Saturday, February 23, 2013

3-D printing

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The other day I ran across an article on 3-D printing, and sort of dismissed it at the time as I was busy.  But over time I read more about it.  I guess my first reaction was that it was some sort of printing that visualized something similar to the way 3-D movies or comics do or had some kind of application to industry sort of like drafting an exploded view of an object.  But it turns out, after further investigation, it's more than that.  Quite interestingly more, as far as what the futuristic applications could be.  Granted I've always enjoyed these sort of articles that gets me to thinking that perhaps people may not be doomed to extinction or that there's still some positive hope out there on the horizon.   I think of myself as an optimist with a realist sensibility, but I can get depressed with dark thoughts too when thinking about humanity and what seems like our quest to destroy ourselves with a nuke or just through environmental means.

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When thinking of 3-D printing, bear in mind it is a technology still in its infancy.  But what if, suds were spilling out of the side of your dishwasher, and you needed to replace the little plastic bracket that stops them from doing so.  Rather than going down to the hardware store or trying to buy a part from the manufacturer, you'd just get the specs online and print out the part.  Or you're designing a new laptop and you want to get a feel for the ergonomics, so you print out (actually manufacture) a prototype model of that laptop, to see what it might look and feel like--if  it's not exactly what you want, no worry, you can modify it later.  Or maybe you need a hearing aid fitted exactly to your ear or a better fitting ear piece for your media player, you can make one.

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If all that sounds like sci-fi, that's because for the most part of human history, making things has been a process of subtraction.  Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."  But technology developed since the late 1980s has made it possible to do additive manufacturing--laying down only what we want with little or no waste (or pollution either).  Think of Michelangelo's David sculpture, without creating all the dust.  That is basically what 3-D printing is or a better term might be, 3-D manufacturing is all about. 

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This is a model of a Moebius strip home that some architect designed. 

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Here's a design for the fashion industry. 

In 1986, Charles Hull coined the term "stereolithography" to describe a process during which print heads deposit very thin layers of resin in an exact location, building up a finished product.  Additive manufacturing has made great advances in speed, accuracy, and quality since its early days, and it's now being eagerly adopted by many industries that ignored its growth for decades.  Once a way to make a one-off prototype, 3-D printing is now used for all kinds of high-value, low-volume functional parts--specialty tools, parts for fighter jets, and other objects with complex geometries.  Not only can it manufacture objects out of plastic, but also parts made from waxes, nylons, rubber, metals, and composites.  That makes its offerings attractive to all kinds of industries.

Here's another article on additive manufacturing, titled The Coming Decentralization of Manufacturing.

Now to extrapolate a little bit.  As if this technology didn't already seem a little bit Star Trek science fiction-y, what if they could make something like this additive manufacturing,  hook it up to a sort of microwave oven device.  You bring up a recipe on your computer, somehow add the ingredients that the recipe calls for, and hours later, Bingo, you have your meal for that evening.  Or even, what if it could be integrated with nanotechnology?  Could a Star Trek transporter be that far in the future?  I know, I'm getting a bit out there with my daydreaming, but it's still fun to fantasize.

Friday, February 22, 2013

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Yesterday I listened to the live album, Yessongs by Yes, the Britsh progressive rock band.   I'd forgotten how great it was until it queued up on my stereo to reveal its regal majesty--very layered songs, complex arrangements, great musicianship, positive lyrics and good vocals by Jon Anderson.  Just an all around great band, more famous for their earlier work than their later efforts.

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I always admired Roger Dean's artwork too, which usually graced a lot of the album covers, and some music fans say had to have influenced the art direction for the James Cameron film, Avatar.

I got out late for a walk and decided to walk around the University of Texas Tyler campus.  It's a nice walking route.  I generally don't like to drive somewhere to walk, but the last time I walked around here, I ran into a couple of barking, upset dogs, so decided to avoid that scene.  Of course the angriest one of the two was a Chihuahua, but I kept my eyes on both of them, having the hot pepper spray handy just in case.

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Later on that night I watch Person of Interest, followed by Elementary (a take off on modern day Sherlock Holmes), both pretty good shows.  Person of Interest had a story called Relevance about a counter-terrorist, played by Sarah Shahi.  I wasn't familiar with her or the character, but enjoyed it as it reminded me of the badass character, Black Widow, in the Avengers comic from Marvel.  I know it's a bit over-the-top for a female to play that type role, but last night I found it enjoyable, plus she was nice to look at too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

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Last night I went to sleep listening to Soft Machine's first and second albums.  Kevin Ayers died the other day and was bassist on their first release, so I thought it was appropriate, and I was in the mood for something a bit avant-weird, so this tasty bit of jazzy psychedelia filled the bill. 

Last night I watched Survivor.  A lot of people don't have much use for reality TV, and I don't watch a whole bunch of it myself, because it's mostly concerned with redneck hillbillies, who I try to steer clear of in real life, so why would I want to watch their idiocy on TV?  But I do like reality based shows like Antique Roadshow, Cops, ever so often, American Pickers, Market Warriors, Pawn Stars, and those shows that have some appeal and feed my collector mentality.  After that Nova was on PBS and was about the abnormalities of trouble teens and those with a propensity for violence like what took place at the theater in Colorado and at the Sandy Hook school, etc.  I had taped Arrow on the CW Channel, but I 'm just not a fan yet.  It's ok, but a bit too melodramatic, soap opera for me--sometimes the acting bugs me, sometimes the dialog, and sometimes it's just because I can't "hear" the dialog, I don't know if this is something with my TV set or I need better speakers or too much wax in my ears, but it just sounds muffled at times.  There was an actress on there last night that I swear, if I listened really hard, I could only make out about half of what she said, and that causes a distraction.  But then again, it's okay, but it's different from what I'm used to from having read the old Mike Grell comic books. 

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I read the first issue of Joe Kubert Presents on DC comics.  It was pretty good.  The first story was a Hawkman story, which I enjoyed.  Kubert added some collage type photos into his drawn art, sort of like some of the experiments that Kirby did back in his middle career, but I think with the advent of computers, Joe's looked a lot better and enhanced his story.  The other story that he did in it was really interesting too called, Spit.  About a young runaway orphan, that was trying to find something to eat, and gets a job as a galley boy aboard a ship.  The comedy/gag story I didn't care much for.  I don't know if Joe's reasoning behind it was to break up the drama strips, but I would have been happier just to keep it all drama.  It was called Angel and the Ape by Brain Buniak.  Evidently Angel and the Ape was created and published by DC in their past history, and the strip did have a light, almost burlesque feel to it.  But still, it just wasn't to my liking, and I had to force myself to get through it.  I did enjoy Sam Glauzman's WWII story though.  He was a seaman aboard the U.S.S. Steven, and I believe I have a slim graphic novel around the house somewhere that he had made, and this is more of his war stories, which he does very well.  It's about a gunner aboard a U.S. Destroyer, and he paints his tales full of realism, accuracy, pain and sorrow, to give the reader a good inside look of that history.