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Showing posts from 2010

Free Geek: computer recycling, training, and thrift in one location

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With the recent move, we had an opportunity to dispose of some dated machinery, and in the process found out about FreeGeek Chicago. FreeGeek is a non-profit occupying a unique niche in a few American and Canadian cities, serving as a computer recycling center, a technical training center, and a source of free computers to the community.

The premise is simple, but clever: the facility takes donations of old computers. The computers are disassembled and their components tested by a team of volunteers. Broken components are shipped off to a recycling facility in Lombard, IL, and functional ones are put together to make fully working computers.

Volunteers give 24 hours of service, during which they are trained in taking apart, testing, and building computers. At the end of their hours, they are given a computer built from donations, running Xubuntu.

The service educates, recycles, finds a use for older machines, and successfully operates with limited budget all at once. Volunteers g…

Hello world...Pick the winner in our 1 x $250 contest

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Inventables is giving away 1 gift certificate worth $250 to our store.


To win, submit your idea for what you would build to @inventables on Twitter. We'll post it to the poll on the right side of our blog and we'll let the world decide who wins the site credit. Voting closes on 12/17/10 at 5pm. We'll post pictures (and maybe video) of what the winner did with the prize.

You might be wondering, why are we doing this? At Inventables, we believe that it is currently too difficult for designers, artists, and inventors to source materials. We've set out to solve this problem by building an online store that will streamline the process of innovation by making previously hard to find materials available to purchase. We think of our store as "the innovators hardware store," and our goal is to inspire everyone—regardless of profession—to explore what’s possible. We think we can accomplish this by leveling the playing field of materials research.

The first step we to…

Are you a writer? We're hiring a product copywriter

We're very excited to announce that we've just posted a new position we're hiring for, a product copywriter.  We’re hiring people that want to embark on a hazardous startup journey. We’re looking for people that share our passion for pushing the world’s progress forward, for inspiring the dreamers of the world to explore what’s possible. 
So what does that mean on a daily basis?  A few months ago we launched our online store selling materials and technologies in small quantities for prototyping and R&D.  Right now we have hundreds of products listed on this site for sale like gel magnets and soft touch paint.
Over the next year we plan to increase the number of products for sale from hundreds to thousands.  We hope to create a comprehensive collection of materials so anyone with an idea can browse our virtual aisles to get exactly what they need to build a prototype.  If you're an excellent writer and your passionate about product development this is the perfect oppo…

Reducing the distance between creator and consumer at the Chicago DIY Trunk Show

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Last Saturday was the 8th annual DIY Trunk Show, an oversized craft fair showcasing a wide variety of work from Chicago artisans, from home-made yarn to local magazines. The event filled up two rooms of the Pulaski Park auditorium, and felt like a flea market's prideful sibling.

New uses for old materials
Much of the most interesting work displayed involved finding novel uses for well-known materials. One artists would cut rocks into thin slabs that could be used as drink coasters, or reassembled into their original formation. There were bottlecaps turned into magnetic art, jewelry made from junk, notebooks made from scrap leather.

It evoked a certain kind of wonder to see materials used outside their traditional uses, reflected a certain kind of openness, a willingness to understand the actual properties of a material, rather than fall back upon its common understanding. This tendency stands at the center of much invention: one must often separate a material from its normal uses…

Scott Wilson + MNML = Cool watch with over 100k in pre-orders

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The internet is changing product design by reducing the risk that a product might fail. Scott Wilson is a designer based in Chicago that has worked for Nike, Motorola, IDEO and now runs his own design firm called MNML. Scott and his team designed a watch band for the new iPod Nano so it could be used as a watch. Before actually manufacturing it they posted their design on Kickstarter to try to get enough backers to fund the product. They needed $15,000 in pre-orders to make the product and with 27 days left they already have $155,097 in pre-orders. Check out their pitch video to learn more about the product.


This success starts to put some pressure on established consumer products companies that outsource their product design. It starts to put control in the designers hands.  If they can go direct to consumers with sites like Kickstarter, do they even need the clients anymore? Fee for service relationships might not make as much sense.  A designers true vision can be presented to…

Bend your mind with circuit benders and other experimental electronics

Last year at ORD Camp the guys from Roth Mobot did a very cool circuit bending demo with some old toys.  They are going to be at this performance/showcase so check it out if you're in Chicago.  It will be a carnival for hacking electronica!

The Midwestern Experimental Electronics Conference and Showcase (MEECAS)

Saturday, November 13 : Lizard's Liquid Lounge, 3058 W Irving Park Rd. (map)
The 3rd annual Midwestern Experimental Electronics Conference and Showcase (MEECAS) is a free, day-long symposium highlighting the past year's accomplishments in the areas of Musical Instrument Design, Performance, Circuit Bending, Data Hacking, and Video Art. CONFERENCE : Noon - 3:00 PM
The MEECAS begins with a three-hour circuit bent open mic, and an open “horizontal lecture series” structured around a free hardware hacking workshop wherein all participants are both teacher and student. The conversation will focus on networking, hacking techniques, project demonstrations, and setting goals…

A tale of 2 homepages - New Materials Resource

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Inventables is working on democratizing access to new materials. We're an advocate for the little guy and we hope to level the playing field for small product development teams to be able to go up against giant Fortune 500 companies. With this mission in mind we've expanded our services to include the sale of new materials in our online store.

Since launching the online store the response has been tremendous. Our goal is to continue to remove barriers between "makers" and "prototypers" and their visions. The first way we are tackling this is by offering materials for sale in small quantities that are typically hard to find or unavailable. The second thing we're doing is redesigning our homepage for this new business model. Specifically we have re-designed two versions. The first uses vertical categories. The default view is the most recently purchased products and down the left side you can review all the different categories we offer. Within e…

What materials are used in windows that break in movies?

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Ever wonder how actors jump through a window but then live to talk about it on late night talk shows? Sometimes they use computer graphics but that's not the only way to create the special effect.


Simon Tong / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
A product called Rubber Glass, lets you create special effects that simulate glass without the inherent dangers. Unlike other transparent plastics, this one breaks with the same spiderweb, shattering pattern as glass.


It uses a polyurethane that enables you to create glass and ice-like objects without the hassles of conventional breakaway plastic products. Unlike other plastics, this product cures at room temperature; once cured, it is odorless and easy to handle. You mix it up and shape it into whatever you need.

Rubber Glass is a non-toxic silicone that simulates broken glass or ice. Once you combine the two bottles, you let it cure to form a soft, clear rubber, and then crumble it. The film Die Another Day used over 1.5 tons of it, and several other films …

Inventables is moving to a new office

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Inventables is going through some exciting changes this year. In addition to launching our online store, we're also moving to a new office.

With the launch of our new store, we seek to democratize the practice of materials research, streamline the process of innovation, and inspire everyone—regardless of profession—to explore what’s possible. We believe exploration is a precursor to innovation. In order to create a workspace that embodies that spirit of "Exploring What's Possible", we approached the team at Studio O + A to design our new office.

We found an awesome loft space near the west edge of Chicago's loop and two blocks from Union Station.

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The designers at Studio O + A had a blank canvas to work with. The building is currently being renovated, and it has tall ceilings and a really cool concrete look and feel.

The main focus of our work at Inventables is software development. We're continually improving our website to make it easier for…

CORE-Materials

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At Inventables we believe that it is currently too difficult for artists, innovators, and product  developers to source materials and find solutions for their projects.

I recently found the CORE-Materials OER project and they share our passion. They are working to make a significant number of the many existing learning resources in Materials freely available online. They explain on their site "the resources will be licensed for open use and repurposing worldwide."


They offer a resource page with a number of interesting resources. One that stood out to me was a paper by Prof Claire Davies, School of Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham where she goes through materials used in sporting goods.


Hat's off to this organization. If you know of other resources for learning about materials tweet it to us! @inventables

A New Beginning

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Inventables has started selling the materials we showcase on our website, like Squishy Magnets and Temperature Sensitive Fabric. But you may be wondering why we changed to this new model.


To answer this question, it helps to think about WHY we exist.

Inventables was founded on the premise that “Anything’s Possible”. The spirit behind that phrase can be explained by Thomas Edision’s quote, “None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” In the beginning, Inventables worked on building a brand and a company around our belief in Yankee ingenuity and the can-do spirit. We believed that, given an idea and a relentlessly curious disposition, you could build anything. Over the years our customers proved this to be true. For example:

Peter Skillman, the former VP of Design at Palm, was faced with a challenge when working on the Pal…

Inventables Interview Series: Stephanie Battista

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Great ideas always seem to come to us when we least expect them. How many times have you scribbled or sketched something on a napkin, trying to capture the details of your brilliant new concept while it’s still fresh in your mind? Often times, even after we experience these flashes of genius, it’s difficult to translate them from concept to reality. That’s where Stephanie Battista comes in.

Stephanie started Laf, Inc., a Florida-based industrial design firm, in 2002. Many clients have walked into her office with such napkins in hand, hoping to turn their rough sketches into finished, sellable products. She’s worked on everything from packaging for an organic line of soap to designing promotional pieces and advertisements for a fashion label. She says, “Every day is a different challenge,” acknowledging that her diverse array of projects keeps work from becoming boring.
It’s that spirit for embracing new challenges that has driven Stephanie throughout her life. She left business school t…

Fish Leather

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Everyone is familiar with leather from cattle hide. This kind of leather has become synonymous with jackets, baseball gloves, and racing pants like these.

Cowhide leather better watch out because there is a new game in town...fish leather. Fish leather typically comes from four different varieties of fish: perch, salmon, wolffish, and cod. The leather comes from fish commonly caught for food. As you might expect, this means these materials are a by-product reclaimed from food processing activities. In the past the hides have often been discarded. Fish leather is being used in everything from purses to women's shoes. Some big brands you've heard of including Prada, Dior, Nike, Ferragamo and Puma have used it in some of their products.



The leather comes in small strips or can be made into panels using 7 strips which is useful when making larger items.

Check out the salmon fish leather we have here, samples are now available.

The Nature of Creativity - Part Four

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by Heidi Kneller
Mechanical Engineer at The Payloads Concept Center, The Boeing Company

As in real life, a personal creative journey is fraught with hiccups. Even the best laid plans to become a fanatical journal-keeper will, at some point, be derailed by reality. In Part Four acceptance, and even expectation, of life’s disruptions and upheavals become more than traumatic – they become a tool.

Admit Fear

If you are not scared, you aren’t living. Fear does not have to become a weakness. Both admitting you experience fear and becoming confident letting it into your life, are not easy things to do. It certainly is easy to be so afraid of yourself that you unconsciously make choices that take you to where you most fear. Fear is the animal in us. It is being human that allows us to choose how to use it: harness it to survive, to be creative, or give in and let it take our choices away. Animals are not capable of being their own worst enemy.

I have done some very stupid things. When I think back…

The Nature of Creativity - Part Three

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by Heidi Kneller
Mechanical Engineer at The Payloads Concept Center, The Boeing Company

Recognizing that every person’s creativity equation will be different, Part Three tackles the importance of keeping a record and the different forms this record keeping can take. As always, I am sharing what I have found works best for me. You will need to discover your own iteration.

Collect and Capture

“I get so busy trying to get somewhere I miss what's on the way
No time for looking around a thousand miles an hour.
What good is getting there if I'm not happy just the way it is?
Appreciate what comes around, the sweet or sour.

Do you soak it in, this life you're living?
Do you soak it in, this life you're living?
And after all you've done and all you've seen
Will you remember anything?
Do you soak it in, this life you're living.”
(Rachel Farris, Soak)

Find a way that works for you to soak up experiences, both new and familiar. Create private records of moments when assailed wit…

The Nature of Creativity - Part Two

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by Heidi Kneller
Mechanical Engineer at The Payloads Concept Center, The Boeing Company

Yesterday, in Part One, I put some fundamental definitions in place and then I shared some of the necessary ingredients for my personal creativity. In Part Two I will share the practical ways I have found to cement those ethereal ingredients of wonder, awe, peace, gratitude, and joy into my daily creative process.

Enable Personal Creativity

I believe that the single most important facet to nurture in oneself is the ability to wonder, both to do it regularly and to have it flood over you easily, often, and unexpectedly. Being constantly wonder-full also reminds you to be grateful, it breeds reverence for our world and each other, it is contagious, and it self-propagates. Although theory is interesting, practice can be another matter entirely. Move with me from conjecture to practice. The following are empirical tools I have found essential to my creativity. Look for relevance from here and from others t…

The Nature of Creativity - Part One

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by Heidi Kneller
Mechanical Engineer at The Payloads Concept Center, The Boeing Company

Introduction

Water is always an invitation to immersion [for me], an immersion with a quality of totality, since it would accept all of me, as I am. Some primal urge invites me to return whence I came. . . There is some special delight in simply walking into a stream, stepping into a lake. The child’s delight in a puddle is my adult’s in the sea . . .” (Mathew Kelty, Flute Solo: Reflections of a Trappist Hermit)

Scuba diving is space tourism for poor people; last year I went to Mars, and this spring I went to the Moon. Breathless and weightless, I have indeed been fortunate. In 2007, I spent a week in the Costa Rican coastal rain forest learning from The Biomimicry Guild how to attack technical challenges by looking to nature for inspiration and instruction. Last year I boarded a Russian icebreaker to scuba dive off the Antarctic Peninsula, and this spring I dove off Mexico’s Revillagigedo Islands and…