Wearable robotic "third arm" can punch through a wall

Université de Sherbrooke engineers demonstrated a wearable robotic third arm that weighs about the same as a human arm. According to Evan Ackerman writing in IEEE Spectrum, waist-worn hydraulic limb "is gentle enough to pick fruit but powerful enough to punch through a wall." From his interview with project lead Catherine Véronneau:

IEEE Spectrum: Can you describe the experience of wearing the robotic arm, especially when it’s moving dynamically? What does it feel like? How quickly do you get used to it?

Catherine Véronneau: ​That’s a good question, and it is something that really needs to be explored and studied in the future! But, for now, it is still not too bad having this arm on my hips, since it’s only 4.2 kg (without payload) and it is located near my center of mass (to reduce inertia). I get used to it quickly, and I can compensate for some of the movements (x, y, and z translational movements), but I still have some remaining issues to compensate for torsion movements (like if the arm is hitting a tennis ball with a racket), which is funny! We also noticed that the harness needs to be rigidly connected to the body, because if there is some backlash between the harness and the body, it can be uncomfortable.

"Robotic Third Arm Can Smash Through Walls" (IEEE Spectrum)

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Watch this impressive Lego tapas factory crank out a steady stream of snacks

The Lego masters at The Brick Wall built this fantastic contraption to crank out tapas.

Technical details: 19 Lego PF motors 5 BuWizz Bricks 4 weeks of hard work
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Got a deflated tire but 10 two-liter bottles? Make this DIY air compressor!

The best solutions are sometimes the simplest ones: "I've been topping off a leaky tire for weeks and staring at my garden hose wondering if I could use it instead of my compressor. The answer is YES!!!" Read the rest

An interesting little engineering device

Apparently this thing is called a Roebling device, and is used to calculate wire resistance per foot based on wire diameter. Read the rest

Recently discovered: Eiffel's drawings for a slightly different Statue of Liberty

In 2018, Barry Lawrence Ruderman, a rare map dealer from California, bought a folder of documents and blueprints related to the Statue of Liberty. What they didn't realize is that the lot contained almost two dozen original engineering drawings for the Statue produced by Gustav Eiffel's workshop. Ruderman and Alex Clausen, director of Ruderman's gallery, hope to eventually show the drawings at a museum but for now you can inspect scans they posted online. Greg Miller writes in Smithsonian:

Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel's engineering plans when it came to the statue's upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm—a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”

The date on that sketch, July 28, 1882, as well as dates on several pages of handwritten calculations and diagrams pertaining to the arm, suggest that this change was made after much of the statue had already been built. “It’s really late in the game,” Berenson says.

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Vacuum and hand dryer maker Dyson designed a new ventilator for COVID-19 patients

British inventor James Dyson announced that his company has spent the last week designing a new ventilator for COVID-19 patients and will ship 10,000 of them early next month to support the UK's National Health Service. He's also donating 5,000 more of them to international initiatives. From CNN:

Dyson said the company had designed and built an entirely new ventilator, called the "CoVent," since he received a call 10 days ago from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.,P"This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume," Dyson added, saying that the new ventilator has been designed to "address the specific needs" of coronavirus patients....

"The core challenge was how to design and deliver a new, sophisticated medical product in volume and in an extremely short space of time," he added. "The race is now on to get it into production."

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New way of building bridges could be faster, cheaper, better

You've probably seen this triangle before: Fast, Cheap, Good -- Pick Two. Here's a new bridge-building technique from Austria that seems to allow the customer to get a bridge that's faster, cheaper, better than traditional bridges.

From Popular Mechanics:

The umbrella method is a completely new way to construct a static final bridge. This TU Wien team first worked on the idea in 2006, and it’s been experimenting and fine tuning since then. Instead of traditional kinds of bridge building—i.e. putting up long-term scaffolding as rebar is laid and concrete is filled into structures—this mechanism is built like a “closed” umbrella and then unfolded into its final position. From there, its hollow girders are filled with concrete and the rest of the structural elements are completed.

“Erecting bridges using scaffolding usually takes months,” designer Johann Kollegger said in a statement. “The elements for the balanced lowering method, on the other hand, can be set up in two to three days, and the lowering process takes around three hours.” But this process, he says, is less invasive for bridges through protected or uneven terrain. The team's sample bridge over the Lafnitz River touches a nature preserve.

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WATCH: shockwave in a tunnel

"Fire in the hole!" shouts an engineer as a detonator sparks. A second later, the shockwave and the thunder--a close shave with the last sight some people ever saw. The video apparently depicts work on Indianapolis' sewer system. Read the rest

Ten minutes of collapsing water towers

As an antidote to the madness and mayhem I subjected you all to with my idiots with chainsaws post, here is ten minutes of controlled demolition of decommissioned water towers.

This is a great example of professionals knowing what they're doing as these demolition engineers land the towers between buildings, next to parked cars, etc. So many amazing things here: the crunching, booming sounds of the crashes, the great, billowing clouds of rust that plume from the tanks as they crack open, the grace (or not) of the descents.

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The inventor of the ball pit was inspired by a jar of pickled onions

More than 40 years ago, Eric McMillan, a renowned designer of children's play areas, and his team created the ball pit, those troughs of brightly-colored plastic balls that children swim around in. (Ball pits also may be a giant petri dish of pathogens but, hell, the kids love 'em.) Apparently, McMillan--who went on to be known as the "father of soft play" for his numerous playful innovations like the "punch bag forest"--found his inspiration for the ball pit in his kitchen. From the BBC:

McMillan and his team came up with the idea for the ball pit in San Diego more than 40 years ago, when inspiration struck after looking at a container of pickled onions in the kitchen. “There was a jar of onions, and we were sort of saying: ‘wow, how about if you could crawl through those? And then – ding – we decided we’d try it,” he says.

The first ball pit, filled with 40,000 balls, opened soon after their epiphany. “People just went crazy about it. Thank God for those onions.”

More in this BBC podcast: "Pickled onions inspired me to design the ball pit"

image: "Children in ball pit in Nachshonit" by יעקב (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Dartboard moves to ensure perfect shot every time

Mark Rober is bad at darts, but he still gets perfect scores, because he's good at engineering.

I fulfilled a 3 year long dream to create a dartboard where you get a bullseye every time thanks to some engineering. Basically, you throw a dart and then a Vicon motion capture system tracks the dart in the air. We use those x,y,z positions in matlab to predict where the dart will land using some regression analysis. Once we know where it will land, we move the board to the right spot using 6 stepper motors that attach to the back of the board using fishing line. All of this happens in 400ms or so. Then we took it to a bar to see what people would think of it

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See the magic of a Tesla Valve

In 1920, the great Nikola Tesla patented this ingenious valve that allows fluid or gas to flow in one direction but not the other. And it does it based entirely on its geometry without any moving parts. Here is the US patent, number 1,329,559.

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Listen to the sound of one screw falling into a turbine engine

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This rebar-tying video is weirdly calming

I'm not an engineer, but I can't stop watching this hypnotic and oddly satisfying video of tying rebar. Read the rest

Robot millipede printed by 3D printer that can spew out multiple materials

It's historically been tough and slow-going to 3D print objects made from multiple materials. Now, Harvard researchers developed an ingenious nozzle that enables the 3D printer to spew out eight different materials at the resolution of a human hair. To demonstrate the system, they printed fantastic flexible origami structures and even a "soft" robotic millipede from a variety of epoxy and silicone elastomer inks. Mark A. Skylar-Scott, Jochen Mueller, and their colleagues from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering presented their work in the scientific journal Nature: "Voxelated soft matter via multimaterial multinozzle 3D printing"

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Exquisitely engineered coin contains a mechanical beating heart

Russian artist Roman Booteen modifies coins with incredible engravings and feats of mechanical engineering. This coin features a beating heart. Other exquisite examples of his work are below. He also customizes Zippo lighters.

(via Kottke)

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#hobonickel #goldinlay #morgandollar #engraved #engravedcoin #hobonickel #hobonickels

A post shared by Roman Booteen (@romanbooteen) on Aug 7, 2017 at 8:02am PDT

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Engineers developed a mathematical model of Ooblek

A favorite kitchen chemistry (and physics) experiment of kids (and adults), Ooblek is the weird result of mixing cornstarch with water. Now, MIT engineers have developed a mathematical model that can predict and simulate how the non-Newtonian fluid switches between liquid and solid depending on the pressure applied to it. From MIT News:

Aside from predicting what the stuff might do in the hands of toddlers, the new model can be useful in predicting how oobleck and other solutions of ultrafine particles might behave for military and industrial applications. Could an oobleck-like substance fill highway potholes and temporarily harden as a car drives over it? Or perhaps the slurry could pad the lining of bulletproof vests, morphing briefly into an added shield against sudden impacts. With the team’s new oobleck model, designers and engineers can start to explore such possibilities.

“It’s a simple material to make — you go to the grocery store, buy cornstarch, then turn on your faucet,” says Ken Kamrin, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “But it turns out the rules that govern how this material flows are very nuanced...”

Kamrin’s primary work focuses on characterizing the flow of granular material such as sand. Over the years, he’s developed a mathematical model that accurately predicts the flow of dry grains under a number of different conditions and environments. When (grad student Aaron) Baumgarten joined the group, the researchers started work on a model to describe how saturated wet sand moves. It was around this time that Kamrin and Baumgarten saw a scientific talk on oobleck.

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