has a conformal lattice design made with Carbon’s Lattice Engine software. The hollow structure of the lattice is designed for specimen collection efficiency, with a geometry that is also flexible to promote functionality and comfort for patients, said Carbon. The product is now undergoing clinical evaluation at multiple institutions, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and Stanford Medicine.

“We are proud to be collaborating with digital manufacturing company Carbon, to produce the Lattice Swab,” said Shawn Patterson, founder and President of Resolution Medical. “We have worked together urgently to get this product into the hands of healthcare workers to help address immediate needs for increased COVID-19 testing. At scale, we plan to supply over one million swabs per week.”

“Triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Carbon’s engineers and material scientists quickly sprung into action to identify the KeySplint Soft Clear material as having the right balance of properties to make a soft, flexible swab with appropriate strength that could be printed with precision using the Carbon M2 at 75 micron pixels,” said Dr. Joseph DeSimone, Carbon co-founder and Executive Chairman. The material is indicated for the fabrication of orthodontic and dental appliances in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The swabs, which are biocompatible and autoclavable, are currently printed hundreds at a time with a unique serialization present on each strip to facilitate traceability. “Resolution Medical, our production partner since 2018, has been amazing in leading the effort to launch the product,” added DeSimone.

In partnership with adidas, Carbon is producing and donating 18,000 face shields each week. Image courtesy Carbon.

Carbon also announced today its partnership with adidas to produce PPE face shields using the material they developed for adidas' Futurecraft 4D athletic shoes. Silicon Valley–based Carbon is currently producing 18,000 face shields each week using its DLS technology, which grows objects from a pool of resin rather than creating them layer by layer. It has the capacity to produce more than 50,000 of the personal protective gear each week across its global network, said Carbon. The open source design is available on the company’s website and is free to use for anyone with a Carbon printer and material.

10 Candy-Colored Cars for your Easter Basket

Design News - Wed, 2020-04-08 05:00


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

Apollo 13 Movie Was Engineers' "Failure is Not an Option" Moment in the Spotlight

Design News - Wed, 2020-04-08 04:32

Image source: Universal Pictures

April 11, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Apollo 13 lunar mission, and this year is also the 25th anniversary of the 1995 film version, directed by Ron Howard. It is this theatrical version of events that is the definitive story of Apollo now for many people, an outcome that was predicted at the time of the movie’s filming by Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott, who served as a consultant on the film.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to go to the moon for a long time,” Howard recalled Scott telling him. Speaking for the bonus features on the Collector’s Edition DVD, Howard told the story of Scott’s prediction that future moon voyagers would look back at the film as documentation of the Apollo era.

“Everybody involved is going to be dead and all you’re going to have is some of this archival footage and you’ve seen how incomplete that is,” Howard said, speaking for Scott. “But you know what they’re going to be able to do? They’re going to be able to look at this movie, Apollo 13, and say ‘That’s how they went to the moon.’”

The film scored nine Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, with Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell, Kevin Bacon as Backup Lunar Module Pilot Jack Swigert, the late Bill Paxton as Command Module Pilot Fred Haise, Gary Sinise as grounded Prime Lunar Module Pilot Ken Mattingly and Ed Harris as Flight Director Gene Kranz. It won two Academy Awards, for Best Sound and for Film Editing and grossed 174 million 1995 dollars at the box office.

Hollywood isn’t known for its keen study of the outside world, but a book proposal by astronaut Lovell caught the attention of people who brought the story to director Howard. “The more I kept learning about the actual mission,” he said, “the more I realized just how dramatic the truth, in this particular instance, is.”

He soon recruited A-lister Hanks to play Lovell. “There’s something about the story of getting back home, which is one of the seven great stories of literature: How do you get back home? And that’s what this is,” Hanks said.

As a longtime space geek, Hanks was already predisposed to favoring the film. “I’ve always wanted to play an astronaut. I’ve always wanted to shoot a vast section of a movie completely encapsulated by nothing but metal, glass and switches, and I finally had a chance to do that,” he said. “This is real dream-come-true stuff here.”

1995 marked the dawn of computer-generated animation, and Apollo 13 uses the early technology to good effect to create some flight scenes. Fortunately, the production crew recognized the shortcomings of CGI and limited its use. For the dramatic splashdown scene near the end of the film, they employed a scale model of the command module on real parachutes, dropped from a helicopter to provide the necessary realism.

But the real challenge was replicating the zero-gravity environment inside the spacecraft during the flight. To gain some insight into this, the cast and crew arranged for a flight in NASA’s zero-g simulating KC-135 cargo aircraft. The experience motivated Howard to investigate actually building sets inside the plane and shooting the movie inside it during zero-g flights. 

“If we really would have had to try to create the weightlessness with wires (on the actors), I sort of shudder to think what the movie would have really looked like,” Howard said.

Instead, the cast flew 612 25-second cycles in the Vomit Comet, totally 3 hours and 54 minutes of weightlessness. “The KC135 was used for most shots where you see our whole bodies,” explained Bacon. “Then we did a lot of the closeups on the ground, and they cut amazingly well. I can’t even remember if this is a KC135 shot or this is a ground shot.”

“Nobody wanted to let this story down,” Howard stated. “Not the actors, not the crew members, no one. I didn’t have to make any motivational speeches on this one. People were coming to work every day ready to give a hundred and fifty percent.”

“I had an acute sense of anxiety that I would be the one who became violently ill and totally incapacitated and a failure to the group,” said Paxton.

Further, with expert advice available, the actors could be confident that they weren’t doing anything grossly unrealistic. “I’m really impressed with the authenticity of how we’re doing this,” observed Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott. “They are interested in getting this accurate and precise, down to not only the word, but the inflection of the word, and the meaning behind the word.”

“With Dave Scott from Apollo 15 here every day,” said Hanks, “we don’t have to do that thing that can happen in films where the director says, ‘Flick some switches.’” 

“Working on the film was kind of like cramming for your final exam or something,” said Ed Harris. “You’ve got all this information in your head, you’re really focused on it, you’re doing your homework the night before about the scene you’re going to do the next day.”

Nevertheless, the film’s defining characteristic turned out not to be the heroism of the astronauts, but that of the engineers on the ground who fought to find a way to save the astronauts. Apollo 13 made stars of engineers and brought the phrase “Failure is not an option,” into popular culture.

“One of the first things that we did once we committed to making the movie was go to Houston, see mission control,” said Howard. “And I realized just how intense it was. How personally they took it. And I began to try to find ways to tell their story too.”

“Once the rocket leaves the launch pad, the flight director, he’s God,” Harris noted. “He’s got more power than the President of the United States at that point. He calls the shots.”

Howard put the same attention to detail that went into shooting authentic weightless scenes into recreating NASA’s mission control in Houston. “Ron is an absolute fanatic about every little detail being correct,” said Apollo 13 flight dynamics officer Jerry Bostic, who consulted on Apollo 13 and worked on the set daily. “I spend 14 hours a day here and I leave and I go look for the elevator,” he laughed. “Because the real control center in Houston was up on the third floor, and I forget because this thing is so real.

“You have a great story and you have all this incredible technology and you have something that was very important historically,” observed Bacon. “This moment was, in so many ways, NASA’s finest hour.”

For engineers, the film Apollo 13 might have been their finest hour too.


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

Screens for Large Appliances have a New Touch

Design News - Wed, 2020-04-08 03:51
Touchscreens have been a part of high-end appliances like Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator (shown), but now they're coming to lower-cost appliances as well. (Image source: Samsung Electronics)

Thanks to the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) touchscreens are finding themselves in more and more places – including our home appliances. Touchscreens have been a part of high-end appliances for a while, but the future is seeing them become a part of more and lower-cost appliances.

Driven by internet-connected applications, features, and services, a touchscreen human machine interface (HMI) solves several operating environment issues and provides aesthetic options as well. Ongoing advances have made touchscreens even more practical and addressed performance and cost issues to extend their use into more mass-market, cost-sensitive appliances. One particular new development, differential mutual (DM) technology, is key to expanding the use cases of touchscreens in appliances all over the home. The added value of DM to a touch sensor more than offsets the increased cost at many points in the appliance’s life from assembly to customer usage.

A Touchy-feely Relationship to Appliances

Let's look at a techie couple to explain what's happening with touchscreen appliances today. We'll call them Pat and Leslie:

Pat and Leslie are a couple that embrace new technology to simplify and improve their lives. They often enjoy spending quality time together in their home, especially in the kitchen and, surprisingly, even the laundry room.

Pat and Leslie both wear silicone cooking gloves or thick dishwashing gloves that have bristles. These gloves give you the dexterity to grab pots, ingredients, and utensils, and even interface with a touchscreen. The only problem is that the gloves are so thick the touchscreen can't detect their fingers.

As a second example, imagine the situation where Pat and Leslie are working in the kitchen preparing for invited guests. One of them drops a pan or heavy pot on the screen's cover glass and it cracks. With today’s designs, this could mean that they have to shut down the stove and disappoint their guests.

A third example involves cooking pasta. While handling the pasta strainer, Leslie drips the salty water onto the touchscreen causing a false touch event where the stove turns back on - even after Pat had previously turned it off. This is a potentially dangerous water immunity issue that could result in a burn with today’s touchscreens.

These are just a few examples of what can change with recently-announced touchscreen technology. However, the right touchscreen technology can address these common or soon to be common use case problems as well as manufacturing and service issues.

A Touchy Subject – New Technology to the Rescue

A touchscreen system is comprised of an array of drive electrodes, receive electrodes, and the circuitry in the touch IC to faithfully detect a user’s touch. Measuring nanocoulombs of charge, the touch IC controller is an extremely sensitive component. Simply touching the touchscreen with a finger changes the incumbent charge of the touch sensors of the screen by a tiny amount that needs to be consistently interpreted properly. Noise can inject significant charge into the sensor to confuse the controller, especially one without sufficient noise immunity.

Similar to the audio noise cancellation that occurs in noise-canceling headphones, a patented approach called differential mutual (DM) technology or DM noise cancellation allows the application of very high gain without amplifying the electrical noise in touch controllers.

In contrast, in the single-ended touch sensing that all regular touch controllers use today, gain applied to common-mode noise increases both the signal and the noise, so the signal to noise ratio (SNR) stays the same at best and in some cases reduces it – especially if the gain saturates the touch controller’s analog front end. In DM, the sense lines are treated in pairs to provide differential signaling, which is used in many communication areas such as Ethernet, USB, HDMI or anywhere high-speed data is sent over cables especially for long distances.

Common mode noise is injected onto both pairs carrying the signal as well as the negative of the signal, it affects both wires the same way. With DM, the signal of the two pairs is subtracted and since the noise is identical on both wires, it cancels, leaving just the desired signal. Since differential signaling removes the common-mode noise, very high gain can be applied to amplify the desired signal without increasing the noise. The increased gain allows the touchscreen sensor to detect valid signals through thick gloves, thick cover lenses, and even airgaps above the touch sensor.

The Advantages of Differential Mutual Technology

DM technology allows the use of bare fingers or gloves through very thick, protective cover lenses. Figure 1 shows the stack up of the glass, a cover lens between the touch sensor, and the finger – the surface that is touched. Historically, the cover lens has had a limited thickness, being made of around 4-mm glass or 2.2 mm of plastic. With DM, a much thicker cover lens can be used. Now, lenses up to 10-mm glass or 5-mm plastic can be supported with excellent performance.

Figure 1. The red arrow shows the protective cover that can be increased and/or have an isolating gap with DM technology. (Image source: Chad Solomon / Microchip Technology)

This is quite important for several reasons.

First, cook tops currently are 3 to 4 mm of glass for an inductive cook top and they are quite large – up to 42 inches diagonally – and quite heavy. Sensing touch through such a thick lens consistently is very difficult, especially with the added noise from the inductive burners.

DM technology provides additional performance margin to sense touch accurately and precisely even through very thick lenses. Historically, controllers could work with bare fingers but they would struggle, especially in the presence of noise, to provide reasonable performance. The additional performance margin of DM allows the support of thick gloves on top of an inductive cooktop as discussed earlier.

Not only can thick gloves be used with a single finger (which was possible with some advanced touch controllers in the past), but now thick glove multi-finger operation is possible thanks to DM. As a result, Pat and Leslie can use multi-finger gestures like pinch, zoom, and rotate. These are convenient actions while searching through a recipe containing small images and text. It also provides better watersplash immunity, as well as improved noise immunity because the signal levels are so much higher that they can be sensed through the thick material.

Meanwhile in the laundry room, laundry machines tend to have plastic cover lenses as shown in Figure 2a because curved surfaces enhance the aesthetic appeal. The rounded front panels differ considerably from the flat boxy shape of kitchen appliances, where glass is more common. The plastic lenses have been limited to 2 to 3 mm using materials like poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) between the touch sensor and the finger.

The thickness limitation was determined by what the previous generation of touch controllers could sense. With DM, industrial designers have more flexibility to use an even thicker material if it is desired. Now, the thickness can be extended up to 5 mm to provide more rounded shapes and the use of different materials. See Figure 2b.

Figure 2a. (Image source: Chad Solomon / Microchip Technology)


Figure 2b. The rounded edges desired on washing machines and driers can easily be achieved and extended with DM sensing technology. (Image source: Chad Solomon / Microchip Technology)

Another aspect of DM that impacts the industrial design of appliances is the ability to add an air gap to the display. Adding an air barrier between the touch sensor and the cover lens avoids gluing the cover lenses to the touch sensors, today’s common design approach. Optically clear adhesive (OCA) glue is used in a bonding process where the sensor is physically glued to the lens. This allows a thinner stack up with very good quality optics. However, the process is expensive since it is difficult to achieve without incurring air bubbles between the display and the sensor. Minimizing air bubbles adds to the process cost for either glass or plastic lenses. A third-party bonding expert usually performs this process which adds several steps to the appliance manufacturing operation.

With DM and the added air gap above the touch sensor, the appliance OEM can self-assemble the display with the touch sensor onto the front panel in their own factory. In-house assembly avoids sending the front panel and display module to a third-party optical bonding expert to perform the special gluing, since this type of gluing is rarely performed in the OEM’s factory.

This can significantly change an OEM’s process, especially when dealing with large heavy glass panels such as an inductive cook top. In low-cost assembly regions, it is not unusual for an OEM to ship a large 42 inch diagonal, 4-mm-thick panel to another country to perform the bonding and then shipping the glued assembly to the factory. In addition to the shipping costs which can be significant, breakage can occur during the shipping process. Figure 3 shows the process.

Figure 3. (Image source: Chad Solomon / Microchip Technology)

Eliminating the shipping cost, breakage and the time it takes for the processing outside of the appliance manufacturer, allows the OEM to offset any additional cost for a more capable touchscreen controller. In fact, these savings may totally cover the cost of the touch controller. Among the problems that can occur with external processing are issues related to who owns the yield loses when breakage occurs - the display vendor with inadequate packaging, the carrier, or another? Also, regardless the size of the lens, even manufacturers with smaller displays, such as those in microwave ovens, can benefit by eliminating the external manufacturing process steps and improve their control over the supply chain. Increased freedom and flexibility also allow the use of a second touchscreen display or cover lens sources and ability to easily substitute when required.

A final benefit of the air gap between the touch sensor and the cover lens allowed by a DM controller, and perhaps the most significant, is improved field serviceability. With the display module no longer glued to the front panel, if the front panel gets scratched or broken, the service technician only has to replace the cover glass. Since the display and touch sensor electronics are not replaced as they currently are, the customer has a much lower service expense. Alternatively, if the touch sensor display module fails, just this portion of the appliance can be replaced.

These same benefits occur during the manufacturing process. Currently, once they are glued together, breakage of the display or failure of the touch controller module anywhere in the manufacturing process means replacing the entire control panel assembly. With the air gap above the touch sensor, only the failed portion must be replaced. This increases yield and reduces production costs.

Finishing Touches

The development of DM technology was driven by a combination of customer inputs to solve a specific problem and analysis of the “as is” use cases to provide a more desirable situation through innovative controller design. Customer feedback helped to refine DM and has shaped the timing of implementing DM in further controller updates.

The patented technology already exists, so appliance makers can start considering how it will impact their next designs and future products. It provides flexibility, freedom, and options to industrial designers as well as cost reduction and manufacturing efficiency and improved service in the actual operation.


Chad Solomon is a member of Microchip Technology’s human machine interface division. He focuses on business development for emerging touchscreen markets such as home appliances and manages a global network of ecosystem partners who develop touchscreens and displays, using Microchip’s touch technology.

COVID-19 Has Makers Building Their Own Ventilators

Design News - Wed, 2020-04-08 03:36
YouTuber Johnny Lee used an Arduino Nano and a repurposed CPAP machine to create an open-source ventilator. (Image source: Johnny Lee / GitHub)

Before we get into this: You should absolutely not be building an Arduino-based ventilator as a substitute for an actual FDA-approved medical device.

As more news comes in of medical equipment shortages and measures being taken to overcome them by companies and groups big and small, the maker community has been experimenting with ways to build their on ventilators.

YouTuber Johnny Lee came upon a novel, low-cost ventilator solution and created a video around his idea for feedback from engineers and medical professionals.

Lee realized that a CPAP machine, for people with sleep apnea, uses a blower that is simply a brushless DC motor that be driven by a standard electronic speed controller – meaning it can also be driven by an Arduino. Connecting an Arduino Nano to the CPAP machine’s blower, and using a repurposed CPAP face mask and a DC power supply, allowed him to use software to control the speed of the blower – creating a simplified ventilator.

Lee posted details of his project on GitHub and is also requesting further input.

He also posted a video of his project:


Lee is not the only one looking at low-cost, open-source medtech solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. A Facebook group, called Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies, has formed with the goal of “[Providing] local makers with medically vetted, open-source plans and support in organizing local value chains so you can create and distribute much needed protective gear and equipment to your local communities.” The group currently counts over 69,000 members and is hosting a hackathon around creating an open-source ventilator, among other projects.

Thankfully, those involved in these projects have been very open that their work is not medically-cleared and are encouraging anyone interested in jumping on board to exercise caution and to be aware of the limitations of their projects.

Armstrong Subero, an author and computer engineer, posted a blog addressing some risks of Arduino-based ventilators as well as some guiding principles for makers looking to build their own. He has warned that any Arduino-based design should not be used for medical purposes unless absolutely necessary.

“This is because platforms like the Arduino were designed as a platform to be used in a learning environment. They were not designed for the real time, safety-critical design that is required to build ventilators,” Subero wrote.

The Arduino’s versatility has led many people to use it for applications, such as real time systems, that it was never intended for. “If you have no choice you can use the Arduino for design of a ventilator system. But the lack of debugging makes it difficult to do so and increases the likelihood of bugs in your firmware, and increases the risk of failure within the system,” Subero wrote.

He does however offer several tips for improving design on the sofware and hardware side such as using an RTOS, using a platform with libraries that meet safety requirements, using a watchdog timer, and adding a feedback system (a full list of his tips are on his blog).


Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.