The other week I had the thrill of getting a peek inside Microsoft’s 3D Printing Lab. The visit was set up in the hopes that I’d tell you that Windows 8.1 will allow you to send items to any 3D printer as easily as you do to an ink printer. Clearly it worked.
They set aside a few hours (which is like years in Microsoft Time) to give myself and Louise from Mom Start a primer in 3D printing. Here is what I learned:
Right now there are two kinds of plastic that 3D printers use. ABS is a hard plastic while PLA is made from corn. PLA creates a more pliable final object but, just like compostable silverware, it cannot hold up to the heat of a dishwasher.
They had a few 3D printers set up to show us and, please forgive me here, I need to say that I’m working from my handwritten notes on the points below. I don’t have any personal experience with the machines and I very well might have stronger notes and/or opinions once I’ve used them.
– Makerbot Replicator 2. This can use standard spools of PLA plastic and has a nice large printing volume. It’s also for sale in the Microsoft store and let me just note that both Christmas and my birthday are coming up so if those who are close to me want to pool their money and get me something awesome and this is clearly a big hint right here.
– Cube 3D Printer. This is cute, sleek and comes in a few different colors and was presented as the one that would look nice inside a home office or kitchen (a point which I frankly found uninspiring). This one comes in at a lower price point but uses a proprietary system for their cartridges so you pay more for each ounce of finished object. It was mentioned that this one was easy to use and it’s won some awards so I’m curious to look into it further.
– UP Plus by PP3DP. This was presented as a low cost and high quality printer.
– Printrbot Jr. This one comes from a Kickstarter past, it’s low cost (under 1k) and might require a bit more know-how or basic determination and is perhaps a lower quality than higher priced 3D printers.
They also had a Form Labs Form 1 printer set up. This one prints from resin and instead of depositing melted plastic on a surface to build an object from the ground up it uses UV light from below to cure layers of resin from below so the object appears to grow from the liquid resin. Creepy! We didn’t get to see it in action but we did see a few final objects from it and they were smoother and more detailed than the other 3D printed objects we observed that day.
Above I talk about the cost of the printable plastic as a factor, but I’ll also mention that the people who work in the 3D Printing Labs mentioned that most things are printed hollow and use a minimum amount of plastic. While a kilogram of plastic can average $50 most printed objects they showed us were close to $6 in materials. I was a bit apprehensive of the materials cost until I took a sideways look at how much I’m willing to spend on yarn for cardigan that I have more fun planning and knitting than actually wearing. Looking at unit of cost divided by time spent planning and amount of fun had creating means that the cardigan costs way more. That said clearly the initial cost of a pair of knitting needles vs. a 3D printer is weighing in on the side of the knitters. Let’s just say both are expensive hobbies and it all depends on which one turns on your brain.
Earlier this year one of the keynote speakers at the Altitude Summit was Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired and one of Time’s Top 100 Thinkers) and he quickly brought the 3D printing thing to the gathered attendees by telling a story about being able to use his printers to make to-scale dollhouse furniture for his young daughters which they were then able to paint any way they wanted. As simplistic as that might come across it got me thinking. A family member of mine is an engineer and so I knew about 3D printing as a concept from an early age but that concept was always surrounded by the expectation of the object being an exacting part of a jet engine or a component in a high speed train brake system and at that point in time said printers were so expensive one couldn’t conceive of having inside one’s house. So this whole 3D printing for hobby and utility is still something I astounded by. (For the record I’ve been around long enough to have experienced the then-magical quality of a laserdisc player, though my family wasn’t the type to own a laserdisc. Wisely as it turns out.)
Let’s get back to the present. Right now there are a few online services like Shapeways, 3D Systems and even Staples that will take your file and mail you a final 3D printed object. This is great! But if you need to tweak and perfect things the delay of having something shipped to you vs. waiting 30 minutes for it to print out is clear. Most places also have makerspaces that offer use of 3D printers, here in Seattle we have Metrix Create Space and MakerHaus where you can rent time with the machine. (Further reading: Is it a Hackerspace, Makerspace, TechShop, or FabLab? at Make. You can find a makerspace directory over at Makerspace.com.)
In the future (as patents come to an end and the technology is more widely available) we’ll have an Open 3DP system that will allow us to print in substances like sugar, salt, clay, glass and bone. (Need personalized votive holders for an anniversary party? Bam.) The University of Washington apparently already has one of these in place and I really want to see what they’ve been making from it.
I mentioned above that I was aware of 3D printing as a kid but I think I first was really interested in what 3D printing could do when I saw the DIY sugar printer built by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories way back in 2007. Because sugar! Marginally edible! Also, the possibility of printed sugar skulls! So of course while I was jumping to ask about printing with chocolate. Turns out there is already an open source mod on Thingiverse that creates a chocolate extruder, and the lab at Microsoft showed me the extra bit and mentioned that they use it when somebody in the office has a birthday. Awesome. Then Emmett, who could have been introduced to us as the guy who thinks up the possible, mentioned the hint of a printable cheese. Ooooh, think what you could make! From cheese!
Next we were shown a few ways in which Microsoft is looking at making easily creating a 3D printable object available to anybody with a Windows machine. I’m not allowed to tell you about them, but I am allowed to tell you that all of them will be easy to grasp, simple to create and awfully cool.
We talked about all the practical things that 3D printers will bring about like needed parts to remote medical outposts and researchers in Antarctica as well as recreations of ancient objects for kids in classrooms to be able to hold and touch. I personally want to see the day when humanity can print a personalized cheese sculpture for somebody who is having a birthday while on the Space Station.
For the record: I was not paid to tell you about this, I just think it’s pretty cool. I did accept the can of sparking water that they offered me while we were on the tour.
Two videos that are primers on 3D printing: Will 3D Printing Change the World? at PBS and Lisa Harouni: A primer on 3D printing at TED.
So of course I’ve been wandering around my house wondering what I would create with a 3D printer if I had simple access to one. Most of my ideas so far are practical – a little container to hold my favorite coffee scooper, a replacement part for the little leg that holds up my keyboard which broke off, and something perfect for holding an eggshell when you need it propped up to be painted. And definitely a 3D selfie.
What do you think of 3D printing becoming more and more available? Do you have any plans on what you’d print? Any annoying little problems that could be fixed if you just had the right thing?
· comments  · 09-16-2013 · categories:technology ·
· comments  · 07-8-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
So, Google Reader is shutting down in three days. Have you left choosing a new reader until the last minute? Me too. I have some good news though, Feedly has been hustling and is now browser based and easy as pie to sign up for. Yay for procrastination. Feedly is becoming the hub for a bunch of other services too, you can read all about it right here.
Back up your Google Reader feeds. Go to the Google Reader homepage and click on the gear in the upper right hand corner of the screen and choose “Reader Settings”. You go to a page with tabs, click in Import/Export. At the bottom you’ll see “Expoert your data – Download your data through Takeout”. Click on that, it’ll take you to a new page. Wait for it to load and then click on the red “create archive” button. Download and you’re done, high five.
You won’t need this archive to migrate to Feedly, but you will want to have it. For posterity. Or in case you decide to use a different RSS reader.
Go to Feedly. If you’re like me and you have not signed up for Feedly yet you’ll see a page with the option for “One-click Google Reader Import”. Click on that, sign into your Google account, accept those terms and that’s it. You’re all finished. Sweet.
I don’t use Google Reader to bookmark and save my favorite posts. (I put them here on this site, a habit I started pre-RSS. Gasp this site is old.) But I will note that Feedly also imported the few things I did mark as favorites inside of Google Reader, so you won’t lose those bookmarks.
Digg is also racing to be the Google Reader alternative, see this article at Wired: Inside Digg’s Race to Build the New Google Reader. I’m curious to see how that will work out.
Update: Also see this guide to the best readers by GigaOM, and a tool to help you get all your data out of Reader from somebody who used to work on Reader, the reader_archive tool. Both via Waxy.
Another update: The equally easy to use Digg Reader is available now. Also, Anna at Door Sixteen also likes Bloglovin’.
What Google Reader alternative have you adopted? Do you use a reader? Or do you look for blog updates on Twitter and Facebook instead?
· comments  · 06-27-2013 · categories:technology ·
How To Use Feedly | whoorl.
3D-printable food? NASA wants a taste | Ars Technica. When can they print sushi?
The NewsBlur Redesign – The NewsBlur Blog. This is good news, it seems like NewsBlur was everybody’s choice to replace Google Reader but nobody seemed to be pleased about the way it used to look.
Self-Hosted Alternatives to Google Reader (and how to export your RSS feeds) – DarrenWasHere. A good round up of readers by web, desktop, and even those you install of your own server if you rent hosting space. Via Scott Andrew.
· comments  · 06-13-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
100 Websites You Should Know and Use | TED Blog. Via The Morning News.
TIGSource » Preview: Hiversaires. A very pretty looking game that I’m looking forward to, for iOS.
What I’m Using Instead of Google Reader | Slog. He lands on a paid option called NewsBlur, I’ll have to check this out.
Podcast recommendations | Ask MetaFilter. Lots of great long, conversational podcast recommendations here.
swissmiss | iFontMaker. “iFontMaker is an iPad font editor allowing you to create typefaces with the iPad touch interface in a matter of minutes.” Neato.
15 DIY Gadgets You Can Make with Raspberry Pi | Brit + Co..
· comments  · 05-7-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
Last year I took part in a Bing Focus Group with a bunch of bloggers, which was a really interesting experience. We were invited to visit with Bing in one of the Microsoft buildings (as far as I remember they have fancy coffee machines and great views) and asked us about how we used search engines as bloggers as well as in our everyday lives, all with an eye towards how they could make Bing better. A large part of the conversation that day was how much Pinterest is a tool we as bloggers use and have come to rely on. As part of this concern Bing has added a Pin to Pinterest option right inside the Bing image search and they’ve also added a few handy search filtering options.
Great thing #1: There is no bookmarklet to install. Bing has the Pin It button right there on the image search result page. Easy as can be.
Great thing #2: For image searches Bing includes a set of filtering tabs at the top. I can look up Dalek dresses (I’m headed to a comicon next week so what to wear has been on my mind) and with one click I can sort out dresses that are red, then brown, then white. (Look at this one! Also, shout out to Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon where that photo was taken.) You can also narrow your image search by image size, vertical or horizontal layout and how people appear in the photo. Very handy.
Tip: If you are looking for something on a specific website you simply add “site:sitename.com” in your search options. So, say you were looking for Easter eggs on this here website you’d put “Easter eggs site:notmartha.org” (like so) in as your search. From there you can narrow down by color, size, etc. I find this particularly useful for when I’m shopping. Does Nordstrom have any yellow cardigans I’d like? Why, yes they do.
Great thing #3: Bing automatically links the image you’ve pinned back to the original, high quality image source. Proper attribution is a good thing and this makes it easy. When you’re in the early stages of research you can quickly Pin a bunch of images right through Bing and know that the link to the page you will want to find later on is there.
The Bing image search Pin to Pinterst option allows me to quickly gather images for inspiration and reliably keep the sources straight. Meaning I can be efficient and a little bit lazy at the same time. So darn useful.
This post was sponsored by Bing, all thoughts are my own.
· comments  · 04-22-2013 · categories:technology ·
· comments  · 04-2-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
How can I most efficiently “spring clean” my laptop? | Ask MetaFilter.
Designing For The Modern Web. Via Swiss Miss.
Cool Tools – Linx. “This inexpensive construction kit uses simple plastic hubs to connect grocery store drinking straws. You can assemble quite large — and featherweight — structures in crystalline and geodesic designs.” This will make a great present and activity for our niece and nephews next time we visit.
3D printed cookie rollers | Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. I’ve seen plenty of 3D printed cookie cutters but I’m falling in love with the rollers here. Love the comparison between creating ancient things with modern tools.
· comments  · 02-20-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
I have a post up at Babble Voices about my recommendations for Seven iPhone Games to Keep You Occupied During a Long Flight. I picked both old and new games soley based on which ones I make sure are on my phone before I leave, these are my faves. Go take a look.
There were a few other games that I wanted to note but didn’t quite make cut for being airplane-ready, here they are:
This is the latest popular time waster. I didn’t include it because I have a love hate relationship with it, the levels become frustratingly pretty quickly and I do a lot of low-key rage quitting. But it always lures me back.
- Babylonian Twins
This is a platformer where you play twins who each have different skills. You can switch between them them to help each of the reach the end of a level. The game has an interesting history, it was originally created for the Amiga but never released but word of it spread from those few who played a demo and it became something of a legend. The game for iPhone has new graphics. I’m normally not a fan of platformers but I find each level combines plenty of exploration and puzzle solving. (Free lite version to try out.)
- Rolando & Rolando 2
Adorable graphics and great sound. I didn’t include these games in my list because the controls use the accelerometer and needing to turn and twitch your iPhone isn’t so convenient when squeezed into an airplane. I’m not sure if these have been updated for the Retina display.
- Cross Fingers
A game where you move wooden blocks inside a level. The sounds are nice and crisp and the visuals are pleasing. The game seems simple but can become challenging. I didn’t include this one because some levels require you to use your fingers in a way that will make it look like you’re playing a mini-Twister so it’s not perfect for airplanes. (Free lite version available to try out.)
- Flow Free
I compared one of the games on my recommendation list to Flow, which is better known. I had played Flow before and it didn’t hold my interest for long but revisited it when I was writing this as well as because I heard it recommended on an episode of Slate’s Culture Gabfest. And of course I am now obsessively working my way through it. I find it sort of works on my brain in the same way that knitting does. (Free levels, can buy more.)
- Pocket Frogs
This is a free game where you raise and breed frogs. It’s like a low-key tamagotchi. I play with this in spurts but love coming back to visit my frogs. There are a few ongoing frog goals that give in-game rewards to keep you working after you’ve bred yourself a library of frogs. I didn’t include this because some of the higher level frogs can take days to grow so it won’t help you out on a long flight. (Free, freemium.)
· comments  · 01-28-2013 · categories:technology ·
· comments  · 01-21-2013 · categories:links · technology ·
swissmiss | Minimal WordPress Themes. Great list.
#1reasonwhy | Slog. This went down while I was visiting family and I mostly missed it other than seeing the hastag in Twitter. Here is what was going on.
A Whole Lotta Nothing: Listening to podcasts piecemeal: huffduffer & Instacast.
How to See If Your Photos Are Being Used On Another Site | Kevin & Amanda. Via Shutterbean.
The 12 Best Family-Friendly PC Video Games | Babble.
Cool Tools – Sonos. “Audio over the internet isn’t new, but it really is barely tolerable if it’s not coming out of good speakers with power behind them.” I listen to a lot of podcasts and streaming radio and my Jambox is great so far but I’m looking at more options.
The Video Games Women Make | MetaFilter. Great information here.
Trend alert: small internet publications. Links to great things that are going on.
24 ways: Colour Accessibility. Designing for the color blind.
· comments  · 12-19-2012 · categories:links · technology ·
venomous porridge – App.net isn’t just a country club. From a diagram: “I put these things in a triangle so you’d pay attention.”
Turn Ho-Hum Color into WOW! with Photoshop. How to use LAB, and how to save it as an Action. One of the most useful Photoshop tutorials I’ve seen in years.
Cool Tools – Presentation Zen. From Kevin Kelly: “Among the many guides offering design advice, this one is the best. Watch some of the most popular TED talks online (including mine) and you’ll see this advice in action.”
5 Blog Photography Tips | Say Yes to Hoboken. Good tips for those just starting out.
Super Matrix Wall by Hyundai, so very very Portal 2. I love the reactions from the kids watching, via Waxy.
· comments  · 09-11-2012 · categories:links · technology ·
Earlier today all the bloggers and designers that teamed up for the HP Designer Matchup Challenge got to reveal the results of what our readers (that’s you!) helped guide us. graypants studio created this amazing neon light made by using neon gas inside of bottles. It combines reuse and looking at a familiar thing in a new way. I didn’t get the change to photograph the lamp in the dark due to some floor to ceiling windows with an incredible view, more on that later. The neon glides down the sides of the bottle and pools at the bottom, it is something to behold:
I’ll be back to talk more about the trip and unexpectedly finding myself about three feet away from Tim Gunn with lots of cameras pointed our direction.
· comments  · 09-7-2012 · categories:events · technology ·
I’m so excited, next week I’ll be in New York for Fashion Week and graypants and I will get to show you the result of what you’ve helped shape by voting in the first two posts (thanks!). Here are a few peeks:
Quick note, I’m typing this on the Ultrabook that HP sent me. Why a laptop? I still use the TouchSmart that they sent me as part of last year’s challenge as my everyday desktop machine so I asked really nicely and they sent me this laptop instead. Thanks HP! I mean, the TouchSmart is a great computer but my house is small and I didn’t have room for two of them. I wish I did though, a giant touch screen would come in extremely handy in the kitchen. That is, if you could protect the screen from olive oil smears. You could do that, right?
These pictures were all taken by Jon over at graypants. Thanks Jon!
And next week, the big reveal.
· comments  · 08-31-2012 · categories:events · technology ·
· comments  · 08-23-2012 · categories:links · technology ·