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New Super-Fast 3D Printing Method: Prints in Seconds, High-Res, No Layers, Soft or Hard Materials

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-02-19 05:18

Researchers at Switzerland's EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) have invented a new 3D printing method similar to stereolithography, but with far faster results.

The similarity between the two systems is that both use photosensitive resins cured by lasers. Where they differ is that EPFL's system, which is tomography-inspired, doesn't build layer-by-layer on a vertically-moving platform, but instead comprehensively blasts their beams into a spinning container holding the resin. This essentially creates the object in one go, and with better surface quality, absent telltale layers.

At present their build area is limited to two centimeters square, but they can print objects with extraordinary speed, from "milliseconds" to "less than 30 seconds," depending on the complexity of the part.

Because they can print objects using both hard and soft materials, an obvious application is medical:

The researchers teamed up with a surgeon to test 3D-printed arteries made using the technique. "The trial results were extremely encouraging," says Damien Loterie, CEO of Readily3D.

Readily3D, by the way, is a spin-off the researchers have already set up to commercialize the technology. They reckon further development will increase their build area from two to 15 centimeters; if they're able to do that and the price is manageable, I believe at that point we'll start seeing strong interest from industrial design consultancies that aren't purely medical-focused. "The process could also be used to quickly build small silicone or acrylic parts that don't need finishing after printing," says Christophe Moser, who heads up EPFL's Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices, which developed the technology.

Watch This Enormous Mobile Crane "Self-Assemble"

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-02-19 05:18

The Liebherr LTR 1220 is a telescopic crawler crane with a 220-metric-ton (242 U.S. ton) maximum load capacity, with a boom arm that can hoist things 101 meters (331 feet) into the air.

Although it can move around on jobsites under its own steam, it of course moves too slowly and takes up too much space to drive it there; so like a stationary crane, it is broken down into pieces and trucked to the jobsite. But it is designed in such a way that once it arrives, it can "self-assemble," with some human help:

Currently Crowdfunding: A Travel Cup That Can Fit Inside Your Pocket, an Educational Robot Friendly Enough to be a Pixar Character, and More

Core 77 - Wed, 2020-02-19 05:18

Brought to you by MAKO Design + Invent, North America's leading design firm for taking your product idea from a sketch on a napkin to store shelves. Download Mako's Invention Guide for free here.

Navigating the world of crowdfunding can be overwhelming, to put it lightly. Which projects are worth backing? Where's the filter to weed out the hundreds of useless smart devices? To make the process less frustrating, we scour the various online crowdfunding platforms to put together a weekly roundup of our favorite campaigns for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:

Hunu is a reusable coffee cup that collapses to fit inside your pocket, making it easier than ever to avoid single-use disposable cups when you're on the go. You don't even have to worry about cleaning it beforehand, it comes with a plug so you won't risk any leaks.

This furniture system uses an ingenious connector that doesn't require any tools or hardware. You'll have to buy your own plywood but after that, the sky's the limit for what you can build with your own two hands.

With a friendly design that looks like it came straight out of a Pixar movie, Clicbot is a modular, educational robot with myriad programming possibilities for kids embarking on their STEM journey.

A push and grip mechanism allows this simple towel holder to function better than any hook and keep your towels off the floor.

For all you transit buffs: This documentary explores the factors leading to New York City's subway crisis as well as the dire state of transit infrastructure throughout the country.

Do you need help designing, developing, patenting, manufacturing, and/or selling YOUR product idea? MAKO Design + Invent is a one-stop-shop specifically for inventors / startups / small businesses. Click HERE for a free confidential product consultation.

Top New Automotive Technology Terms, Explained By Animation

Design News - Wed, 2020-02-19 05:17

There are a raft of new automotive safety and convenience technologies whose functions may be somewhat opaque. Acura has addressed unfamiliarity with new features by creating a series of animations depicting the function of new features such as adaptive cruise control, anti-collision braking and rear cross-traffic alert. Acura employs its own terminology in reference to some of these technologies, illustrating the challenge of informing consumers about technologies that are referred to by different names.

The first technology is Adaptive Cruise Control.

Forward Collision Warning

Rear Cross Traffic Monitor

Collision Mitigation Braking System

Lane Departure Warning

Blind Spot Information System

Super Handling All-Wheel Drive

Precision All-Wheel Steer


The 15 Coolest Classic Cars From The Paris Retromobile Show


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

3 Reasons Embedded Security Is Being Ignored

Design News - Wed, 2020-02-19 04:33

The IoT has grown to the point that everyone and their brother is in the process of connecting their products to the Internet. This is great because it opens new revenue generating opportunities for businesses and in some cases completely new business models that can generate rapid growth. The problem that I am seeing though is that in several cases there seems to be little to no interest in securing these devices. (I draw this conclusion from the fact that embedded conferences, webinars, articles and even social media conversations seem to draw far less interest then nearly any other topic). In this post I’m going to explore the primary reasons why I believe development teams are neglecting security in their embedded products and explain why security doesn’t have to be a necessary evil.

The problem is that in many cases there seems to be little to no interest in securing embedded devices. (Image source: Siemens)

Reason #1 – The Perception That Adding Security Is Expensive

I believe that there is still a perception in the embedded space that security is expensive. Right now, if you were to survey the availability of security experts, you will find that there is a severe shortage at the moment. Since our economic system runs on supply and demand, where there is a supply shortage, the cost for those goods or services will be higher. Security experts will often charge several hundred dollars per hour for their time and management will often look at those costs and assume that they need that expert for the entire development cycle. In reality, many embedded products don’t require a full-time security expert to be on staff. Having access to an expert up front to create a threat model and the security objectives and then periodically through-out the development cycle can be all that is required. The cost to a company for a security breach can be orders of magnitude more costly.  

Reason #2 – We Will “Add It Later”

Nobody wants to be on the front page due to a security breach. I believe in many cases, companies want to include security, but in the early stages of product development, when funds are short, security is often the lowest priority. With many good intentions, the teams often think they’ll add it later after we get through this sprint or this development cycle. The problem that is encountered here is that you can’t add security on at the end of the development cycle.

A secure solution requires a well-thought-out process that involves starting the security analysis from the very beginning of the development cycle. Developers need to follow a process like Arms Platform Security Architecture (PSA) which has them evaluate their systems assets and threats from the beginning. The advantage to doing this up front is that it helps to generate the security requirements and objectives for the system to protect those assets from the expected threats. This then leads to the selection of hardware that can support the security objectives and the software necessary to carry it out. Obviously starting at the end can result in the wrong hardware and software being selected which means either going back to redo it or accepting what is there at the cost of a less secure solution.

Reason #3 - Teams Are In Too Big A Hurry

Nearly every development team that I encounter is behind schedule and in a hurry. New start-ups, seasoned successful teams, there is always way too much to do and never enough time (or budget). In many cases, teams may be developing a new product and need to get to market fast in order to start generating revenue so that they can pay the bills. While they might be thinking about security and want their systems to be secure, the priority is to build a product that can generate revenue, which in many cases is very close to a minimum viable product. In these cases, we need to change our thinking for connected devices to include security as a core component in the minimally viable product. Rushing to market is never the right answer.


Security is a foundational element to any connected device. Security cannot be added on at the end of a product and must be carefully thought through from the very beginning. Without thinking about it up front, the development team can’t ensure they have the right hardware components in place to properly isolate their software components or expect to have the right software frameworks in their application to properly manage and secure their product. 

I’ve noticed lack of interest in security topics amongst embedded software and systems engineers which is a little bit frightening. While many of these reasons we discussed today may seem like real issues preventing robust security, there are many resources available to engineers to help them learn security and begin to implement it. Taking a few first steps such as learning how to analyze a systems threats and developing a threat model with security objectives can go a long way. There are even open source security frameworks like Trusted Firmware-M (TF-M) that can ease the development burden.


Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at jacob@beningo.com, at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

Two Myths About Silicon Photonic Chips

Design News - Wed, 2020-02-19 03:56

The coming of silicon photonic technology in the datacom and telecom industries has been foretold for the last several decades. Indeed, replacing copper wires with fiber optics and silicon photonic interfaces has been occurring in these markets, just at a slower pace than predicted.

Chris Cole, VP of Advanced Development at II-VI, challenges the expectation of a wide-spread replacement of copper wires with silicon photonic interfaces. During his keynote at DesignCon 2020, Cole went so far as to call this expectation a myth.

The original goal of optical fiber and related silicon photonic chips was to overcome the limitations of copper wires and support faster interconnects between data centers. To achieve this goal, data center need optical elements such as cheap lasers, low signal lose technologies (low SNR) and cheap system assembly and packaging.

Unfortunately, there is reason to doubt that silicon photonics can meet those needs. First of all, silicon is an indirect band-gap semiconductor, so it’s a lousy light amplifier, explained Cole. This reason, in turn, made Si lasers extra lousy as light amplifiers, (remember that the LA in Lasers stands for Light Amplification). Further, silicon photonics has higher signal/data loss than other technologies like free space optics. Finally, while silicon photonics packaging has been comparable in cost to conventional packaging, it has only just been on par without any additional motivating factors to improve its viability.

The shortcomings of silicon photonics lead Cole to capture two myths for the value of silicon photonics in the data room. The first myth was that silicon photonics is low in cost. But Cole argued that this technology is actually expensive when all costs are properly accounted for such as the process development, components development, modeling, mask creation, testing, yield improvement, and other expenses. While it may be true that silicon photonics has a decent cost if there as very high chip yield, the yield itself typically has many pitfalls.

If silicon photonics has inferior performance capabilities to conventional datacom transceivers, why has the first myth been put forth?  Cole explained that if you can’t sell on value, then you need to sell on price. Low cost was the only marketing claim that could be made for silicon photonics.

The second myth was that silicon photonics is like any other CMOS ASIC chip in terms of development and cost. To counter this myth, Cole argued that the two largest ASIC CAE companies (e.g., Synopsys and Cadence) had revenues (~$5.5B) similar to the entire Datacom optics industry. Further, the true cost of just developing process design kits (PDKs) for advanced CMOS nodes is comparable to the entire R&D budget of an optical transceiver vendor.

While CMOS tool predictability enables a first pass success for complex ASICs, silicon photonic tools do not predict final product performance. Equally problematic is that the assembled and packaged silicon photonic performance is not modeled. Finally, successful design efforts require device and process engineer’s expertise for those companies developing silicon photonic chips.

To provide a balance view, Cole acknowledged the counter point to his Myth 2. With proper investment and effort, silicon photonic tools can give good results. He cited as an example the 40Gb/s and 56Gb/s TX eyes, part of the Finisar 400G DR4 SiPIC prototype from 2014. [Disclaimer: Cole did work for Finisar in the past.]

In conclusion, Cole summarized that quad channel silicon photonic transceivers fundamentally have no advantage over conventional quad transceivers. The current stampede of 400G DR4 QSFP-DD SiPh transceiver designs from Intel, Cisco/Luxtera, Cisco/Acacia, Elenion, (Finisar before dropping out), and other smaller companies will result in no ROI on investment. In other words, “me too” products don’t bring market success.

To be successful, silicon photonics must deliver performance enabled by large scale photonic integration, and something not possible with conventional optics. The technology has to be about value, not price, emphasized Cole.

Image Source: DesignCon 2020 / Chris Cole



John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

Recycling industry is strong and robust, claims annual report

Design News - Tue, 2020-02-18 11:20

In case you think that recycling is not having a meaningful impact, given the disappointing statistics that are often published, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI; Washington, DC) wants to set the record straight. ISRI just released its annual Recycling Industry Yearbook for the eighth year, providing an understanding of how recyclable material is transported, processed, traded and used in manufacturing, and how the practice of recycling is benefiting the environment.

Image courtesy Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

“Recycling is a strong and robust industry that preserves our planet and sustains our natural resources,” said ISRI Chief Economist Joe Pickard. “The 2019 Recycling Industry Yearbook provides valuable information using facts and figures to paint an accurate picture of the important role the industry plays in the environment, economy and manufacturing. As the public, policymakers, local communities and media have taken a renewed interest in recycling, the book provides a valuable resource to help them rediscover the positive impact our industry has on the world in which we live.”

The U.S. recycling industry generates nearly $110 billion in economic activity, and is responsible for more than 531,000 total jobs. Globally, manufacturers consumed more than 900 million metric tons of scrap, accounting for 40% of global industrial raw-material needs. The amount of material recycled in the United States saves the equivalent of nearly 400 million tons of greenhouse gases.

While the 80-page book, which is free to download in an electronic version, contains information on all types of recyclables, a portion is dedicated to plastics. “Recycled plastic products can provide enormous environmental benefits compared to virgin counterparts,” said the yearbook. “For example, [wood-plastic] composite lumber made from recycled plastic bags conserves trees and reduces the need for hazardous chemically treated wood.”

Recycled plastic also saves 88% of the energy needed to produce plastics from virgin materials, which is second only to aluminum, which saves up to 95% of the energy needed to produce new cans.

The 2019 Recycling Industry Yearbook also notes that technologies to cost-effectively sort and recycle plastics have only been developed over the past 25 years, and these technologies continue to evolve. “Most recently, chemical recycling technologies that break down plastics to their molecular-level building blocks such as monomers, polymers and hydrocarbons have begun to show potential for hard-to-recycle plastics,” said the report.

NAPCOR talks PET, packaging and recycling

Design News - Tue, 2020-02-18 09:47

For industry professionals and others, this is an exceptionally interesting period in plastics and packaging.

The accelerating, ever-changing landscape in these markets yields presents numerous hurdles met by an continuing wave of technical innovation. The result is a kind of yin and yang dualism—opposite or contrary forces that may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world (Source: Wikipedia).

To help plastics professionals gain an understanding of the dynamics and issues involved, PlasticsToday is drawing on the expertise of industry influencers who can present a big picture assessment. This occasional series debuts in an interview with Laura Stewart, Communications Director, National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), based in Charlotte, NC.

What’s the state of the industry for PET and recycling?

Stewart: PET is still a growing market. Though the recycling rate over the last decade hasn’t really shifted much, we have seen a marked shift in domestically collected material recycled and used here in the US. While that does have a lot to do with China’s National Sword policy, it speaks to the strength of domestic markets in the U.S. and Canada—that there has been a continual increase of total postconsumer PET material used in end markets including fiber, bottles, thermoforms and strapping since 2015.

What’s been the biggest change since NAPCOR was formed in 1987?

Stewart: Curbside recycling was still in its infancy and 2-Liter bottles were more common and there were many challenges in getting the PET bottle in the recycling bin that needed to be overcome. NAPCOR not only worked with municipalities, but also recyclers and manufacturers to remove those hurdles.

What’s been the biggest change the past 10 years?

Stewart: Since 2010 we have seen a shift towards convenience, and increased prevalence of smaller PET bottles. In 2017 for the first time, sales of water packaged in PET overtook that of carbonated soft drinks, which means the average PET bottle is lighter than it used to be. With improved technology, light weighting was rampant in the mid-2010s, but we’ve started to see that plateau.

How have PET recycling percent rates trended over that time?

Stewart: The PET recycling rate has been steady and unchanged over the past decade—it peaked in 2013 at 31.2%.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was significant awareness around the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We saw that in the PET recycling rate, which was close to 40% in 1995, but arguably some ground has been lost since then in public enthusiasm for recycling.

Programs are underway now such as those managed by the Recycling Partnership, ACC’s Every Bottle Back and now our new Positively PET campaign, which all aim to re-engage and educate consumers about the benefits of recycling, and how to do it correctly.

Where do U.S. recycling efforts fall short?

Stewart: Two factors are key from our perspective. A large percentage of the population only has access to curbside recycling as opposed to deposit programs here in this U.S., versus Northern European countries where deposit systems are more prevalent.

There are also socio-economic factors to consider. In countries where there is a lower net worth, there is more incentive to recover materials like PET, for example in Lithuania, which was recently featured in an article on this topic from The Economist.

What’s the biggest issue facing the industry in 2020?

Stewart: Right now, it’s access to postconsumer material—we will continue to see strong market demand with lack of feedstock. Beverage companies have corporate commitments to use more postconsumer content, but without an increase in the amount of PET recovered, there simply won’t be enough material to go around.

Another issue is what we refer to as virtue signaling—there is a lot of legislative activity across the U.S. banning plastic products of various types. Without considering lifecycle impacts of plastic products, which often offer significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions versus plastic packaging alternatives, these bans may have unintended consequences—ultimately moving us towards options that are in fact more harmful to the environment.

Next: Misconceptions, challenges and frustrations

What regulations pose a hindrance? Any good news on that front?

Stewart: When someone opts to throw their PET bottle in the trash – that is the end of life for that package. By choosing to recycle, the PET molecule will continue to be used over and over again. Plastic bans are working in the wrong direction, because they limit consumer options and may end up leading to greater environmental impact over the lifecycle of the packages we use.

On the other hand, discussion on how improve our recycling infrastructure by legislative or regulatory means is encouraging, even if there are disagreements on how to get there.

What’s a common consumer practice that undermines industry efforts?

Stewart: Not recycling at all is the practice that most undermines our efforts. Package engineers are putting more effort into designing products with end of life in mind, which means more of the PET packages that make it to the bin can be processed and successfully recycled.  Manufacturers are encouraged to follow APR Design for Recyclability Guidelines, since caps and labels designed to those standards may be left on and will be separated and recycled. The bottom line, though, is to make sure the PET bottle makes it to the bin or your redemption center.

What’s the most positive thing going on now?

Stewart: The Positively PET campaign, which is NAPCOR’s new initiative to communicate the benefits of PET to consumers. Many within the industry know that PET is a winner for many applications. NAPCOR felt that we needed to share the many attributes of PET that make it a great packaging option with consumers so they can feel confident in choosing bottles and containers made from PET.

What’s the biggest challenge or frustration…and what’s a possible solution?

Stewart: As a plastic, PET is associated with single-use plastics and the resultant marine debris that occurs when these products are mismanaged at end-of-life. When PET is recycled those molecules stay in circulation, going into another bottle, packaging or even household products like clothes and carpet. The solution is to change mindsets so that PET is viewed as a valuable feedstock for recycling rather than waste.

What would it take to move PET recycling rates higher?

Stewart: The simple answer would be shifting towards bottle deposit programs. All states and countries with deposit laws have higher recycling rates than those without. There is still significant opposition to this kind of a shift from beverage companies, though this may be starting to change. Regardless, there are things that can be done to improve rates without deposits such as consumer education, better curbside collection practices, improving technology in municipal recycling facilities (MRFs), incentivizing collection through municipal fees, and working to ensure landfilling is not a more economically attractive option than recycling.

What’s a popular misconception about PET you can dispel?

Stewart: I’m always surprised when I talk with someone who believes that PET cannot be recycled. For those of us who have toured MRFs or PET recycling facilities, we know that it is being done every day. Another misconception is with Bisphenol A (BPA): PET never has and never will contain BPA.

What can industry publications like PlasticsToday do better to support recycling efforts?

Stewart: We’re very fortunate to have strong trade publications like PlasticsToday. The trade publications are knowledgeable about the various types of plastics and issues of recyclability. You can continue to talk about and emphasize the benefits of plastic packaging and what role it has in the market and reassure the industry that it’s ok to choose plastic. As the next generation of package engineers enters the workforce, there is also a role to reassure them that they’ve made the right choice.

Final thoughts?

Stewart: PET offers the best solution to the packaging industry, both from a performance and end of life aspect. It is strong, lightweight, can be molded into any shape, contains no toxins and is low cost.

In a recent report, Dr. Roland Geyer of UC Santa Barbara estimated that by 2015 only 9% of all plastics had been recycled. In contrast, the leading market research company, Wood Mackenzie, reports that in 2018 the global recycling rate for PET was 53.4%. This shows that the recycling of PET far exceeds that of all plastics, making it the most recyclable choice for the packaging industry.

Space Eyes See Back In Time

Design News - Tue, 2020-02-18 05:45



John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

Does Technology Help Or Hinder Epidemics Like Coronavirus?

Design News - Tue, 2020-02-18 05:21

The spread of the deadly coronavirus has been monitored and even controlled thanks to the latest technology. But growing levels of misinformation via social media have some professionals calling this outbreak of the disease an “infodemic” rather than an epidemic. Has technology reached a point where it no longer helps but actually hinders the medical efforts to deal with highly infectious diseases? This infographic examines both technical advances in medical science, as well as the drawbacks of certain technologies.


John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

Design vs. Disposability: The Icon Approach

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-02-18 03:05

The folks over at Freethink have put together a killer video on Jonathan Ward's Icon. This one isn't just drooling over the cars and Ward's legendary attention to design detail; instead they ask the larger question, what if this level of thought, design, future-proofing and craftsmanship were applied to all products? What would that do to our perceptions of disposability and long-term use?

"They're taking a 40 year old car," says a familiar voice in the video, "and essentially preparing it for its next 40 years." Yep, Icon collaborator Michael DiTullo makes an appearance in the vid, along with some of his sketches.

Check out the video, and let us know in the comments what you think of the presented philosophies.

See Also:- An Interview with Jonathan Ward, Founder of Icon- Ward's Obsessive Approach to Industrial Design- Ward on Designing Without Corporate Interference, and Where Icon Could Go

Stephanie Yung of Smart Design Predicts the Most Promising Future Design Trends in Health & Wellness

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-02-18 03:05
For this year's Core77 Design Awards, we're conducting in-depth interviews with some of our 2020 jury captains to get in a glimpse into their creative minds and to hear more about what they'll be looking for in this year's awards submissions.

Stephanie Yung is Design Director at Smart Design in New York City, a leading company in the product development space. Yung's design experience over the years expands across industries far and wide, but she has dedicated a particular, passionate focus over that time on designing in the health and wellness space, particularly for women. Her development of the app concept Jr., an idea that transpired from her experience of having a child as a single woman, has received praise over the past couple of years for its design approach to the tricky yet important subject of single motherhood. This year, Yung will be the 2020 Core77 Design Awards Jury Captain for our Health & Wellness category—we took a little time to chat with her about her work at Smart and the health trends she sees making a big impact in the near future.

What is your role at Smart Design and what does a day there look like for you?

I'm the Design Director at Smart and what that primarily means is that I'm overseeing projects we're working on on a day to day basis. In terms of the type of projects I'm working on, whether we're designing a new product, a new service or designing a new experience, there's something that needs to be said about both answering a functional, but also an emotional, human need. Oftentimes a client will come to us and see an opportunity, but they won't know exactly what the solution looks like or sometimes they won't even know what they are "supposed" to design. So usually it's us meeting with the people we're designing for to uncover where the gaps are and where we can truly make a difference, not only from a market landscape but from a brand lens as well. I, personally, am very focused on designing for women as well as designing health and wellness experiences, services and products.

In terms of what a typical day looks like for me: I'm very rarely at my desk, which is a good thing and I enjoy. It leaves me pretty active, just meeting with a lot of people. Oftentimes you can find me working with teams. The way that we're set up here is that once we have a program or a project, we have a physical space actually dedicated to it, so the whole team spends their time there. So I'm usually going from project team to project team to review work and work with them.

We do a lot of qualitative research at our studio where we're sharing prototypes or co-creating with the people we're designing for, so you could also find me doing that. Our approach here is definitely not about being behind a two way mirror, there are lots of designers and strategists and engineers or technologists working together because we really believe that if we're looking to create true innovation, we need to have that point of view right from the get go.

I could also on any given day be attending workshops or running workshops with the team. So that could involve the clients where we're really working through some operational underpinnings or how can we enable this product or a service to come to life through the business or through the organization.

And I would say every day I try to sit at the lunch table. I think it's important. [Smart Design's office has] a very long table where everyone gathers to be together. It's important because it's where a lot of ideas are shared. It's a time where you might talk to people and just learn about different aspects of what's going on around the office that can influence your own work.

Can you tell me about some recent work your team worked on that is indicative of the type of projects you typically do and enjoy most?

Much of Smart's work in the Health & Wellness space is about looking beyond the product itself and thinking about ecosystems that better support people in achieving their health goals. We focus on what's the right place for a brand to play, and which elements of an ecosystem people find the most valuable.

Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch and App designed by Smart brings personalized sports fueling recommendations to everyday athletes through a democratized, wearable device and smartphone app trained with machine learning.

It's an extremely complex space, with an overwhelming amount of information and a variety of people and services available. Our challenge is to conceive new products, experiences, and services that are more accessible for everyone. This takes a cross-functional team to not only understand what the true unmet need or gap is in people's lives, but to also understand the operational or technology underpinnings that can make these new ideas a reality.

Our recent work has spanned everything from looking at the future of facial recognition technology and its role in reducing the gap of people receiving healthcare services in emerging countries. Rethinking personal care and wellness products and services to better connect with women's values around sustainability. We've also reimagined the stigmatized hearing loss category through a membership-based service and hearing health centers.

I want to briefly touch on the topic of Jr., a fertility app aimed at single mothers that stemmed from your own personal experience. What was it like to spearhead such a personal project and what advice would you give to anyone who would like to do something similar on their own?

You know, it was actually pretty scary because putting yourself out there is never an easy thing to do; it really was a melding of my personal and professional life. The reason why I started Jr. was because I found myself having gone through a breakup, being single and wanting to have a child on my own and believe it or not, it's a really taboo subject. Going through it alone as a single woman, I felt like the pain points were much more amplified. So since I was experiencing it firsthand, I really thought to myself, "I surely am not alone here." I think the more I talked about it, the more I realized that other people going through the fertility experience actually experienced a lot of things that I was experiencing.

And I feel like that's partially why it resonated so strongly, because everyone can relate to a health care experience being too overwhelming, too fragmented, where you feel like your own personal information is not yours. There are so many aspects of it that are relatable.

A preview of the Jr. app

This would be my advice to someone doing it on their own—usually I think a project like this comes up due to someone coming across something that can be improved upon; a problem that is painful in some way, shape or form. And I think it's important to look at and ask, "Hey, am I the only one?" Usually you're not. Usually there are other people. And once you see that, I feel like that's how you make the connection.

Another part of it is persevering and not giving up because people are only going to be as passionate about it as you are. And that's something that's really important because there are many times I could have said, "Oh, you know what, maybe this isn't as relevant," but no—because I believed in it so much I feel like I did rally the resources. If you believe in it, you do spend that extra time to uncover that deeper insight in order to make the case that this product should exist.

How did you go about those first steps of figuring out if it was a viable direction? 

It was important to speak with other people. I spoke to single women who were older, women who were younger and coupled who are aren't necessarily ready to have a child yet, and people who had gone through the process. I spoke to fertility doctors as well.

Another part of it was looking at the landscape. A lot of capital is being invested in fertility startups and fertility and women's health care in general, so there's a need from that standpoint. Also, fertility is at a record low, but the number of women having children later in life is at an all time high. So I had to really consider questions like, is there a need from a consumer standpoint? Is this something that is in demand?

I love the imbued philosophy within the app of "Your Village", which enabled the single people using the app to call upon their loved ones for direct or indirect support. It made me wonder, how do you think designers could veer technologies forward in a way that connects rather than isolates its users? Or, what needs to change in order to get there?

It's good to remember the role of technology when it comes to facilitating the support. I think it's easy to forget actually. So it was much more about being in the background versus being in the foreground because I don't think technology can replace human interaction and contact—I think that is something that it should facilitate. So for example, I think with Jr., just in terms of informing your village and keeping everyone on the same page so that you weren't answering the same questions a million times or that you could be left alone when needed and didn't feel awkward about it, it was very much about either a.) facilitating better in-person interaction or b.) about understanding when actually users don't want to talk about it or be alone. So I think another part of that as well is understanding and designing for different modes or contacts.

You don't always want to be social or sharing everything. And I think that's something that's really important when you look at things like Slack, for example, and other digital tools for communication. It's important to understand those nuances when [technology is] appropriate and when it's not. And so I feel like that's just a consideration people really need to make when designing. It's not necessarily, "because it's there we should use it," it's almost like, okay, "how is this better? How would this enable or improve in- person communications?"

What to you are the most exciting health and wellness design trends going on right now?

A big one is the way that people are accessing their primary care. When we think about the front lines of medicine, nowadays those getting medical help don't necessarily take the traditional route of just visiting their GP, it really could be many different touchpoints. Then when we think about membership-based services, like One Medical, that's an entirely different experience. There are also retail approaches, with CVS where they're creating an actual health hub, right?

What's interesting about all of this is that if you look at what's accessible, you have certain solutions for people who can afford it, right? For them, they might use something like One Medical. But then for anyone else, something like CVS might be just a bit more accessible. So I feel like a part of it is really looking at that spectrum of different patient types as well as the people who could be using the services too and coming up with solutions that are more inclusive, both from a diversity standpoint but also income and coverage as well.

Cimzia, a drug developed for rheumatoid arthritis, teamed up with Smart and OXO to design a syringe that allowed those with arthritis to inject medication at home more easily.

The role of AI in doing screening and diagnostics is also exciting. There are technologies out there like Google Health where they're creating new systems to help detect cancer much earlier on. So it's really about decreasing the chance of error—that's a big thing that we're seeing.

Another theme, which is not necessarily new but I think is important, is the shift from the more reactionary mindset of treating a sickness to the more proactive mindset of managing your health on an ongoing basis, and hopefully preventing you from becoming sick in the first place. And there are plenty of services that are really addressing that and making it easier for people to achieve. Whether it's Forward Health where they are leveraging your data and advanced AI to give you a comprehensive picture of your health on an ongoing basis; or 23andMe, using your DNA to determine health predispositions and genetic insights; or Headspace where they are reducing stress and anxiety through bite-sized meditation interventions—the focus is more on wellness as a process rather than health as an end result.

Home and diagnostic treatment therapy is also continuing to grow. So that could mean anywhere from capsule services to birth control prescriptions sent by delivery to STI testing.

And if you think about fitness, since that's also part of wellness when we think about it, all of the different products and experiences being brought in home versus gyms. So I feel like that's a big, a big category as well.

You are the Jury Captain for the Health & Wellness category in the 2020 Core77 Design Awards. What will you be looking for and hope to see in the projects entered this year?

I think what I'm hoping to see are solutions that are really answering to real human needs. And not necessarily complicating things, but really making things more simple or more accessible for everybody involved. I think it's also about being thoughtful in the design, so really looking for a solution that shows the understanding and the nuances with designing for different people and certain specific needs situations and context.

Our team is always looking at award shows and looking at the future of health and wellness and what that could mean. I'm looking for something that really makes us rethink our own practices, that approach, and that pushes our thinking that way. So that's something that I'm hoping for and excited to see if that's the case.

Thinking of submitting to the Health & Wellness category in the 2020 Core77 Design Awards? Submit today—Regular Deadline ends March 9th!
The Core77 Design Awards Health & Wellness Jury

2020 Health & Wellness Jury Captain Stephanie Yung will be joined by these designers for the awards selection process:

Erica Chidi Cohen


Erica Chidi Cohen is the CEO of LOOM, a wellbeing brand empowering womxn through reproductive and sexual health content. She is passionate about helping people cultivate body literacy and sex positivity by giving them the tools to advocate for their and loved one's reproductive health and wellbeing. Her work has guided thousands of people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood both as a Doula and through her book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood.

Gina Reimann

Wearables Industrial Design Manager, Google

As Wearables Industrial Design Manager at Google, Gina leads a team making radically helpful products, bringing together the best of Google AI, software and hardware. Notable launches include Google's headphone family and watch bands.

Clay Wiedemann

Head of Design, ZocDoc

Clay tends to rescue cats every few years. In addition to that, he has been a designer and research at frog design, led the interaction team at Smart Design NY, taught prototyping at SVAs MFA Interaction Program, and now leads the Zocdoc design team. He hopes his work in design helps him do as much for people as he does for cats.

What Can the City Learn from the Country? Upcoming Rem Koolhaas Exhibition at the Guggenheim

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-02-18 03:05

It's been nearly two years since I gave up my 2,000-square-foot loft in SoHo, in a building I'd lived in for twenty years. I was born in New York and figured I'd die in New York. But I knew I'd peaked--if I stayed in New York, I'd never do better than that loft--and, worse, had gone into decline; newcomers had altered the city into something I could no longer adapt to.

The farm I live on now is the exact opposite of New York City in nearly every way I can think of. I have learned a lot out here and met people I'd never have encountered in a city. I've seen what they do, how they do it and why they do it. My conception of how the world works has changed, as has my view of urban life.

Ironic, then, that I'd have to go back to New York to see an exhibition aiming to teach urbanites what they can learn from the countryside. Hosted at the Guggenheim, and put on by Rem Koolhaas, Countryside, The Future is "an exhibition addressing urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues" by looking for solutions well outside of cities.

A unique exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum, "Countryside, The Future" will explore radical changes in the rural, remote, and wild territories collectively identified here as "countryside," or the 98% of the earth's surface not occupied by cities, with a full rotunda installation premised on original research.The project presents investigations by AMO (the think tank of Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture), Koolhaas, with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi.The exhibition will examine the modern conception of leisure, large scale planning by political forces, climate change, migration, human- and non-human ecosystems, market driven preservation, artificial and organic coexistence and other forms of radical experimentation that are altering the landscapes across the world.

I do wish the video provided a bit more detail on what specific solutions they're looking at, as I debate whether to book an air ticket back to the city to see it.

I'll have until August to decide. Countryside, The Future opens February 20, 2020 and runs until August 14, 2020. You can get tickets here.

Please, I'm Begging You, Take My Plastic Bags

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-02-18 03:05

In my apartment, there is a small mountain of plastic bags that my roommates and I continue to reluctantly build upon. Desperate to deal with these wasted bags, I am regularly trying to find different opportunities to reuse them. Of course, I alone will never find ways to reuse all of them. So my mountain of plastic guilt grows ever higher.

This might be a familiar feeling for many who are justifiably concerned about the amount of plastic gumming up the gears of the earth. A heap of plastic bags stuffed under the sink or in a kitchen drawer can feel like an albatross around one's neck (presumably one that has been suffocated by a plastic bag) and it would be a great relief to find a way to get rid of them without committing that mortal sin against nature: throwing them away. UK-based designer's Onni Aho's All those bags appears to offer a less distressing alternative.

All those bags is a redistribution system that Onni Aho installed in nearly 40 locations around East London as a part of his research to find ways in which design can help manage waste in the urban environment. The system consists of a small tube that can be affixed to poles in public spaces. People can deposit their bag if they don't need one and take a bag when they do.

This simple, designed interaction is all it takes to create material movement. Where as the bags we accrue in our home so often remain sedentary, piling up until one way or another we have to toss them out somewhere (the ocean, waterways, endless landfills). Here, the bags move, or at the very least have the potential to move. Which, far from being a solution to plastic waste overall, it taps into an important part of thinking ecologically: material should constantly be moving from use to use until it is broken down. In the case of plastic, that's easier said than done. Plastic shopping bags, on average, are used for about 12 minutes. If it takes a bag 300 years to degrade, that would mean over 13 million instances of reuse.

As bleak as that sounds, it underlines the importance of designing ways to reuse material through collective engagement. As great and wonderful recycling is conceptually, the recycling systems we supposedly very intelligent humans have built are garbage. Which is why, for designers, there is significant opportunity to help make reuse easier for people. We may be waiting a long time until we see infrastructure that adequately addresses the overflow of plastic material (seeing as global-ecological collapse doesn't appear to be incentive enough). In the meantime, making reuse systems accessible to everyone should be a priority for designers.

Which this small moment of design does. To be honest, my initial thought upon seeing All those plastic bags was, "this guy is just pawning off his plastic bags on to other people! If I have to live with this pile of plastic guilt, he should too!" Alas plastic waste is not an individual issue. We all share an ecosystem and it does no good if half of us are using reusable bags and half of us aren't. It is a collective issue. Which means sharing the burdens of our material waste is necessary for communities and people have to deal with it, if ever there will be significant changes. Design, as seen here, can help facilitate that effort.

Engineer Creates Functional, Practical Rotary Cell Phone with ePaper Screen

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-02-18 03:05

Justine Haupt is difficult to summarize. Her official job title is Instrumentation Developer for Cosmology, Astronomy, and Quantum Networking at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where she's been for ten years; she's run Sky's Edge Robotics, her own company, for the past year; she's an engineer for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which when complete will "produce the deepest, widest image of the universe;" and she's Director of Radio Astronomy at the Custer Institute, an observatory on Long Island. I guess "brainiac" just about covers it.

Despite the many hats, Haupt still carves out spare time to work on projects of personal interest. Her latest: A rotary cell phone with an e-ink screen. It's functional, practical, and in many ways, an improvement over existing cell phones.

Skeptical? Read her description and reasoning behind creating it:

Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.

The point isn't to be anachronistic. It's to show that it's possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional. More functional how? - Real, removable antenna with an SMA connector. Receptions is excellent, and if I really want to I could always attach a directional antenna.

- When I want a phone I don't have to navigate through menus to get to the phone "application". That's bullshit.

- If I want to call my husband, I can do so by pressing a single dedicated physical key which is dedicated to him. No menus. The point isn't to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use. The people I call most often are stored, and if I have to dial a new number or do something like set the volume, then I can use the fun and satisfying-to-use rotary dial.

- Nearly instantaneous, high resolution display of signal strength and battery level. No signal metering lag, and my LED bargraph gives 10 increments of resolution instead of just 4.

- The ePaper display is bistatic, meaning it doesn't take any energy to display a fixed message.

- When I want to change something about the phone's behavior, I just do it.

- The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.

So it's not just a show-and-tell piece... My intent is to use it as my primary phone. It fits in a pocket.; It's reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call is faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.

If only these were on the market!

This 'American Factory' run by Chinese is no workers' paradise

Design News - Mon, 2020-02-17 18:43

At this year's Academy Awards, Netflix’s American Factory, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, won for best feature-length documentary. The title should have been “Chinese Factory,” because the only thing American about it is the factory’s location in the small town of Moraine, outside of Dayton, OH. While the documentary opens with the 2008 closing of what was once a General Motors factory making automotive glass, we are never told the back story of that closing, and the role that Obama’s policies—and the bailout of GM and Chrysler—played in the plant’s closing, and the deals cut with the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Image from American Factory courtesy Netflix.

An article in the Sept. 13, 2019, edition of the Wall Street Journal by Mike Turner noted that “despite being one of the top GM facilities for quality, efficiency and production in the country, it was shuttered.” The Moraine plant was a union factory, but many of the employees were non-union (workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition for employment), leaving many of those workers transfered to other GM plants in the region in difficulty.

In 2014, Chinese businessman Cao Dewang bought the plant. He was known to workers as “Chairman Cao,” a monicker that echoes another chairman whose Great Leap Forward killed an estimated 45 million people in four years. (Some estimates put the total number of people killed throughout his rule to be upwards of 80 million.)

To the out-of-work citizens of Moraine, the arrival of Chairman Cao’s Fuyao Glass Inc. and the re-opening of the plant that would soon employ 2,000 people was greeted with open arms. Fuyao was seen as the “savior” of Moraine and its citizens.

At the plant’s grand opening, however, there were already signs of trouble ahead when Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown spoke to the crowd of Ohio’s “rich history of unions.” Immediately, Chairman Cao made Sen. Brown persona non grata on company property. “If union comes in, it will hurt our production,” commented Chairman Cao. “We’ll shut it down.”

The honeymoon was short-lived, as the employees began their indoctrination into the Chinese way of how manufacturing plants are run. Some 200 Chinese workers were sent from China to Ohio to provide training in plant operations. The Chinese groused that “Americans are slow to train” because they have “fat fingers.”

The working conditions were very hot, as one might expect in a factory where extremely high heat is needed to turn sand into glass. “Our American colleagues are very afraid of heat,” commented one Chinese worker. The American managers, supervisors and the president of the company tried to get Chairman Cao to make changes after OSHA found that the work areas were “too dense,” but nothing changed.

Americans also complained that the work was repetitive—“doing the same thing over and over again,” remarked one worker. “Do we have the stamina and will to continue?” He was doubtful. American employees of the new Fuyao plant, which supplied automotive glass to many vehicle makers in the U.S., were grateful for the jobs but, as one woman commented, “at GM I made $29 an hour.” Now she was earning half that.

Given that “output is first, speed is second,” injuries were commonplace. One injured man commented that he’d never been injured in all his 15 years working for GM, but now after two years at Fuyao, he incurred a severe cut injury.

It’s not that Fuyao doesn’t have a union in its Chinese plants—it has a “union” in the Communist Party headquarters at the plant. I’ve written in the past about how U.S. companies must give Chinese workers a certain amount of time off during the week to attend Communist Party meetings.

Productivity at the Moraine plant was low—not up to the standards of Fuyao’s Chinese plants—and there were myriad quality problems. The Fuyao plant was not reaching its goals. Chinese trainers complained that “American workers are not efficient and output is low,” said a trainer. “I can’t manage them. They threaten to get help from the union.”

Another manager commented that “American workers are lazy—it’s just their nature,” he said, adding that “every person can be changed; we have some diligent, motivated workers in China.”

I’m sure they do, and it probably doesn’t involve a motivational speaker! Obviously there is no work/life balance in the Chinese mindset.

To help provide a better look at the way Fuyao’s Chinese plants are run, a group of American managers was sent to China to see first-hand the Chinese way. If this section of the documentary doesn’t make you eternally grateful that you are an American working for an American company, nothing will.

The Fuyao factory experience in China showed the American managers an almost militaristic way of managing. The 19 shift workers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, in two rows, and counted off. The supervisor then confirmed that all 19 shift workers were present and accounted for. They then marched to their work stations.

Religious fervor for the state, first, and the company, second, was evident. At company meetings, “hymns” of praise are sung in deep gratitude for the good life the company, and Chairman Cao, has given them.

When the American managers returned, the documentary showed one manager trying to emulate the Chinese style. His shift workers were sort of lined up. They stood there looking rather glum—like, “why are we here?”—while he tried to give a bit of a pep talk. It obviously wasn’t working so he thanked them and dismissed them to start work.

Chinese workers in China commented that they work 12 hours a day, seven days a week with two days off a month. One worker said she goes home twice a year, and most of them don’t see their families much.

I’ve written about the Chinese dormitories where the workers live, sometimes eight to a small room on the premises of the factory. I’m reminded of the time I was visiting a large-sized custom injection molding company. I was in the conference room interviewing the president and owner of the company, when he pointed to a large framed photograph hanging on the wall of an elevated view of a large facility surrounded by a chain link fence topped with razor wire. “That’s our new China facility,” he boasted proudly to me.

I couldn’t help myself, and replied, “Is that fence with the razor wire there to keep the bad guys out or the workers in?”


We in the manufacturing sector know quite a lot about how the Chinese run their factories, and it ain’t pretty! I know personally several people who have worked for U.S. companies at their plants in China, attempting to do the reverse of what Chairman Cao tried to do at the Moraine facility. I’ve written about this many times over the years.

There was one really poignant moment in the documentary. During a large dinner celebration, the American managers were treated to entertainment by singers and dancers, both adults and children with happy, smiling faces and excited voices. At the end, the American managers got up on stage and did their rendition of YMCA by the Village People. The Chinese audience was greatly entertained, and they laughed and applauded.

The camera then shot a close-up of one of the American managers who seemed rather emotional. He got up and walked out into a hallway, commenting that he now sees something he’d not seen before. “We are all one,” he commented. “We are truly all one.” A young woman who started to walk past him turned and looked. “We are all one,” he repeated. “Yes, she replied, “all one company.”

This young Chinese woman had completely missed the American’s point. In many religious and spiritual traditions in the West we hear people promoting the idea that we are all one, great human family who all just want the same things: To be happy, to have meaningful work, to feed our families and enjoy life. In Buddhism, which it appeared that Chairman Cao practiced, there is a saying: “Everyone just wants to be happy and free from suffering.” In that respect, we are all one, something that the American manager suddenly realized, but the young Chinese woman didn’t.

I’d guess that the majority of U.S. manufacturing companies—small or large—want a safe work environment, because it’s the right thing to do, and pay their employees good wages, especially with the heavy competition for workers caused by extremely low unemployment.

As the former President of the Fuyao Glass factory acknowledged before he was fired, “We are not a union shop—we do things right by employees,” a reminder that it doesn’t take a union to create a good workplace and good wages.

If you thought this was going to be a movie showing how great a benefit unions are to the American manufacturing workplace, it was a fail in that regard. This isn’t a documentary about an American factory but a Chinese factory transplanted into America; it was about the attempts to meld two very different cultures, one of those a Communist culture that is very difficult for Americans to fathom.

At least the threat of union organization gave the Chinese management the impetus to clean up its act and realize that they are operating on American soil under American rules. While companies don’t have to be unionized to be safe and productive with well-paid workers, they really must “do the right thing.”

As one American woman worker noted toward the end of the documentary, “When we walk in the door of this plant, we’re in China.”

An attempt to unionize the Fuyao plant failed, primarily, as one worker pointed out, after the vote (60% against organizing), “They’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

Another worker commented, “they’re working their tails off and getting no pats on the back.”

To that the new Chinese president of the company (who replaced the fired American president) responded to complaints that Americans are hostile to the Chinese workers, and are super-confident: “You must take advantage of these American characteristics. Americans love being flattered to death—donkeys love being touched in the direction their hair grows.”

Are you insulted enough now?

In receiving the Oscar award, one of the directors of the film, Julia Reichert, gave a “shout out” to Karl Marx in her acceptance speech: “. . . people put on a uniform, punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life. Working people have it harder and harder these days. We believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”

Does that quote sound familiar?

One other poignant moment at the end of the film is when Chairman Cao shows some introspection into his life. He lights incense at a Buddhist shrine, and wonders aloud if he is “a contributor or a sinner.” He is obviously an unhappy man, but concluded, as a good Communist might: “The point of living is to work.”

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, please watch it on Netflix, and be very grateful for the life we have as Americans. And remember that throughout 2020.

World’s Most Powerful 3-Cylinder Engine Propels Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris WRC

Design News - Mon, 2020-02-17 03:09

In Japanese tuner-car slang, “gazoo” refers to the speed shops where car enthusiasts toil to wring extra speed from their machines. Toyota president Akio Toyoda is such an enthusiast himself, and his desire is to infuse some of that gazoo grease-under-the-nails ethos to his whole company.

That is why Toyota launched Gazoo Racing a few years ago and subsequently began badging sports cars with the brand. But the provenance of those sports cars bothered Toyoda, as the Toyota 86 relies on Subaru for most of its design and hardware and the new Supra is largely a BMW product that is contract manufacturered by Magna in Graz, Austria.

“I have always wanted a sports car purely made by Toyota,” Toyoda explained in remarks posted on the company’s YouTube channel. To do that, the company has developed the stunning Gazoo Racing Yaris. The Yaris, you’ll recall, is Toyota’s subcompact hatchback city car, which might seem a surprising foundation for a sports car. But the GR Yaris is a Yaris in name only. It is actually a purpose-designed and built all-wheel drive machine optimized for rally racing.

New, more restrictive rules for the 2021 World Rally Championship require that race cars conform more closely to their production counterparts to be eligible. Toyota’s response is to prepare a homologation special that will give Toyota’s racing team the most competitive foundation possible.

Image source: Toyota

As a benefit, customers in global markets where the WRC is popular will be able to buy street-legal versions of this race car. The minimum sales requirement for racing eligibility is 25,000 cars over a three-year span. The U.S. market has not been announced as a destination for the subcompact GR Yaris, but rumors hint at some of its technology appearing in a U.S.-spec compact Corolla.

The GR Yaris boasts three critical factors that point toward the car being fun to drive for buyers and potentially competitive in rally racing: A lightweight, aerodynamic and rigid body shell, a compact and technically advanced direct-injected, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline 3-cylinder engine, and a newly-developed all-wheel drive system that provides accessible performance to drivers. 

“It was felt that whilst we are excited about the roadgoing Yaris, it wasn’t the shape and size to provide a championship-winning platform for WRC,” explained senior Toyota PR manager, James Clark.

Image source: Toyota

The GR Yaris bodyshell is a visible departure from the design of the regular Yaris. It is a two-door hatchback with a low, swooping roofline that tapers at the rear of the car to minimize aerodynamic drag at racing speeds. At the same time, the body is as wide as that of a car a class larger, providing ample space for fat, sticky racing tires and long-travel suspension to absorb the bumps and jumps that are characteristic of most rally routes.

The body is formed from a mostly steel shell that has a lightweight SMC carbon fiber roof panel grafted on and all of the closure panels such as the doors, hood and hatch are all aluminum. “One of the joys of making a bespoke body is you can go to town on it,” observed Clark.  “Use of the right materials to save weight while maintaining strength, even though it adds cost, it saves weight and adds structural rigidity and performance. The structure is vastly stiffer than it would have been,” in the all-steel, conventional Yaris economy car.

Front suspension on this solid foundation is typical MacPherson strut design, while the rear employs a double wishbone layout. As a well-balanced all-wheel drive machine, the GR Yaris wears 225/40ZR18 tires on BBS forged aluminum wheels at all four corners. Braking hardware is provided by Brembo, with four-piston front calipers and two-piston rears.

Image source: Toyota

Powering this lighter, stronger, slipperier skeleton is a seemingly curious choice of engines: A turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter three-cylinder. But a three-cylinder engine provides the ideal combination of size, mass and power for the rally driving application, according to Clark. 

“Light weight was massively important to the chief engineer,” he explained. “So when you find areas where you can save weight, you have to take them.” While size and mass were priorities, the race version will be trying to beat competitors, so the engine has to make good power too.

In production trim, the G16E-GTS triple in street-legal GR Yarises will be rated at 268 horsepower and 273 lb. ft. of torque. The engine passes that power to a conventional 6-speed manual gearbox with an H-pattern shifter and clutch pedal. This will surely thrill purists who love the old-style do-it-yourself transmissions, but it contrasts with the usual rally configuration of a sequential manual transmission with a fore-and-aft sequential shifter.

Image source: Toyota

It sends power to a center computer-controlled multi-plate center clutch that splits power between the front and rear wheels. While it technically could send as much as 100 percent of the torque to either axle, Toyota has programmed the computer to permit the driver three choices: 30/70 percent front/rear torque split, 50/50 and 60/40. Depending on the conditions these simplified options will give drivers the best results, according to Clark.

At each end of the car power is split between the left and right wheels by torque-sensing differentials. Combined with the settings of the center differential, this hardware works magic, swears Clark. “I’ve driven it in all three modes,” he reported. “It makes me look like (legendary rally driver) Tomi Makinen!”

Image source: Toyota

Current Gazoo Racing WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala also vouches for the result in the production version of the car he will race starting in 2021. “This car is built so that you can drive it everywhere: on snow, on ice, on tarmac, on gravel,” he said in a promotional video. “This is the specialty of this car. It is made for all the conditions, four-by-four.”

The opportunity for WRC fans in global markets to pretend to be Latvala while driving the GR Yaris will surely fuel sales of all 25,000 required units. Fingers crossed we eventually get some of them in the U.S.

Image source: Toyota


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

The Concours d'Lemons: A Purposely Horrific Car Show, Filled with Auto Design No-Nos

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

The same organizers who brought you The 24 Hours of Lemons, an endurance race between shit-box cars, also has an answer to the Concours d'Elegance: The Concours d'Lemons.

This annual event is where you can witness such beauties as...

A stretch limousine Corvette;

A Volkswagen Beetle van conversion that takes the Beetle part very seriously;

A Gandalf-themed van called Vandalf;

A 1979 Ford Pinto station wagon, in Squire trim;

A 1988 Merkur XR4Ti that looks like it was art-directed by a pack of Marlboros;

The Dodge Rampage, a car-based pickup from the early '80s;

A rare Yugo convertible;

Not to mention a "Half Assed, Half Car Detailing Competition" where you only have to clean 50% of the car, demarcated by blue tape.

Amusingly, "the whole debacle was sponsored by Hagerty Insurance and Classic Motorsports Magazine," the organizers write, "so it is really all their fault."

Want to attend a Concours d'Lemons near you? Check out the schedule here. And don't worry, you won't spend a dime:

"All Concours d'Lemons events are free for spectators," the organization says. "That way you get what you pay for, perhaps a little less."

Could These Tree-Like Vertical Farms Be the Future of Urban Farming?

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

Norway and New York City-based design studio Framlab ("fram" means "forward" in Norwegian) have come up with an intriguing solution for urban farming that combines modular design with soilless, aeroponic growth systems.

The conceptual project—titled Glasir ("gleaming")—is designed with Brooklyn in mind, a borough where the foodie destinations along the gentrified waterfront neighborhoods stand in stark contrast to some of the biggest food deserts in the city in low-income neighborhoods like East New York, East Flatbush, Canarsie, and Flatlands.

To create a community-based, easy-to-scale urban farming system, Framlab proposes a tree-like form composed of modular glass cubes that would start small and expand as demand and need rises. The system is based on a subscription service model that would allow a periodic distribution of crops to households, businesses, and schools. Drones would move greenhouse modules from the service subscribers to the tree forms, where they would be added on or reconfigured within the growing structure as needed.

As the designers explain on their website, an AI would serve as "the brain of the system," optimizing the growth and distribution of the modules. "The artificial intelligence, in conjunction with a series of environmental sensors, enables the tree to evaluate environmental conditions (such as solar gain, temperature levels, prevailing winds, the presence of adjacent structures) and adapt to ensure optimized growth conditions."

The modules are framed with cross-laminated timber and topped with solar panels. The system would store rainwater, purify it, and convert it into the mist that feeds the crops. According to the designers, each module can produce 480 pounds of vegetables a year, which could add up to 48,000 pounds for the average tree structure.

"While the city's streetscape serves as the habitat for Glasir, each tree structure also aspires to function as a microhabitat of its own...as each tree structure serves a local neighborhood, the composition, type, and seasonal variation of the vegetables grown, reflects the unique composition and characteristics of its community," the designers write.

The base of each "tree" would incorporate seating to create a natural gathering space while embedded cavities and terraces within the interior of the structure allow people to climb up, explore, and harvest the fruits and vegetables.

All images courtesy of Framlab

An Object That Could Use a Little Design Attention: The BunkTrunk, a Bed-Mounted Locker for College Dorms

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

The BunkTrunk is an elevated locker designed to be integrated with your average dorm room single bed.

I appreciate the thinking behind it: It can be "installed" by simply shoving the base under a mattress, it's elevated so as not to interfere with your feet, it works on both top and bottom bunks, it provides a viewing platform for your laptop if you want to Netflix in bed, and it safely locks away your valuables. However, I find the design a little underwhelming:

I give the design high marks for function, but I think it could use some design attention in the aesthetics department. To that end, I think this would be a great assignment for an ID student class: Can you hit the $219 retail price point, but design something easier on the eyes?