Why Architects Make Such Great Futurists


Via Fast Co Design : The radical architects of Archigram and Future Systems were planning for a vividly imagined future. In designing structures that will likely long outlast them, architects are in the interesting position of having to envision the future: what will the next years, decades, and even centuries hold? And how might it affect their buildings? Some look further afield than others. As detailed in a new book from Prestel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, the radical architecture groups Archigram and Future Systems both had visions of the future that resulted in immense, fantastical structures, most merely conceptual, that they rendered in beautiful architectural collages. Though both were based in London, the two groups came into prominence during different decades: Archigram was formed in the 1960s, while Future Systems came up in the ’80s. Yet both groups took stock of the current cultural and political climate and looked, with both inventiveness and trepidation, at what was to come—in a way only architects can. Founded by Peter Cook, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, and others, Archigram was both an architectural practice and a publication. It was 1960, Soviet astronauts had just landed in on the moon, and the public’s optimism for future technologies was mixed with the anxiety of the Space Race and general cultural upheaval of the time. Archigram’s response was a series of visionary and technological utopias that reflected a spirit of excitement and unease. This manifested itself in mainly organic structures located in potentially inhospitable environments. Ron Herron and Warren Chalk’s Walking… Read more

The Ceramaker 3D Printer: A Specialty Machine for Specialty Materials


Via Engineering : While ceramics may be among the oldest and most widespread of materials used by humanity, ceramics 3D printing has a much more narrow set of applications. For that reason, there are only a handful of companies that manufacture 3D printers specifically for 3D printing with ceramics. Among them is the French firm 3DCeram, producers of the Ceramaker 3D printer. The Ceramaker is a stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer that 3D prints photocurable ceramic pastes made up of alumina, zirconia or hydroxyapatite (HA). With a build volume of 300 mm x 300 mm x 110 mm (11.8 in x 11.8 in x 4.3 in), the system is capable of producing objects with layer thicknesses as fine as 25 microns (0.001 in). In addition to high resolution and accuracy, the Ceramaker produces high-strength parts with a low coefficient of thermal expansion, low density, high abrasion and corrosion resistance and good chemical stability. Unused material can be recycled and reused to decrease material wastage. The materials produced for the Ceramaker so far have various distinct characteristics. Alumina, or aluminium oxide, is an electrical insulator with high thermal conductivity, hardness and resistance to wear and chemicals. The material is, therefore, suitable for use in cutting tools, as an abrasive or for use in electronics. Zirconia, or zirconium dioxide, has high thermal stability, good hardness and resistance to wear and chemicals, making it ideal for 3D printing jewelry. Our own bone mineral is a modified version of HA, which makes the material especially suited… Read more

Solar cell technology: How it works and the future of sunshine


Via ABC : One in seven homes in Australia has solar panels on their roof — more than anywhere else in the world. So what is going on in all those shiny rooftop structures? The first solar cell was made in 1839 by 19-year-old Edmond Becquerel, who noticed electricity was generated by a piece of silver chloride when it was illuminated with light. It was less than 1 per cent efficient, but we have come a long way since then. The first 20 per cent silicon solar cell was made in Australia 30 years ago by Andrew Blakers and Martin Green at a time when solar energy was largely a fringe technology for hippies and space agencies. The research findings from the lab back then are now being implemented in solar-panel manufacturing plants all around the world. What is a solar cell? A solar cell is a device that converts sunlight into electricity. The most common type of solar cells are made from wafers of ultra-pure silicon and boron that have been infused with phosphorus in a hot furnace, coated with an antireflection coating, and then fired with metal contacts. They are typically about the size of a birthday card, but less than half a millimetre thick. How do solar cells work? At the heart of a solar cell is a tiny electric field that splits negative charges from positive charges using the energy of sunlight. In a silicon wafer solar cell, the electric field is set up with the help… Read more

Singapore unveils new green building ‘skylab’ for the tropics


Via Eco-Business : The BCA Skylab is the first high-rise revolving laboratory for the tropics meant to enable the testing of sustainable building technologies. Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority has opened the doors of its new $4.5 million BCA Skylab – a high-rise rotatable lab for the tropics that is billed as the first of its kind in the world. Speaking at the launch of the research centre, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the facility “will play an important role in our environmental sustainability drive”. Green Buildings Singapore unveils world’s first energy efficiency lab for tropics Read now The BCA Skylab’s unique rotating feature means it can simulate different building orientations and test technologies under real world conditions, he added. Wan Man Pun, assistant professor and principal investigator, Nanyang Technological University, who will be involved in the first research project at the new facility, said the lab will allow “test-bedding of multiple technologies and interactions between technologies, which will provide new insights to building sciences research”. The 360-degree revolving laboratory is developed in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, a similar rotating lab renowned for its building energy efficiency research. BCA SkyLab is built on the rooftop of the new Academic Tower, inaugurated on the same day, at the existing BCA Academy in the country’s Thomson area. The academy is the education and research arm of BCA. BCA said students and built environment professionals can now enjoy an enhanced learning experience at the Academic Tower, where… Read more

Ready for the Internet of Robotic Things?


Via ZD Net : Devices will monitor events, fuse sensor data from various sources, use intelligence to determine actions, and ultimately control physical objects. You’ve likely heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). How about the Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT)? The concept, first described a few years ago in a report by ABI Research, involves the ability of intelligent devices to monitor events, fuse sensor data from various sources, use local and distributed intelligence to determine the best course of action, and then act to control or manipulate objects in the physical world. IoRT is real, although it’s still in the initial stages, said Dan Kara, practice director of robotics at ABI. Installations are ongoing, as are product announcements from vendors, he says. For example, FANUC announced the initial results of a collaborative development effort with partners Cisco, Rockwell Automation, and Preferred Network . The joint effort resulted in the FIELD system, an advanced analytics, middleware, and IoT infrastructure platform for FANUC Computer Numerical Control machines and robots, as well as peripheral devices and sensors used in industrial automation systems. Using FIELD, Kara said, companies can capture operational data from multiple sources in real time, which can then be analyzed and acted upon to optimize manufacturing processes while reducing downtime. In the consumer space, there’s iRobot. “The company maintains that the next frontier for home care products are intelligent robots capable of exploiting cloud-based applications and services, along with smart home integration,” Kara said. It will use Amazon Web Services,… Read more

Breakthrough in Self-Healing Electronics


Via Engineering : An international team of materials scientists and engineers has created a self-healing material that restores all electronic functions even after multiple breaks. This could greatly improve the longevity of wearable electronics. Even when cut completely in half, the material remains capable of complete repair without external influence. Until now, restoring all electrical functions once a material is broken has not been possible. In order to create effective wearable electronics that are self-healing, the researchers incorporated a dielectric, or insulating factor, into the wearable electronics to preserve the material. After breaking, it is critical to maintain electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity to prevent electronics from overheating. The researchers successfully created a material capable of restoring the following functions in electronics after a break: Mechanical strength Breakdown strength Electrical resistivity Thermal conductivity Insulating properties Impermeable Nanosheets The insulating material of choice is a two-dimensional boron nitride nanosheet. The nanosheets are added to a plastic polymer base. By means of hydrogen bonding on the surface of these sheets, the naturally occurring electrostatic attraction draws the broken pieces closer together. When the hydrogen bond is restored, the material is healed. Factors affecting the healing capabilities are the amount of boron nitride nanosheets, heat and pressure. “Most research into self-healable electronic materials has focused on electrical conductivity, but dielectrics have been overlooked,” said Qing Wang, professor of material science and engineering at Penn State. “We need conducting elements in circuits, but we also need insulation and protection for microelectronics.” Harder than other healable… Read more

Smart building technology helps reduce energy costs


Via RCR Wireless News : Reducing costs with a smart building Thanks to smart buildings, today’s structures are alive, equipped with technology that allows for automated processes of things that have, for hundreds of years, lived in dormancy. Many older buildings have the capability to become smart buildings, but owners and executives often overlook the perks of automation. Taking advantage of a smart building can lead to significant financial gain for property owners, and increase production of those working within these structures. Smart building systems also can improve building operations, sustainability and decision making. There are several ways these increasingly less expensive systems can help save money by optimizing operations and increasing efficiency. Some of these money-saving processes, according to the Building Efficiency Initiative, include: Matching occupancy patterns to energy use: A smart building will run leaner when there are fewer people inside. Proactive maintenance of equipment: Analysis algorithms will detect problems in performance before they cause expensive outages, maintaining optimum efficiency along the way. Dynamic power consumption: By taking signals from the electricity market and altering usage in response, a smart building ensures the lowest possible energy costs and often generates revenue by selling load reductions back to the grid. According to Buildings, here are some more specific use cases for smart buildings: Smart lighting – Pair networked lighting with a building energy management system for a building that can switch lights on and off at optimal times and vary light levels, as well as do a comparative analysis of… Read more

Oliver Ho & Associates continue Singapore success in Cambodian real estate


Via The Phnom Penh Post : For Darius Ho, marketing director of Singaporean quantity surveyor company Oliver Ho & Associates, “brand building and cost reduction for the client” has utmost priority. As the first boutique quantity surveyor of Asia that was founded in 1995, his company focuses on quantity surveying – a best practice that allows property developers to gain full control and overview not only over construction contracts, but more importantly, costs. Essentially, a quantity surveyor specialises in foreseeing all construction costs within contracts a developer closes with a construction company, and handles the contractual aspect and cost management of the project. While quantity surveying is widely accepted as a cost, time, and trouble-saving standard service for property developers in mature markets, it has yet to establish itself as a must-use service in Cambodia. However, Ho, who is the face of Oliver Ho & Associates in Cambodia, said in an interview last week that this was changing. Since the Singaporean market leader in quantity surveying came into the Cambodian market, they have worked with prestigious property developers from Cambodia and multinational companies who have construction interests in the Kingdom. Ho has observed an uptrend of banks that use Oliver Ho & Associates to assess the progress of construction works done. This in term protects the banks from paying more than what was built. Looking at their track record in Singapore, Ho has no doubt that his company will become even more successful in Cambodia in the future as the requests… Read more

Elon Musk Is Getting Into Architecture Now


Via Fast Company : The chairman of SolarCity takes his first steps into architecture by proposing to expand the company’s presence in the roofing market. Elon Musk’s latest venture is closer to home than his rockets. In a recent earnings call, he announced that SolarCity, his solar power company, is developing a “solar roof.” This represents Musk’s first real foray into architecture-scale systems. “It’s not a thing on a roof, it is the roof,” Musk said, clarifying the product’s difference with the solar panels SolarCity already sells. Five million new roofs are installed in the U.S. every year. An integrated solar roofing system would have the potential to tap into that market. Musk claimed that the solar roof wouldn’t cannibalize business from the company’s central product because it would tap into a different set of customers. SolarCity has not responded to Co.Design’s request for comment. The chairman didn’t explain much more—the company will announce details in September—though he did say that the roofs would be customizable. SolarCity, which is already the biggest installer of residential solar panels in the country, has grown rapidly, with a new plant opening in 2017 that will be able to produce 10,000 solar panels a day, or one gigawatt of energy per year. It will be the largest solar production plant in North America and will provide the manufacturing capability to produce Musk’s solar roof in a cost-effective way. It makes us wonder if full-scale solar homes are next. Even if roofing is all SolarCity has… Read more

Robot cameras snap splash shots in Rio


Via C|Net : A Getty photographer describes using robotic cameras to get spectacular underwater images of swimmers at this year’s Summer Olympic Games. Photographer Adam Pretty isn’t scared to go to extreme depths to get his shot. At the Olympics, his cameras are, too. The Getty Images photographer is capturing some of the most memorable moments of the Rio Games’ swimming competition by using robotic cameras secured to the floor of the Olympic pool. His images provide an intimate view of swimmers as if watching the competitors while lying on our backs. Among Pretty’s pics: A photograph of US swimmer Michael Phelps elongating seconds after torpedoing in the water for his signature event, the 200-meter butterfly. The most-decorated athlete in Olympics history added to his haul on Tuesday, winning the race by four one-hundredths of a second. The closest margin of victory in history. Michael Phelps in the 200-meter butterfly on day three of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Pretty also shot American Katie Ledecky moments before winning the 400-meter freestyle final, a new world record and the first of three gold medals at the Games. These shots and hundreds of others like them wouldn’t have been possible without Pretty’s use of robotic cameras that are controlled remotely. Getty photographers have used robotic cameras for years, typically to take shots from overhead and static cameras underwater (such as the 2012 Olympic Games in London). However, the Rio Games, however, mark the first time the agency has used cameras to capture images… Read more