Monday, February 25, 2013

3D Printing the Future

A MakerBot hard at work.

I've been following the consumer 3D printing scene for a long while now and it's amazing to see the progress and developments that have been made in desktop 3D printing technology.  There's essentially been an explosion of 3D printers that have hit the market (through various means such as crowd sourcing-based Kickstarter, etc.) in the last 6 months with the most recent Kickstarter "3D printing" hit being the 3Doodler, a handheld ABS / PLA filament extruder which can be used to construct little artsy creations from plastic "wire."   What's really mind-blowing is how unbelievably simple the 3Doodler is (as I mentioned already, it's just the extruder / heater assembly from a desktop 3d printer fitted within a "pen-shaped" case, with literally the whole system costing dollars to make), yet the creators have become millionaires overnight--It's insane to ponder, but yet again I digress.

Last year I discovered a local Seattle gem, being the Metrix Createspace, which is described as a "hacker space" or basically a fully-fledged workshop for "Makers" of technical projects.  They offer tons of super cheap services including laser cutting, 3D printing, soldering, sewing, crafting, etc. and are open till midnight everyday.  Metrix is one of the coolest places Seattle has to offer--it's like all of Seattle's awesome techno wizardry condensed into an amazing "open-sourced hangout workshop."  Take a look at their VR tour page if you don't believe me.

Anyway, Metrix hosted a 2 hour workshop on 3D printing design which I just recently attended--the workshop ended up being 4.5 hours long but was pretty fantastic and insightful.  The future of consumer-level 3D printing has just begun and it is so very bright.  There are some issues associated with the technology such as intellectual property control and rights over 3D printed objects, but while the tech is not yet mainstream the solutions to these discussions are pending.  I learned quite a lot about the history of 3D printing and design considerations of printed objects.  There is so much untapped potential it's hard not to be excited about the ramifications of the technology.  I need to brush up on my 3D modelling / CAD skills and start putting my written ideas into fruition.

A hanging shio occolus.

While I was at Metrix I noticed there were a few shio lights hanging from the ceiling, which are really awesome "light sculptures" made from salt (crystallized sodium chloride) [shio / しお / 塩 is Japanese for salt].  I found out about shio lights last year on Kickstarter as well but didn't remember or realize that their studio is located here in Seattle.  The shio lights are insanely expensive (around $1000 each), but there's nothing like them on the market so I guess they have their own little niche.  I'd like to try my hand at making one using my chemistry background, but it seems like it might be a pretty messy process.  Maybe one day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nice Views

Freeway view - Downtown Bellevue

Since coming back to the US, I've been a bit slow with regard to re-accumulating "stuff"--things like furniture, everyday items, etc.  IKEA is typically a good one stop solution shop for this kind of problem and is where I perused for certain necessities.  In fact most all the big "furniture" items in my tiny apartment are from IKEA, first a desk and chair, and now a couch and coffee table.  While many of the household items from IKEA have a somewhat sought-after "modern contemporary European" look or style for an arguably inexpensive price, I can't help but notice how cheap and disposable all their goods are.  It's like everything is a giant façade or glittery shell covering over particle board and recycled plastic.  Sure it'll look "decent" for a little while, but any use will reveal its true cheap interior.  I'm not sure where I'm going with this rant, but I just wish there were higher quality yet inexpensive furnishings available from an alternative supplier.

(゜◇゜) - me

On a somewhat related note, a friend of mine finished furnishing his swanky high-rise apartment in downtown Bellevue and one of the bits he ordered was damaged on arrival.  He was sent replacements without having to return the damaged goods so I offered to take it (a nightstand) off his hands.  It's a nice solid wood piece which looks to have been dropped, but should be fixable with a small investment in a couple tools.  Regardless, I got to visit his amazing new apartment and it's like something from out of the movies.  It felt like how I'd imagine it to be if you were to "permanently" live in the fancy suite of a high-class hotel.

West Seattle - work view

That isn't to say that I don't have a view of my own, I sort of do, at my current work place.  I can't just look out the window of my office to get it, but if I go up a few floors of my building there's a small vista point which provides a decent view of parts of the university campus and West Seattle--not quite the same, but it's something at least!  

UW red square - work view

Last weekend I went to the local zoo with some friends which was my first time going to the zoo in Seattle (after being here for 5 years).  It's a decent zoo with; a good variety of animals, the smells weren't too excruciating, and it wasn't too crowded (although it is still the middle of Winter).  There wasn't too much of a selection of my favorite animals (lizards & geckos) but that's typical fare for a zoo--people seem to want to see the big stuff from Africa like elephants, giraffes, and lions.  I'd have to go to an exotic pet shop to get my fill of cute geckos and lizards if need be.  

The komodo dragons were active!

Finally, I found a cool shot of me in action (drifting) from the gymkhana a couple weeks ago.  Looks like I managed to get a little sideways in the shot.  Props to the photographer!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

DriftDoctor Goes Drifting

Probably, the cleanest it'll ever be.

As mentioned in the previous post, and alluded to in post even earlier, I managed to pick up a replacement to my old beloved car.  What could possibly be suitable enough to replace that car?  Not too much, although there happened to be a fantastic driver's car that was released mid-2012 which I had been following with interest for a long while, though at that point in time I had never considered the possibility of owning one.  With "new years" come "new beginnings" and in this particular case, a new car.  The vehicle I managed to procure is the (Raven) Scion FR-S, otherwise also known as the Subaru BRZ, or in Japan, the Toyota FT-86.  I was unsure that I could ever own a Toyota, but the FR-S was just too good of a car to resist, being lightweight (2800 lbs), FR platform (front-engine rear-drive), OK power (200 hp), and fairly economical (4-cylinders).

Likely the cleanest the interior will ever be.

Having had the car for a couple months already and becoming pretty familiar with it's handling as a daily driver, I felt it was a good time to kick things up a notch and get better acquainted when things are taken to the limit--with a low-key gymkhana / drift event.  It's been a while since I've last been drifting, but it's kinda like riding a bike, you never really forget the basics.  However, in this case it's almost like going from a bicycle to a step below a unicycle.  I'll put things in simpler terms...  this car is hard to drift.  

There are many reasons why.  First, the power is OK, but the 4-cylinder motor produces little torque (151 ft-lbs at 6600 rpm).  If I suddenly slam my foot to the floor when applying gas, nothing happens, the car just slowly accelerates.  If I were to do the same in my old car, the rear wheels would quickly break traction and slide (like the beast that it was).  Second, the car lacks steering angle, at full lock I can't do a U-turn in a normal 2-lane road like I could with my old car (this is helpful for "catching" drifts).  And thirdly, the FR-S has "electronic active steering" which means the steering system is attached to an electronic assist system which modifies the steering ratio based on specific situations / speeds.  This is perfectly fine for slow-paced / daily driving, but during fast-paced lock-to-lock maneuvers while drifting, the steering feel is a bit strange.  It's manageable & learn-able but it's still just weird and a potential handicap until the disconnected feeling is mastered.  

Regardless, my first driving event with the car was a success.  I got to experience what the car feels like at the limit and found out that the car is very "grippy," you have to work really hard to get the car sliding well.  My first run of the day was a bit laughable--I didn't know how to turn off the traction control so I looked like a giant derp spinning out over and over as the car cut the throttle each time I tried to initiate a drift.  Lo' and behold I needed to press and hold the traction off button for five seconds till some lights in the dash appeared.  

Traction OFF - VSC OFF, OK, time to drift.

While drifting the FR-S is incredibly difficult, I did manage to pull off a few decent drifts and had a good time behind the wheel.  There were a few other guys at the event with the same car who were having a lot of trouble drifting as well.  But, the car is new, the drivers are inexperienced, and things will get better with time so I'll see how things progress later in the year.