You can buy hardware store materials of the future from these folks: Translucent concrete, rubber glass, unwetable sand, suction cup tape, etc. They primarily sell small quantities of very innovative stuff, but will work with you if you like what you tried and want it in bulk. The materials and devices are so amazing you'll invent things just to use them. -- KK I have used Inventables a lot. I have found them to be responsive and helpful when I have a question about a product, or when I want to get larger quantities of a sampled product for a real application. For example, when I needed some Stretch Sensing Rubber in a different diameter for a toy I was designing, and they promptly got me the size and quantities that I needed for the prototypes. When we were designing a high-volume medical device that needed a piezoelectric actuator, they put me directly in contact with the manufacturer of the material. -- Danny Hillis Inventables
Sample Products Talking tape 895_big_web.jpeg
Talking tape makes it possible to mechanically create sound from various objects. With one hand, you hold the top of the tape. With the other, you slide your thumbnail down the ribbon against the grooves. Do this and you hear, "Congratulations!" The ribbon has grooves just like a traditional record. When your fingernail is pulled down the ribbon, it causes sound vibrations. The card works as the amplifier to make the sound louder. You can replace the card with a plastic cup, a balloon, a greeting card, or just about anything. The ribbons can be made to play any sound you can record; however, the manufacturer claims voices work better than music.
* Conductive thread Incorporate this silver-plated nylon thread into fabric Conductive_Thread.jpeg
This is a silver plated nylon thread that can conduct electricity. These types of threads are usually manufactured for anti-static electromagnetic shielding, intelligent textiles, wearable technology, and heating purposes. The particular type featured here is great for sewing resistors into fabric and for other general sewing applications.
* Bendable Wood Allows for creative applications of solid wood bendable_wood.jpeg
Bendable Wood is a cold-bendable compressed wood that enables the creation of dramatic and unique bentwood parts using thick, solid, quality hardwood lumber. The maximum radius for bending is in the range of five times the board thickness as long as the wood moisture content remains between 20 to 25%. The desired shape/form becomes fixed and stable upon drying to 6 to 8% moisture content. Available in more than ten of the most common North American hardwoods. This product should not merely replace steam bent, laminated, or kerfed components, but it should be employed to make your work easier and inspire much more dramatic and challenging bends that could not otherwise be fabricated using solid lumber. The unique properties of this wood enable a new world of ideas, experimentation, creative solutions, fast production environments, and performance. Choose to do it yourself, or let us do it for you.
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  1. What?!?! A “Self-Cleaning Brush” for $16.95

    Pet stores used to sell these for a dollar!

    Some of this stuff is cool, but I think they made a mistake when deciding to carry that brush or when pricing it.

    1. That one does seem strange… I haven’t looked through the whole catalog, but that’s the only *really* weird/out of place or overpriced thing in there so far. It says right in the description that it’s intended as a pet brush, and it’s obvious from the picture that it’s an inexpensively made plastic thing, so where they got the $17 price is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to tell but it may be that the product vendors submit their products to sell, and it’s not entirely hand-curated.

      Also, I find it amusing that there are things from classic 80’s and 90’s children’s toys like the talking tape (I’ve got several early 90’s action figures that use that) and this which most people will probably recognize as a common toy from the 90’s. If you don’t have one collecting dust in a box in your basement that you can reuse, I guess it’s probably easier to get one from here if you want something like this for your project.

      After having looked at several more pages of their products, most of this stuff is not stuff “from the future” as the cool tools blurb puts it ( doesn’t make this claim themself) – it’s stuff that you’ve probably seen used in products or other applications before. They’re offering it to you in a “virgin” state so to speak, direct from the manufacturers, so you don’t have to buy some product you don’t want to get the materials. The high cost reflects the low volume they’re ordering from the manufacturers (the pet brush still doesn’t make sense, but the cost of the other products does).

      I mean, for a lot of this stuff it would be very difficult to obtain it in usable quantities if you had to rip it off of other products. I think this store will be quite useful to a lot of people looking for exotic materials, but it should be promoted as what it is, not a “hardware store from the future”.

      1. wow…a geeks dream hardware store of the future…i love it!

        Also, I find it amusing that there are things from classic 80’s and 90’s children’s toys like the talking tape

        I noticed that as well…the waterproof sand is sand grains that have been colored and coated in a fine layer of wax or silica. they used to sell this for kids as a product called “Magic Sand”, or “Mars Sand”…

  2. Yes, Inventables is an amazing website with some really cool stuff to simulate the imagination. My main peeve is that you can often find the same product elsewhere for much cheaper.

    But in terms of sheer density of crazy materials – can’t been Inventables! It’s an excellent source of inspiration, but do shop around…

  3. The impact absorbing gel details page gave me a great idea for how to quiet down the SLAM of my screen door. I’m gonna buy some Dr. Scholl’s inserts, cut some slices out of them, and put them in the door jamb and see what happens.

  4. Their $14.99 USB rechargeable batteries look suspiciously like the one you can get in poundland and are rubbish.

  5. That site is amazing! The mind fizzes at the potential applications of some of these items. Best cool tools post, ever.

  6. While a nice catalog, the prices are definitely a rip-off.

    They have a “Translucent White Concrete” sample available for 134 dollars. You can order the same sample (in 10 different colors) from LiTraCon for ~85 dollars. Furthermore, they intentionally strip all vendor details from the materials, in order to discourage searching other stores. The pricing on the bamboo is especially shameful.

    Please put a disclaimer on this post.

  7. This was actually posted on BB a couple months ago:

    When it was first posted, we quickly realized that this site actually just sells companies’ free “samples” — the same things materials-folk get at trade shows — for huge markups.

    They’ll sell you a “sample” of the transparent concrete for $134 — the “sample” is a miserable 4″x4″. Or a 17″ “sample” of translucent foil for $260. Or a tiny spool of conductive thread for $124.

    My heart was in my mouth too when I first saw this, thinking how cool it would be to use this stuff. Then I hit reality.

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