Tag Archives: digital technology

3D printing technology and 3D printers

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3D PRINTING: Producing abundance with tech

MANY fantasize about designing and building their dream home. If achieved, the feeling must be one of great pride and involvement. The sad reality is that building a house from scratch requires a whole team, and a group of wholesalers. For starters you would need an architect, electrician, a plumber, mechanical engineer and a surveyor, not to mention all the chain stores you would have to visit to furnish your new home. In the end, it may not feel like you were involved at all – apart from having dished out all the necessary funding.

But what if you could play a bigger and cheaper role in your home’s creation? Of course it would be wise to get the professionals to assess the ground and foundations, but when it comes to furnishing and decorating, the power lies in 3D printing. Most homes are, after all, built from the inside-out.

3D PrinterAs jaw-dropping as it may sound, 3D printing is essentially the creation of solid three dimensional objects using a large oven-sized printer. Objects are “printed” by laying down successive layers of material. The “ink” generally consists of molten plastics, but the more hi-tech 3D printers are able to use workable metals such as nickel, bronze, titanium and stainless steel.

Most 3D printing methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Others lay liquid materials that are then cured with other technologies. Some 3D printers can even reproduce themselves entirely.

3D printing3D Printers work by being fed digitised files or schematics. The design for a particular object is created using 3D modeling software and then sent to the printer for creation. Wikipedia explains the process thusly: “A 3D printer works by taking a 3D computer file and using and making a series of cross-sectional slices. Each slice is then printed one on top of the other to create the 3D object.”

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers for industrial use, but they are now finding their way into consumers’ homes (at around R100 000). The technology is generally used in the fields of industrial design, engineering, construction, auto mechanics, and the dental and medical industries, and is also known as the “architect’s dream tool”. 3D printing is even used for creating jewellery and footwear prototypes before they are mass produced.

3D printingOne fantastic application is the use of 3D printing for reconstructing fossils in paleontology. Ancient and priceless artifacts can be replicated with flawless precision. As exciting, is the reconstruction of bones and body parts in the field of forensic pathology as well as the reconstruction of heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations.

Meanwhile in the biology department, 3D printing technology is currently being studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering. Its applications are to build living organs and body parts. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium which slowly builds up to form three dimensional structures. This field of research has been termed as organ printing, bio-printing or computer-aided tissue engineering. I’m surprised that no one has called it “playing God”.

3D printingThe thought that 3D printing could be the means for producing abundance, excites me. High quality metal parts or tools could be mass produced and then donated to relief efforts or developing communities. Taps, tools, light fixtures, cutlery, hip replacements, 3D models, cogs, prosthetics and nuts and bolts could all be mass printed. Gone are the dreary days of the assembly line; 3D printers could even run overnight while the goods cook in the oven.

Time to chair up

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ULTIMATE V3: It’s death by comfort

THEY say that we spend a third of our lives sleeping (presumably in a bed). Well, I reckon that we spend another third of our lives sitting in a chair, especially if you work in an office. Think about it. You get out of bed, sit at the breakfast table, drive seated to work, sit at your desk, drive home again, maybe sit and watch some television, perhaps sit at your computer and do some writing or surf the web and climb back into bed.
 
Some are more disciplined than that. I had a Swiss-German friend at varsity who couldn’t even sit through a movie because it involved too much sitting. It must be his German blood.

I find nothing more satisfying than sitting (even better — lying) on a comfortable couch. The funny thing about couches is that it is always the most stuffed, unattractive-looking couch in any house that is everyone’s favourite — the couch that is probably worth less than the amount of loose change that has fallen into it over the years.

An artist's impression of my dads favourite chair

An artist

My dad has a favourite couch back home, which I’m sure is a source of some embarrassment when visitors arrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother has tried to incinerate it in a freak “coal-leaping-out-the-fire” accident. I’m sure it would go up in flames pretty quickly with the amount of body oil that has seeped into it over the centuries.

This off-white relic has coffee stains, tobacco burns and an imprint of my father’s behind in the centre. Yet, when seated in its mould, in front of an early winter’s fire and after some of Mother’s good home cooking, Father is as happy as Larry (however happy he is), usually fast asleep. He probably sleeps more in that couch than in his own bed.

So, if we do spend such a significant amount of our lives in beds and chairs, then why not make them decent ones. I’m always willing to spend a little extra on something that I know I’ll use every day and probably have for a lifetime.

I thought it was high time for me to chair up and buy myself a decent gaming chair — one that I could swivel around in freely and lean back and forth in. It’s a rather simple piece of furniture, although it was one heck of a science putting the thing together.

It came in attachable parts with a set of tools, a spider diagram, some Chinese instructions, and a note of encouragement. I half expected to find a small key, some coded message, a strange map and an enchan­ted ring. Without those one definitely needs a degree to put one of these pieces of technology together.

Although I now swivel contently in my “leather” chair, I still wanted to see what else was available on the market. This is what I found …

Ultimate Game Chair V3

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

There are a lot of fancy and alien-looking chairs out there — most of which have been designed for home entertainment. The simplest home theatre chairs have speakers mounted on the headrest and are basically REALLY comfortable and pleasant-smelling.

The most common gaming chairs, on the other hand, are designed to enhance the experience of simulators such as Flight Simulator. These have joysticks protruding out the armrests, which I imagine one could use to play a variety of games.

Racing chairs come with an adjustable chassis and have foot pedals and a steering wheel as part of their anatomy. The seats are designed to mimic the feeling of being in a Formula One car, and many even go the extra mile by vibrating as you ‘drive’ over rough roads.

Yet those chairs are old school now. You can get a close-enough experience at your local arcade. I was more intrigued by the Ultimate V3. This baby is co­vered in plugs and ports and is compatible with just about everything. To name a few, you can jack it up to your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. One reviewer had this to say:

“The V3 quite literally rocks your face off! From our experience from it, we were simply stunned. It is like getting a back massage while playing all your favourite games in a comfortable leather chair. It is simply amazing.” — ultimategamechair.com

It has 12 “strategically distributed” feedback monitors, adjustable 3D stereo speakers and a headset jack. It also vibrates and has “variable output on all three vibration sensation levels”. There are three vibration sensation levels? That takes the sensation of sitting in those vibrating chairs at the mall to a whole new le­vel.

 I imagine that one would never get out of this chair if seated in it. It would be death by comfort. So, I imagine that V3 owners have to be just as disciplined as those who are not fans of the couch.

DigitalLife Expo highlights

The DigitalLife Expo – one of South Africa’s largest digital technology expositions, takes place from 27 to 29 March 2009 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Here a few highlights that you can expect this year.

The Digital Home
Take a walk through the Digital Home, which includes a teenage pad, children’s room, study/home office, home theatre room and entertainment room, and find out how you can integrate these new technologies into your lifestyle.

Each room is packed full of the latest in digital and broadband technology. The idea is to give visitors a sense of the digital home of today and what it might be like living in one. If you do not have the abilities of King Midas you can at least get a feel of what it might be like living the most contemporary digital lifestyle. 

Superheroes and cyber-pets
You can meet Vernon Koekemoer in person at the DigitalLife Expo, along with Wowee the Roboquad – a four-legged spider-like robot thingy that has an almost eerie sense of awareness and mobility.

Wowee the RoboquadLiterally created and launched in cyberspace, Vernon is himself a strapping example of technology in action. He’s the apparent product of a viral campaign called “Let’s make Vernon famous”, and people everywhere have taken to “the Koek” like a toothpick to biltong.

Free workshops
If you’ve got the latest digital gear, but do you know your way around it, take advantage of free workshops and become a pro. Step into the future of mapping technology, learn more about digital photography, digital content, home entertainment, smartphone tools and broadband connectivity.

Six workshops will be held daily that will not only teach enthusiasts how to use new digital technologies, but also offer tips and tricks on how to integrate existing ones into their lifestyles. DigitalLife is offering free entrance to the expo to anyone who pre-registers online for any of the workshops.

Win big!
Visitors to the DigitalLife Expo stand the chance of winning digital products and technologies on display in the DigitalLife Expo’s walk-through Digital Home to the value of R250 000 including security systems, a media centre, a home theatre system, digital camera, mobile phones and more.

Top brands on display
Explore the cream of the digital crop. Get to grips with the latest technology from mobile phones to notebooks, multimedia players and home entertainment systems, home-automation and digital security systems – all under one roof.

Click here for a full list of exhibitors that you can expect to see this year.

Exclusive Windows 7 promotion
See it, experience it and stand a chance to win it. The first 250 people to visit the expo each day will receive a pre-release version of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system (believed to be the bee’s knees).

New product launches
Loads of hot-off-the-press digital technology products will be launched at the DigitalLife Expo, including iriver digital media players, the new T3 SecurityKey, Asus PCs and netbooks, Iomega network storage drives and Tesla’s latest home automation imports.

DionWired
DionWired, the consumer electronics and appliances concept store, is the expo’s official Digital Retail Store sponsor. The store will showcase its complete range of digital products and consumer-oriented services.

DionWired has also developed a long list of fantastic packages and special offers available exclusively to DigitalLife Expo visitors, so be sure to visit their stand.

Win shopping vouchers
Shopping vouchers are up for grabs every day at the DigitalLife Expo. To kick-start your digital shopping experience, ‘do Broadband’, powered by Telkom, will be giving away R5 000 shopping vouchers to visitors every day at the expo.

To enter, complete the entry form to be found at the entrance to the expo and drop it off at the ‘do Broadband’ stand.

Ticket prices

  • Adults R20,00
  • Student Ages (13-18) and college students R8,00
  • Pensioner Ages (60+) R8,00

You can buy your tickets online here.

Your digital life in your pocket

REVIEW: The OQO 02 ultra-portable PC

Windows Vista seems to be what all the ‘cool’ geeks are investing in nowadays; however, the hefty hardware requirements that the operating system demands is a bit of a problem for the less successful geeky entrepreneurs.

Yet their remains hope fellow geeks! The fully Windows Vista-compatible ultra-portable PC has been released as the ultimate solution for those who find that a smart phone simply isn’t enough while a lap-top over-caters for one’s needs.

“Fast,” “intuitive,” “helpful,” and “sexy” are not terms often associated with Windows devices, but technology reviewers argue that the ultra-portable PC mimics many of the functions of a full PC, via an advanced touch-screen interface, which they are describing as “potentially revolutionary”.

The OQO 02, as one of the newest ultra-portable PCs, belongs to a new generation of miniaturised Windows computers that can run the same software as Windows desktops and laptops but are designed to be used from the couch, conference room, or from an airplane seat.

OQO engineers are even prophesising that 2008 is the year when US computer buyers will turn to ‘ultramobile PCs’ as a practical alternative to beefier desktop and laptop computers.

It’s not size that counts, but how you use it
The new OQO 02 is a mere 14 centimeters wide, 8 centimeters high, and 3 centimeters thick, making it small enough to fit in your jacket pocket or purse.

It comes with a 1.5-gigahertz processor, an 800-by-480-pixel touch screen, a slide-out keyboard, and three kinds of wireless connectivity. It is able to run standard Windows programs from the Firefox browser to Adobe Photoshop.

With regards to connection speeds, it may not be as fast as a home DSL or cable Internet connection, but is much faster than previous generations of cellular data networks.

The OQO 02

Target market
Manufacturers of OQO devices have focused sales on the professional user rather than the bored teenager, and have already attracted business customers who need small PCs for field inspections and similar mobile activities.

As a mobile journalist, Bob Rosin – marketing vice president of OQO, put the practicality of the ultra-portable PC into context, saying:

“If you’re a mobile professional, you need to be connected to the Web and access applications as part of your daily life – so your computer needs to be small enough and light enough that you’re willing to take it with you when you leave your desk.”

Unique features / characteristics
But what makes the OQO 02 special when compared to older ultra-mobile PCs? Well for many the most appealing thought is having the power of a full Windows PC in the palm of their hand. That aside, some manufacturers are working on simplifying onscreen interfaces so that users can get more things done with fewer gestures and clicks.

Users also have the ability to zoom in on an area of detail and to scroll vertically or horizontally with the brush of a finger along the screen, eliminating the need for a mechanical thumbwheel found on many PDAs.

Similar devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and are operated solely via a touch screen. However, these have not been marketed as office appliances, but rather as entertainment devices enabling users to browse the Web and access videos, music, and photos.

Is it all too good to be true?
The OQO 02 is not without its flaws. Battery life is an issue, which totals a miniscule 4 hours worth, which reviewers argue is not long enough to keep a businessperson busy for the duration of a transcontinental flight. Another issue is the small screen and keyboard, which is a problem for people with poor eye-sight and large thumbs.

Currently ultra-portable PCs such as the OQO 02 are seeing poor sales (going from anywhere between R7000 to R14 000), but manufacturers feel that the product will take off once they become more general-purpose devices. Being able to browse the web while simultaneously controlling the TV and stereo system from the couch, for example, appears to be where the major marketing potential lies.

Links
Just for fun: A portable portal into another world?
Related Info: Your life at the touch of your finger
Read full review: Smaller Is Better, Say Makers of Ultraportable PCs

Save the trees with iPaper

The other day I wrote a hand-written letter and found that my hand-writing looked like barbed wire. I realised that it had been a good while since I had used any hand-writing skills due to my increasing reliance on typing everything. It seems obvious to me that the archaic technology of hand-writing is being slowly killed by digital technologies, creating what has been called the paper-digital divide. Yet just when the patriotic hand-writers thought things couldn’t get worse, society unleashed something called “digital paper” or iPaper.

Digital PaperWith the use of a digital pen iPaper allows hand-written notes, or sketches, to be digitally captured and stored. The ‘ink’ absorbs light transmitted from the digital pen, which contains a receiver that interprets the pattern of light reflected from the paper. This is creating new possibilities for publishing new forms of interactive based documents without having to worry about your pen running out of ink!

What seems more intriguing is that iPaper allows users to develop a wide range of interactive paper-based interfaces and applications without having to do any programming. Furthermore, active areas on the paper can be linked to and from a wide range of physical and digital media including web pages, images, video, flash animations, databases and RFID tags as well as application programs.

Some of the more interesting and useful applications that have been developed thus far include:

  • A presentation tool suitably called PaperPoint. This is taking PowerPoint presentations to a new level by allowing one to control the presentation via a paper-based user interface.
  • In Edinburgh they’ve created a tourist information system which provides users with information on venues and events at the Edinburgh festivals. Tourists are also able to enter and share reviews on the spot.
  • In Zurich they’ve created a city map which provides digital information on restaurants, cinemas, shopping facilities and so on.
  • And one that is not just for tourists, but which also applies to digital journalists, is the “paper-based travel diary” – allowing one to integrate hand-written notes with pictures taken from a digital camera.

So for those of us who are still great appreciators of the art of hand-writing there’s still hope for maintaining our craft whilst keeping abreast of the latest in digital technologies.

Related post:
Will e-readers end the Age of the Book?

Links:
Digital Paper Portal
Video: Digital Paper demonstration
Global Information Systems Group