Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Incredible Bionic Man

I was on You Tube the other day and came across an episode on the Smithsonian Channel called "The Incredible Bionic Man."  I was blown away at the current state of the art in prosthetics.  Unfortunately I can't embed the video here, but here is the link:

Some very interesting stuff, especially the new artificial ankles!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One package has arrived

from Sculpteo.  Funny how the company in France was able to print and ship these before the company in the US.  Anyway this is what arrived in the package:

These look good, if a little smaller than I thought they would be.  I like the way they stack, but the tabs and holes are working quite as well as I had hoped for the alignment of the blocks when placed on a 45 degree corner.  Have to see how the Shapeways ones look...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shapeways vs. Sculpteo

Well, I managed to get a 3D model of my building blocks put together (Thanks Paul) and I've turned to 2 online services to get some of them 3D printed.

The 2 services I decided to use, primarily based upon price, were Shapeways and Sculpteo.  I was able to easily upload the 3D model to both sites and with just a few clicks to choose the material and finish was able to order the model to be printed.

The prices on both sites are very similar and competitive.  The main difference for now is the delivery times.  Shapeways estimated a delivery of 10/30 to 11/1 and Sculpteo a delivery of 10/25.

Once the respective models are received, I will be reviewing them in more detail.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grasshopper hops over 2400'

This is amazing!  Spacex' Grasshopper spaceship takes off vertically, rises over 2400' in the air and then lands vertically back on the same launch pad.  The whole flight is incredible, but even more so when you realize that Grasshopper is 10 stories tall!

Here is a the video:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A better building block?

Its no secret that I love castles and would love to build my own some day.  I have been thinking about the best way to accomplish this and came to realize that quarrying stone for the outer and inner walls would be very labor intensive and very expensive. I then started thinking about creating a castle from cement blocks.  Now I would think your standard cement building block just isn't very attractive and the need for all the mortar in the joints and the fact that it has fairly thin walls limits how high you can stack it as well as how stable it can be.

Now one way to combat this is to include some type of internal rebar structure and fill the block with cement, but that just doesn't seem like the best way to go to me.  I was thinking more along the lines of interlocking cement blocks with hollow cores, but much thicker and sturdier than the blocks currently used.

So I've been doing a bit of sketching and came up with this idea:

As you can see this block is base don a hexagonal design and the protruding "tab" on the top would slip into the bottom of the next row effectively locking them into place.  One thing I liked about this design is the ability to stack these at a 45 degree angle, not just at 90 degrees.  One thing I dislike with the design is the perceived weak spot in the center of the block, so I did another revision:

This block feels much sturdier to me and still allows for stacking on the diagonal if the unneeded corners are cut.  This would produce a very sturdy wall indeed.  I am thinking about this block being 6 inches high x 12 inches deep x 24 inches long and the top tabs 2 inches high.

My next move is going to be to try and create a 3D drawing of both block to see about getting them printed via a 3-D printing service such as in order to play with them and see how well they can stack, etc.  My only issue at this point is learning an acceptable software package in order to create the necessary drawing to get it printed.

Anyone happen to be handy with 3D modeling software?

Any ideas or feedback is definitely welcome!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Solar Chimney Power Plant

The idea of producing electricity from sunlight isn't new.  Typically most people think about photo-voltaic cells when thinking about solar power, but I like this idea much better: a solar updraft chimney power plant.  Less rare elements, simple, proven technology just applied in a new configuration.

The concept is that you create a greenhouse area under glass that contains air that is heated by the sun.  Heated air likes to rise, so with a sloped roof and a tall chimney, the air is directed into central turbines that the flowing air turn to create electricity.  Very few moving parts.  Very low operating costs.  No fuel costs.

The biggest problems with this type of a power plant are the initial costs to build it, needing a large area of land to house it and finding the right location.  None of these are insurmountable issues if there are people who look to the future.

Here is a clean form of electricity production that doesn't created harmful emissions, it doesn't involve hazardous chemicals or rare elements in its manufacture and it had a lifespan of many decades.  These would ideally be placed in areas that are underdeveloped to take advantage of the abundant sunshine.  They could become tourist destinations as well.

Some critics have voiced the objection that these plants are unreliable - only producing electricity during daylight hours, but this is not true.  Because the plant works off the difference in temperature of the air underneath the greenhouse and the outside air, a thermal layer of encapsulated water on the floor of the greenhouse would provide 24 hour energy production.

Why aren't we building these today?????

A Place for Technology

There are many items that intrigue me in the world of technology - from Space to building blocks to Alternative Energy to phones.  Here I will discuss some of those things I find intriguing and hopefully find others with the same interests.