3D Printing Plastic Fisher-Price Records


Many of us born in the ’70s grew up with these Fisher-Price Record Players, which used plastic discs to play music-box-sounding analog music. I was surprised to see they had recently been re-released—and disappointed to learn the new ones aren’t the same as the old, but instead play the music electronically.

Earlier this year a UK-based tinkerer named Fred Murphy got his hands on some of the original units—you’ll see them pop up on eBay now and then—and decided to make his own records. Using a CNC mill and sheets of acrylic, Murphy successfully produced workable discs.


For his first effort, Murphy mapped Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on one and the “Star Wars” theme on another. Have a listen:


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Design Exchange Fall Exhibition: Vertical Urban Factory and Considering the Quake

dx_fall-blogs_2.gifbreathingfactory_osaka.jpegBreathing Factory, Takashi Yamaguchi and Associates. Osaka, Japan, 2009.

On September 13th, the Design Exchange proudly presents the opening of two unique exhibitsVertical Urban Factory and Considering the Quake—both on view through December 9th.

Vertical Urban Factory will study the history of factory design, considering important developments such as Henry Ford’s Highland Park Assembly Line. Receiving high praise at New York City’s Skyscraper Museum (where it was on show November 2010 – June 2011), the exhibit begs the question, “Can factories once again present sustainable solutions for future self-sufficient cities?”

DX_cotton_web.jpegBuckminster Fuller, Automatic Cotton Mill, 1952, model designed with North Carolina State University students. Courtesy North Carolina State University, College of Design. Photograph by Ralph Mills.

The accompanying exhibit, Considering the Quake delves into seismic design and the science of architecture. How, for fear of being exposed to seismic hazards, engineering and technological advances has often surpassed the importance placed on aesthetics.

Throughout late Fall and into December, the DX will accommodate samples of superior projects in technology and research, including Cast Connex’s seismic technology which is to be included in NYC’s World Trade Center 3 design, among others. In addition to how architecture is changing because of these advances, the exhibit will examine post critical disaster shelters from an architect’s perspective rather than the traditional engineer’s point of view, led by Dr. Effie Bouras Postdoctural Fellow and Professor Ghyslaine McClure, P. Eng, of McGill University, Department of Civil Engineering.

Vertical Urban Factory and Consider the Quake
Design Exchange
234 Bay Street
Toronto, M5K 1B2
September 13 – December 9

DX_PhilippeRuault.jpegShenzhen Stock Exchange, Shenzhen, China, by OMA. Image courtesy of OMA; photography by Philippe Ruault.

DX_vannelle_night.jpegVan Nelle Factory, Johanne Brinkman and Leendert van der Vlugt with Mart Stam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 1925-31. Photograph courtesy of Van Nelle Ontwerpfabriek, c. 1932.


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A Copernican Revolution in Digital Fabrication: Handheld CNC for 2D Applications


As with many of my fellow fledgling philosophy students, I was awed by Kant’s so-called “Copernican Revolution”: in order to reconcile the epistemological conflict between rationalism and empiricism, Kant determined that we experience the world from a point-of-view, as dictated by a priori categories of space, time, causality, etc. Thus, our unique ability to know and learn about the world as it is given to perception comes at the expense of the naïve belief that we could somehow discern its essence.

Just as it’s only a loose (possibly even backwards) metaphor for the dawn of modern Western philosophy, we’re taking some liberties with both the Renaissance astronomer’s hypothesis and its Kantian canonization here. Where Computer Numerical Control (CNC) devices have long been restricted by the size of a multiple-axis stage, a team of engineers and designers are looking to put digital fabrication tools squarely in the hands of the users. Don’t the let academic title fool you: “Position-Correcting Tools for 2D Digital Fabrication” by Alec Rivers (MIT CSAIL), Ilan E. Moyer (MIT MechE) and Frédo Durand (MIT CSAIL) might just represent the next step for digital fabrication. Per the abstract:

Many kinds of digital fabrication are accomplished by precisely moving a tool along a digitally-specified path. This precise motion is typically accomplished fully automatically using a computer controlled multi-axis stage. With that approach, one can only create objects smaller than the positioning stage, and large stages can be quite expensive.

We propose a new approach to precise positioning of a tool that combines manual and automatic positioning: in our approach, the user coarsely positions a frame containing the tool in an approximation of the desired path, while the device tracks the frame’s location and adjusts the position of the tool within the frame to correct the user’s positioning error in real time. Because the automatic positioning need only cover the range of the human’s
positioning error, this frame can be small and inexpensive, and because the human has unlimited range, such a frame can be used to precisely position tools over an unlimited range.

PositionCorrecting2DCNC-USAUSA.jpgMade in the USA

In other words, they’re looking to combine the best of both worlds: “our goal is to leverage the human’s mechanical range, rather than decision making power or guidance, to enable a new form factor and approach to a task that is currently fully automated.”


Before we dig into the short but dense paper [PDF] that Rivers, Moyer and Durand published for SIGGRAPH 2012, here’s the video:

A bit of nitty-gritty after the jump…


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With Norman Ibarra’s Metrodecks, Everyone Plays Fare


Muji’s transparent playing cards are cool, but Norman Ibarra’s
Metrodeck Playing Cards are cool while checking the recycling & sustainability boxes. For two years the Brooklyn-based designer has been collecting those discarded Metrocards you see scattered around various subway stations, and after experimenting with a couple of print shops in Brooklyn, achieved what you see here.


Each face card is individually screen printed in four colors of enamel ink. The deck comes packaged in a custom 2-color, die-cut, and letterpressed tuck box printed by Mama’s Sauce Print Shop.

The deck also offers some insight into the city’s history by showcasing over ten years of advertising. Each deck has a random assortment of ads dating anywhere between 2001 and 2012. Some cards are truly one of a kind. Due to materials and handcrafting, each deck has slight variations from one piece to the next.



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Book Review: “Mars Attacks,” A Retrospective


If you were ever once a kid chances are there was something you loved to collect. For me it was Archie comics, for my brother it was lead soldiers and baseball cards, for my BFF up the block it was miniature spoons (don’t ask) and for some kids who were of prime collecting age in 1962 it was the graphic Mars Attacks trading cards. Before Tim Burton directed his 1996 film version (inspired by, methinks, the series’ 1994 rerelease), Mars Attacks was a trading card series produced by Topps, a company better remembered, perhaps, for their baseball cards packaged with a bright pink piece of Bazooka Joe brand bubble gum, which was manufactured onsite at their headquarters in Brooklyn. The Mars Attacks card packs also came with a heavily powdered slab of the delightfully difficult-to-chew gum, but unlike Topps’ other long-running series, Mars Attacks’ saga of alien destruction was considered too controversial and was shut down soon after production began.


The scenes depicted on the cards were actually toned down from even more gruesome images of dogs set ablaze by laser beams and battered corpses, human and alien alike, but parents, teachers, reporters and the local DA thought the battle scenes were still too bloody and the women way too buxom for young children’s eyes.


After printing ground to a halt the cards’ value soared; A full set of 55 cards is worth $25,000 today—more if you throw in an original wrapper or two. Adding to its cult classic status is the fact that the artwork for Mars Attacks was painted by Norm Saunders, “one of the most lauded pulp cover illustrators of the 40s and 50s.” Since every card needed to pop with the action and intensity of a pulp book cover, Saunders’ contribution was instrumental to the cards overwhelmingly popular reception amongst kids and teenagers as well as the adoration of fans that lives on today.



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Making the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier Fly


It’s admittedly a far-fetched and kooky transportation design, but the flying quadrotor helicarrier featured in The Avengers, which wasn’t exactly a documentary, captured the imagination of youthful moviegoers earlier this year. It also came to the attention of a certain 40-something modelmaker and RC enthusiast from Arkhangelsk, Russia, who goes by the handle Native18. Google Translator’s done a spotty job, but from what we gather, Native18 is well-known in the Russian RC community, and on this forum, that community discusses Hollywood-designed vehicles and if they can be replicated. The S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier challenge was posed to Native18.

Blueprints don’t exactly exist for the thing, so “Nate” had to pull the scene from the movie that best shows the overall vehicle:


From that he was able to break out the following two stills and attempt to reverse-engineer the form.



Next came the modelmaking and construction process (along with a healthy amount of forum debate, in jargon-laced Russian, about what would and wouldn’t fly, literally).



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Camera Lovers, Forget Micro 4/3rds. Peep Crystal 2/3rds


I can’t decide what’s cooler-looking, the Nikon SLR skeletons we showed you earlier or these completely crystal Canons. An Illinois-based camera accessories manufacturer called Fotodiox has started producing and selling these 7D replicas, apparently for no reason other than that they can.


They’re 2/3rds the size of the real thing, and while Fotodiox claims they’re “100% Hand-craft [sic] with detailed carving,” I have a hard time believing these were made by human hands.


via gizmodo


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The Clever Design of Two Small, Circular Plumbing Tools


Plumbing is not my forte, and this weekend I had a DIYsaster. I finally removed my bathroom sink, which looked like it had been caulked by a blind man, scraped both sink and wall clean with razor, then re-installed and re-caulked. While I was at it I swapped out the faucet too—but once everything was hooked back up, I discovered the shut-off valves for the water were shot. I’d probably overtightened them during the shut-off and cracked the seals.

To replace them you’ve gotta cut the old valves off at the pipes then re-install new valves, losing a couple inches of pipe, which I can spare. But the smallest pipe cutter I own is five inches long:


Problem is, the pipe to be cut is only two inches away from the wall. Not enough room to rotate the tool to make the cut.

I’m not the first to experience this problem, of course, and after researching I found some clever tool designer has already solved it by creating a single-handed pipe cutter. The AutoCut is one example, though a bunch of companies make them.


You snap the circular ring around the pipe and rotate it, causing the blades to close in with each turn. The compact shape means you can get it into the tightest of spaces, and they sell a ratcheting attachment if you need more leverage.


Once you’ve got the pipe cut, you need to clean the freshly-trimmed edge so you can get a good seal with the valve. This is another area where tight space is a problem; I’m not going to be able to do a sandpaper-strip shoeshine with such little wiggle room. To solve this problem, another tool designer developed this circular copper tubing brush:


Same idea as the first tool in that the round, compact form works well in a constricted area. Just slap it onto the end of the pipe and twist until it’s clean. The wire grid inside does the dirty work.


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The Minimalist, Swipe-able Mutewatch


Mutewatch is a minimalist wristwatch with an interesting UI: You swipe to access various features, though there’s no iPhone-like animation that smoothly tracks the swiping. It’s the type of thing that would clearly befuddle your parents, though anyone who’s used an iDevice will “get” it.

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a concept, but it is in fact a real product. While it started out as an entry in a design/ideation competition at Sweden’s Stockholm School of Economics, then-student Mai-Li Hammargren observed the strong interest and realized she was onto something. Now she’s the CEO of the seven-person team that makes up Mutewatch.

Mutewatch has a second version, or V2, in the works though it “won’t be out for quite some time,” they write. “So I’d go ahead and get a V1 ;)”

The Mutewatch is on sale in 21 different countries and also available online.


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Shortlisted: Nick Ross’s Bioharvester Entry for the James Dyson Award


In an idealistic version of ID, you’d never set out to design “a pair of headphones;” you’d aim to design “a way people can hear their music, hands-free, while performing a variety of activities.” In other words you’d start with the problem and design the solution with no predetermined form factor. In the real world, of course, chances are slim you’ll have this luxury when your firm is contracted by a company in the business of making headphones.

Design competitions, on the other hand, hew more to that ideal state of ID. The danger there is that absent hardnosed clients and budget constraints, rigor goes out the window and the fanciful predominates.

But industrial designer Nick Ross’ entry in the James Dyson Award, the Axolotl Selective Bio-Harvester, hits that sweet spot: It attacks the problem of deforestation based on rigorous research, not just preconceptions, and the proposed solution is meant to solve that problem the way an industrial designer would solve it.

What I mean by that last part is this: A protestor tries to solve deforestation by chaining themself to a tree. An environmentalist activist might organize rallies. A town council might ban logging and force companies to go log some other town’s forest. A materials scientist might try to develop a viable alternative to wood. But what Ross did was design something that comes out of a factory and does the existing job in an entirely different way, one that changes the impact of the job itself. “Instead of directing this project in a ‘save the rainforest’ protest, I opted for a realizable and commercially viable solution,” Ross explains. “I felt this would increase the possibilities that my research and concept could become a viable solution that would benefit the forestry industry as well as the forest.”

First, the research part. Ross, who hails from New Zealand, spent roughly four months in Sweden immersing himself in the practical issues of deforestation:

I collaborated with 9 Swedish forestry companies. I organized various seminars during the project in which I invited company representatives, machinery operators and forest owners. A variety of research methodology was implemented, including on site ethnography of machine operators, multiple interviews with environmental and forestry specialists and field visits to witness current damage and effects. Throughout the entirety of the project my findings and conclusions were validated by the various people involved. The entire process was documented and compiled into a thorough report that was made available following presenting the research and final concept to a well received audience made up of representatives from all regions of the industry.

Secondly, the proposed solution Ross developed, much better explained in video:


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