The Ray Solar Powered Charger

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I’d need to see fact sheets or read usage reviews before committing, but the idea of the Ray solar-powered charger sounds great. It’s these first two photos that really caught my eye, as the idea of being able to juice up your phone by sticking the Ray on an airplane or car window is immensely appealing, inner skeptic aside.

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If there’s no window handy, or if the sun’s position doesn’t jive with vertical mounting, there’s also an onboard “kickstand” that lets you set the Ray on a flat surface.

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As you can see in the shot below, the device needs a bit of industrial design help; I disagree with the word “neatly” being used to describe the cord solution.

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NY Design Week 2012: A Steampunk Ping-Pong Table & More by Akke Functional Art

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Yep, that’s more or less exactly what it looks like: the sweetest ping pong table you’ve ever seen. The “Pingtuated Equilipong” by Akke Functional Art is intended to embody a quantum leap in sport and dining alike with the convertible piece.

Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould’s Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium proposes that most species exhibit little evolutionary variation for most of their history until rare and rapid events create significant changes.

The ping pong table has just experienced such a phenomenon. This regulation-size ping pong table (that converts to a dining table by removing the ‘net’) has revolutionized the traditional form.

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Since the photos from ICFF hardly do it justice, designer and principal Axel Yberg was happy to provide hi-res photos of the piece…

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The materials, per his description: “Mulberry, Chinese chestnut, black walnut, sycamore, red oak, black locust, cherry, holly, sassafras, and ash, reclaimed plumbing pipes and fittings, glass, mirror, steel, aircraft cable, and Edison reproduction light bulbs.”

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Mission Workshop’s Arkiv Modular Bag Design

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We’re impressed by the ambitious design of the Arkiv Field Pack, a modular bag system allowing “for easy customization of space and organization with the secure and simple attachment of independently weatherproof accessories utilizing unbreakable steel hardware.”

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Designed by San-Francisco-based Mission Workshop, the Arkiv system consists of a main rucksack-style bag offered in two sizes—a 20-liter-capacity Small and a 40-liter-capacity Large—and a series of satellite bags to choose from: A laptop case, a tool pouch, a cell phone holder, a folio for documents and writing materials, and a couple of add-on pockets meant to hold water bottles or random objects. There’s even an optional additional shoulder strap, so you can turn any of the satellite bags into an independent one.

We wish that the following video offered a little less style and a little more explanation…

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Best of Holon Design Week: Corkers by Reddish

Best of HDW takes a closer look at some of the most exciting projects featured in Design Museum Holon’s “Designers Plus Ten” exhibition.

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If I had to guess, Naama Steinbock and Idan Friedman of Reddish studio probably got the most global press this past year of anyone in the exhibition. Chances are you’ve probably seen Corkers, a series of kits that turn wine corks into ‘party animals.’ The steel and plastic attachments are sold in a box that’s meant to hang around the neck of a wine bottle. Can you say cutest hostess gift ever? And at $8 apiece you can buy the whole set: Monkey, Deer, Buffalo, Bear, Bunny and Crow. Or mix and match the body parts to create your own species.

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Corkers are only the latest design from Reddish, which strives to “help objects feel better about themselves.” Naama and Idan also showed Bath & Beyond, a chair made from cutting and bending an old steel bathtub. I love their Menorah, which finds a use for mismatched candlesticks. Equally clever is Hanukit, a small aluminum stand for matchsticks—perfect for those who like to keep their holiday accessories to a bare minimum. There a couple of oddities in their portfolio, like China?, a 3-D printed vase that mimics painstakingly hand-carved China, as well as Buttercup, a “spontaneous picnic dress.”

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NY Design Week 2012 – ICFF: Symbol Audio

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Blake Tovin and Matt Richmond of Tovin Design Limited are furniture designers first and foremost, but as they’re also huge audiophiles their newest line, Symbol Audio, might just be their biggest indulgence yet. So far there are three products in the line, the consumer friendly Tabletop HIFI, a luxe set of subwoofers that can plug into everything from your iPhone to your record player, the LP Storage Cabinet, which has two CD/DVD drawers and four pull-down storage bins that can hold up to 640 LPS, and the flagship of the line, the Modern Record Console.

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With vinyl record sales doubling every year since 2008, Tovin and Richmond think it’s high time the all-in-one record player console came back on the market. But the MRC isn’t for your average vinyl enthusiast; The electronics on this player are serious business. Open the lid and feast your eyes on “a hand built tube amplifier and turntable set into patinated steel plates” that merge analog sound with a modern wireless system. “Tucked out of view into the steel base is a second dedicated amplifier and subwoofer designed to extend the low end frequency and provide added richness to the sound. For the convenience of streaming digital music. just switch the selector from turntable to WiFi and stream from any digital source through the built-in wireless router.”

The same level of detail is paid to the exterior, which is made from solid American Walnut that rests on a steel base. The entire console in made and assembled by hand in the US, but unlike the comparably affordable-ish Tabletop HIFI ($1,800) and the LP Storage Cabinet ($2,750 – $5,250), the MRC will run you about $15,000.

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Alternate Views of the Eclipse

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Image by NASA Earth Observatory

We’ve all seen countless photos of solar eclipses, and readers in California, Japan or Australia may have gotten a look at Sunday’s in person; but did you ever wonder what the results of an eclipse look like from space?

The Large Picture Blog has images of earlier eclipses and their effect on the Earth, as shot by the International Space Station and the Mir, before it was decommissioned:

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Image by APOD

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Image by NASA

Kind of looks like a burn mark, like God left Earth in the oven too long.

While photographer Cory Poole couldn’t be bothered to make it into outer space (lazy), he did take the time to shoot 700 shots of Sunday’s eclipse through a telescope, and was good enough to post the resultant time-lapse video on YouTube:

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NY Design Week 2012: Looking Back at 20 Years of Kikkerland + Q&A with Founder Jan van der Lande

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We’re pleased to present an abridged version of “20 Years of Kikkerland,” a print piece commemorating their ‘Vicennial’ anniversary on the occasion of the ICFF, courtesy of our friends at the Dutch-via-NYC design company. Founder Jan van der Lande was happy to indulge us with the inside scoop on particularly memorable moments of the past two decades, adding a few anecdotes to the comprehensive chronology.

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A houseboat on the Hudson river on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was the home of Jan van der Lande and Kazumi Hayama and it became the (home) office for Kikkerland when Jan incorporated the business in 1992.

As the name implies (Kikkerland is a nickname for the Netherlands, and literally means frogland), the original focus of the company was to import and distribute Dutch Design. Being that there are a lot of houseboats and water in Holland, the boat was the perfect starting place for Kikkerland.

A basement on the Upper West Side served as a storage and shipping facility, and many of the clients were in New York City, so in the early days, Jan delivered most orders personally, by bike. This was the base of operations for Kikkerland from 1992 until 1995.

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Bottle opener (1994) designed by Gert Jan Vogel

After studying agriculture and environmental studies, Jan changed course completely and started working at the design store Gallery 91 in Soho (1989–1991). He learned a lot about the design business there and met a number of designers.

Jan also had friends from Holland who were active in the design world. Dick Dankers and Cok de Rooy from the Frozen Fountain and Rob Dashorst from Daskas introduced him to many other designers and products from Holland. In fact, Jan has represented independent self-producing designers since 1987.

During his research and scouting trips to Holland, Jan met many designers who had recently finished art school, such as Hella Jongerius, Richard Hutten and others. It led Kikkerland to start importing their designs to the USA.

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Jan helped produce the “Mouse Lamp,” designed by Martha Davis and Lisa Krohn, during his years at Gallery 91. These lamps turned out to be a precursor to Kikkerland: besides their design sensibility, these lamps foreshadowed things that define the company today: originality, humor, affordability, and environmental concern.

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The “V Vase,” designed by Rob Dashorst, was one of the early successes for Kikkerland. Jan and Rob went to the same kindergarten in Holland, so they had known each other for a long time! Originally Rob wanted Kikkerland to produce these vases in the United States to save on shipping, but it turned out to be a bit more complicated than expected, so they ended up being imported from Holland.

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Prior to this catalog (left)—printed in black & white except for the cover—the promotional material was photocopied, and handed out in combination with color photos. With the first color catalog in 1997 (right), Kikkerland was starting to become a real company! There would be one more Xeroxed catalog after this one, but from then on, the catalogs were printed in full color. Kikkerland relies on these semi-annual catalogs, as well as tradeshows, web sites, and packaging for promotion.

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Duck Mirror” by David Dear

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, many designers produced and distributed their designs in small quantities for design stores and museum stores. One of those stores, Mxyplyzyk in the West Village of Manhattan, was a client of Kikkerland and became an important source of information. Owner Kevin Brynan introduced Jan to a number of the designers whose products he sold in his store. (Later on, he joined Jan on several scouting trips to Asia and even now reports trends from the retail perspective to Kikkerland.)

In 1996 he introduced Jan to Chico Bicalho, who, in turn, introduced him to former classmates at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) David Dear and Jozeph Forakis. These seemingly small events turned out to have a big influence on the direction and success of Kikkerland.

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The “Flip Clock” by Michael Daniel, who was another connection made through Kevin from Mxyplyzyk. Michael used to produce these robot clocks by hand with existing flip clock mechanisms. The factory that made those mechanisms burned down in the 1970s and so they were no longer produced. The whole mechanism needed to be retooled for Kikkerland production.

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Mark van der Gronden’s Storage Furniture from Repurposed Industrial Crates

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We first spotted designer Mark van der Gronden’s Krattenkast (“crate cabinet”) storage units at last year’s Milan show, and now we’re pleased to see they come, like the crates they contain, in all shapes and sizes.

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Dutch contract furniture manufacturer Lensvelt produces the steel frames in a variety of shapes, each filled with repurposed plastic industrial conatiners that serves as the drawers.

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Add Pensa’s DIWire Bender to Your DIYer Arsenal

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Our friends at Brooklyn-based consultancy Pensa have worked with the likes of Johnson & Johnson and McDonald’s—not to mention ID idols OXO—but their multidisciplinary team has still found time to come up with independent projects such as the “DIWire Bender.”

The DIWire Bender is a rapid prototype machine that bends metal wire to produce 2D or 3D shapes.

Simply draw curves in the computer, import the file into our software and press print. Our software can read vector files (e.g., Adobe Illustrator files), Rhino or Wavefront OBJ 3D files, text files of commands (e.g., feed 50 mm, bend 90° to right…) or pure coordinates (from 0,0,0 to 0,10,10 to….). All inputs are automatically translated into DIWire motor commands. During the print, the wire unwinds from a spool, passes through a series of wheels that straighten it, and then feeds through the bending head, which moves around in 3 dimensions to create the desired bends and curves.

What could you use a DIWire for? Wire models are often needed in design, whether they are for furniture (chair leg scale models) or housewares projects (wire baskets) or even engineering parts (custom springs). But why stop at prototypes? The machine can read any data, why not output artwork from a random number algorithm, or internet data like stock prices and weather stats. You can create mass customized products, like eyeglass frames that fit, or be a street vendor printing jewelry from a person’s silhouette, on demand. And it doesn’t have to be aluminum wire; in principal the machine could bend other materials, including colored electrical wires, some plastics, memory metals, even light pipes to create small light forms. And if you don’t like the output, it could be configured to pass the bent wire through the straightener to start again.

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The DIWire Bender is Pensa’s answer to the rapid proliferation of other rapid prototyping technologies, such as 3D printers and CNC machines; indeed, the tabletop device is a variation on the latter.

In recent years, 3D rapid prototyping machines have gone mainstream. And we’ve been excited to see 3D printers spreading beyond businesses to individuals, with the aid of a little DIY ingenuity (e.g., Makerbots, RepRap, etc.). All these machines work on the same principal—to create a form, they split a volume into thin slices, and build up the form by printing a layer of material and bonding it to the next. The main difference between the build technologies (SLA, SLS, FDM and others) is the material and the bonding methods.

But there are times when we need to output lines in space rather than volumes. Most 3D printing technologies are not well suited for printing thin lines because the materials are weak, the machine uses a lot of 3D-print support material, and the process is slow. The closest thing to a machine that can output lines is a CNC wire bender, but these machines are used almost exclusively for mass production in factories. They are not used for rapid prototyping because the equipment is large, expensive and takes trained personnel to run. So, we decided to make the DIWire Bender.

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The concept, then, is fairly straightfoward, but it still makes more sense when you see the video. The first clip shows the machine producing a simple ‘pound’ sign, as well as a fairly complex distended helix:

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Amazing Visual Representation of Earth’s Post-Industrial-Revolution Travel Routes

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Infographics are a powerful tool for communicating vast sums of information, but a far more compelling way to express data is through the unnamed combination of number-crunching, cartography and digital imaging that we first saw in Aaron Koblin’s 2009 project (which we dubbed “The United States of Airplane Traffic”).

Three years later we have an even more comprehensive version of this, done by Canadian anthropologist Felix Pharand. Pharand spent 13 years inputting not only every flight path on Earth, but every road and shipping route as well, using publicly available data and a home computer. The result is this astonishingly beautiful film entitled Anthropocene, presented chronologically and starting 250 years ago. Watch it full-screen:

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