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Showing posts from March, 2010

Heat activated coffee cup -

Intumescent materials expand or swell when they are exposed to heat. Sometimes these materials are used for fire safety. In the case of this ink it is used to create a decorative effect.



This is the most interesting use of intumescent materials we have seen here at Inventables. We're interested to see how well it actually insulates your hand from the hot coffee.

Exploration - Hacking Toys

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Today we have the guys from RothMobot come in to teach us a bit about hacking toys. They have hacked toys into instruments in an art they called "circuit bending". We opened up an old Fisher-Price toy that had been thrown away and started doing some mods.



They brought a bag of photocells to mess around with.


There are two cool things that we were able to do with them. They become a really cool proximity switch. You can use your hand to adjust the sound, speed, and intensity of the song that plays when you turn on the toy.


When you combine the Cadmium Sulfide photocell with an LED wrap them in electrical tape and epoxy you can make a homemade Vactrol. This is cool because it optically couples the the electronics with the switch. Optical coupling is cool because it is a fancy way of saying you can turn on and off the electronics by turning on and off a light. The LED and the photo sensor are encased in epoxy so all the light from the LED goes directly into the cell turning…

Part 2 - Cost Comparison & Temperature

We continue our multi-part series on plastic compounding with a posts about using cost comparison & temperature to choose the correct thermoplastic composite. So we don't have to recreate the wheel, RTP Company was nice enough to send over a white paper they put together that breaks the process down into five steps and this is step 2 of 5.

Cost Comparison & Temperature
Cost is an extremely important consideration when choosing the base resin from which you will build your composite. My experience has been that you can usually develop a composite to meet even the toughest physical requirements, but if it does not
meet the customer’s cost expectations, they will not buy it and your development efforts will be wasted!

Thermoplastic resins can be arranged into three basic categories based on their cost: low cost/commodity resins that typically have large volume market costs of less than $1.50/lb, medium cost/engineering resins that typically fall between $1.50-$3.00/lb, and the hi…

How do I choose the correct thermoplastic composite to meet the application?

We continue our multi-part series on plastic compounding with a number of posts about choosing the correct thermoplastic composite. So we don't have to recreate the wheel, RTP Company was nice enough to send over a white paper they put together that breaks the process down into five steps. Over the next 5 posts we'll be publishing excerpts from their white paper. The full paper can be found here.

They advise choosing the correct composite using the following basic fundamentals:

1) Resin Morphology
2) Cost Comparison
3) Temperature Resistance
4) Property Enhancement Using Aspect Ratio
5) Ultimate Performing Long Fiber

Resin Morphology
There exists over 60 thermoplastic base resins that
can be used to produce your composite, so it is
very important to start breaking these choices
down to get to the correct one. Something helpful
in doing this is to understand a little about
thermoplastic chemistry and, in particular,
understanding morphology.

Although morphology sounds like a …

FIRST Robotics - Midwest Regional - 2010

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Inventables has been a long time fan of FIRST Robotics. The mission of FIRST is "to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership."


Each year the game changes and teams have a 6 week "build season" to build their robot. This years game is similar to a soccer match with a few modifications. The field has 4 goals, two on each end. There were 12 soccer balls used in the game. Each goal counts as 1 point and if the robot can lift itself up on the return scaffolding above the platform it's worth 2 points. The games are timed and have two phases, the autonomous phase, and the remote control phase.


Here's a clip of some of this year's action.


After each match the scoreboard shows the audience the results. The c…

Housewares Show Wrap Up

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On Monday 3-15-10 I walked the show this year looking for products that made use of materials and design to differentiate from the other commodity products in their category. At 3pm I sat on a panel hosted by the IDSA to discuss product innovation at the show. This blog post is a round up of what I found. Based on my 4 hours walking through the three buildings of the show it seemed like this year was a year of repeats and incremental improvements. I did not see as many new products or new innovations as I had seen in years past. I assume this is because of the economy and the fact that manufacturers and retailers were busy figuring out what to do with the excess inventory they had as well as how they might be able to take additional cost out of their products.
This impressive display of Kitchen Aid mixers caught my eye. The product has become a design icon that most brides to be add to their registry. The classic design is beautiful enough for people to want to showcase it on th…

Inventables at the Housewares Show

On Monday March 15th at the 2010 International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place in Chicago Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan will be panelist along with Carl Cepress, Leonard Rau in the Design Theater from 3:30 – 4:20. The conversation will be relevant for designers and other attendees interested in product development. Three perspectives will be represented: materials used in the products, marketing, and design.


Each panelist will discuss their favorite items at the show and provide an explanation of why they are fond of them. The panelists have been instructed not to hold anything back so the controversial "worst products at the show" will be discussed as well.

The conversation will consider material usage, branding, design, trends, and overall innovation. Each panelist has been given a photo-badges and will be taking pictures during the show. These photos will be used as part of the conversation. Vendors are invited to join the conversation during the Q&A section…

Where can I find specialty plastics?

Product designers and engineers visit Inventables to find new materials for their projects. One kind of vendor that lists products on our website is called a plastic compounder. To educate our buyer community on these companies we are doing a multi-part series on them. Today we talked with Kirk Fratzke, the marketing coordinator for RTP Company. RTP Co. is a plastic compounder with global locations that include their headquarters in Minnesota, USA with additional facilities in Europe, China, and Singapore.

Inventables: I’m familiar with plastic compounders but for some of the engineers that visit Inventables they might only be familiar with companies like DuPont and their engineering polymers division. For someone that does not have experience in the world of compounding how would you explain what RTP Co. does?

KF: In a nutshell, RTP Co. is called upon by product manufacturers when the "virgin" or "natural" form of a plastic material is does not meet the enginee…

Midventures25 - Big Check from Inventables

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Congratulations to the founders of G2.fm for winning $1000 from Inventables for winning the 2010 MidVentures25.

Tonight over 250 people gathered at MidVentures 25 in downtown Chicago. The event was a showcase of 25 startups from Chicago and the surrounding Midwest.

Fred Hoch from the ITA donated an entire floor from their building and the startups gave demos at tables. The panel of judges went around to each startup to learn about what they were doing.

A few of the startups there were Fippex, Thinklinkr, and G2.fm. All 25 startups are listed here.

The kings of the night were Jason Weingarten and Bobby Aguilera of G2.fm.Their site connects musicians venues and fans around the world. You might think of them as the online community where bands/artists share music and connect with the venues and fans. They came up with the concept for G2.fm from their personal experiences as musicians, promoters, and booking agents. Their successes, as well as lessons from past frustrations, inspired them …

TEDx Windy City - Building Blocks

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TEDx Windy City was an independently organized TED event in Chicago.

The evening started with an address by Kurt Haunfelner the Vice President, Exhibits & Collections at Museum of Science and Industry. He welcomed the audience and explained how MSI is growing their involvement as an arbiter of innovation in Chicago. He also talked about some of the big changes you’ll see at MSI in the coming months. They are installing a 40-foot tornado as part of Science Storms! They have a new medical diagnosis exhibit and high-tech Human Patient Simulator. The changes and improvements are remarkable.



Roth Mobot is the Chicago based Circuit Bent musical duo of Tommy Stephenson and Patrick McCarthy. Roth Mobot's "recursive jazz" controls the random juxtaposition of improvised dark ambient drones, languid melodies, randomly discovered rhythms, percussive accidents, the humorous language of toys, and common discarded electronic audio and video devices. The guys from Roth Mobot did s…

Inventables awards $1000 to winner at Midventures 25

On March 11th over 250 people will join 25 of the top Midwest startups at Midventures 25. Inventables will be giving the winning startup a check for $1000.

The event goes from 5:00pm to 10:00pm at 200 S. Wacker Drive, 12th Floor, in downtown Chicago. The event will showcase 22,000 square feet of the best investor-ready early-stage startups demo'ing their products and services.

The following judges will decide who the lucky startup is:
Andrew Mason, CEO, Groupon
Chuck Templeton, founder of OpenTable
Jason Heltzer, Principal, OCA Ventures
Biju Kulathakal, CEO, TradingBlock; co-founder, RedBox
Adam Siegel, CEO, InklingMarkets
Ted Souder, Head of Regional Industry - Travel, Google

The 25 presenting startup companies include:

Adapt.ly, bln.kr, blurtt, Confer, CorkShare, eMotion Group, FanGo, FIPPEX, Flexhire, G2.fm, Genlighten, GiveForward, Halo Monitoring, HaveMyShift, iCubed, Intelligent Generation, JoeMetric, KnowledgePay, Medic8 Manager, Quirkit, RentMonitor, Spreedly, Sunflower Solutions, …