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

This is super neat. Read the rest

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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A post shared by Roman Booteen (@romanbooteen) on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:50am PST

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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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This soft inchworm robot could lead to new smart clothing and morphing airplane wings

This soft, inchworm robot changes shape in response to tiny electrical or temperature changes. The power-efficient robot is made from a specialized "programmable" polymer technology that, according to the University of Toronto researchers, could someday lead to lightweight and safer robots but also enable other kinds of smart materials. From EurekAlert!:

"In situations where humans could be in danger -- a gas leak or a fire -- we could outfit a crawling robot with a sensor to measure the harmful environment," explains Naguib. "In aerospace, we could see smart materials being the key to next-generation aircrafts with wings that morph."

Though he points out it will be some time before the world sees morphed-wing aircrafts, the most immediate impact will be seen in wearable technology.

"We're working to apply this material to garments. These garments would compress or release based on body temperature, which could be therapeutic to athletes," says Naguib. The team is also studying whether smart garments could be beneficial for spinal cord injuries.

"In this case, we've trained it to move like a worm," he says. "But our innovative approach means we could train robots to mimic many movements -- like the wings of a butterfly."

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Imagineering In a Box: free instructional video series from Disney and Khan Academy

Imagineering In a Box is a free lecture series on Khan Academy that covers a broad swathe of elements involved in storytelling in built environments, from theming a land to landscaping, architecture, sound design, robotics, smell design (!), color, material science, food-based theming, ride design from pitch to execution, animatronic programming, queue management (MY FAVORITE!), costuming, etc. Read the rest

This tiny robot bug can survive getting stepped on

This tiny "soft" robot, just 3cm long, zips along at 20 of its body lengths per second. It can also carry heavy things, like peanuts in the shell, but that slows it down a bit. And amazingly, you can step on it and it won't die. Over at IEEE Spectrum, Ivan Ackerman writes about the little robot developed by researchers from Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley:

It takes a scanning electron microscope to actually see what the robot is made of—a thermoplastic layer is sandwiched by palladium-gold electrodes, bonded with adhesive silicone to a structural plastic at the bottom. When an AC voltage (as low as 8 volts but typically about 60 volts) is run through the electrodes, the thermoplastic extends and contracts, causing the robot’s back to flex and the little “foot” to shuffle...

The researchers also put together a prototype with two legs instead of one, which was able to demonstrate a potentially faster galloping gait by spending more time in the air. They suggest that robots like these could be used for “environmental exploration, structural inspection, information reconnaissance, and disaster relief,” which are the sorts of things that you suggest that your robot could be used for when you really have no idea what it could be used for. But this work is certainly impressive, with speed and robustness that are largely unmatched by other soft robots. An untethered version seems possible due to the relatively low voltages required to drive the robot, and if they can put some peanut-sized sensors on there as well, practical applications might actually be forthcoming sometime soon.

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FAA approves tests of new design for middle seats that are more comfortable and speed boarding

The S1 (AKA the "Slip-Slide Seat") is a radical rethink of airline middle seats from Colorado's Molon Labe Designs; it sits a little back of the seats to either side of it, is slightly wider, and has slightly lower arm-rests -- and in some configurations, it allows the aisle seat to be slid over it, temporarily widening the aisles and speeding boarding and unloading. Read the rest

USB inventor admits that the plugs are annoying

In 1996, Intel released USB (Universal Serial Bus) 1.0 and we have been annoyed ever since. National Public Radio spoke with engineer Ajay Bhatt who led the team that unleashed the perpetually frustrating non-reversible plug on the world. From NPR:

"The biggest annoyance is reversibility," Bhatt told NPR. Nonetheless, he stands by his design.

Turns out there's a very specific reason for the USB's lack of reversibility.

A USB that could plug in correctly both ways would have required double the wires and circuits, which would have then doubled the cost.

The Intel team led by Bhatt anticipated the user frustration and opted for a rectangular design and a 50-50 chance to plug it in correctly, versus a round connector with less room for error...

"In hindsight, based on all the experiences that we all had, of course it was not as easy as it should be," Bhatt said.

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