3D Printing and the Manufacturing Revolution


MakerBot Three D Printer Additive manufacturing, also called 3D printing, is the process of making solid objects from a digital model. 3D printing uses additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. Traditional machining uses subtractive processes, in which material is removed from a solid block by milling and cutting.

There are a number of 3D printers on the market, but some of the most interesting are from MakerBot, featured in this Wired article.

MakerBot Three D Printer MakerBot boldly opened a retail store in NoHo, Manhattan, where one can buy Replicator printers, and launched Thingiverse, a site where you can download 3D objects to print. Additional retail stores have since been opened in Boston, MA, and Greenwich, CT.

The book Makers In his book Makers, Chris Anderson posits that 3D printing is creating a "desktop manufacturing revolution," ushering in a new age of entrepreneurship. It's an optimistic look at a possible rebirth of American manufacturing.

More on 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing

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3d-Printed Lunar Base

Technologies of Optimism

Latest Optimism's

Dog with prosthetic legs Indoor plant farm

Solar Roadways

A rendition of a solar interstate. Solar Roadways is a system of modular solar panels that can withstand 250,000 pounds, last 20 years, and melt snow and ice on contact. A smart grid of “solar roads” could reduce pollution, improve the economy, and produce three times the energy currently consumed by the US.

A rendition of a solar interstate. Solar Roadways' Indiegogo campaign is over $2 million, in part because its video "Solar Freakin' Roadways" has gone viral, with over 13 million views.

Storing Energy as Compressed Air

Update: Danielle Fong in the January 2015 Wired.

One challenge to using energy from solar panels and wind farms has always been figuring out how to efficiently store the energy when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Danielle Fong and Lightsail Technology Danielle Fong could make clean energy significantly more practical on a large scale using tanks of compressed air for energy storage. Read more ...

Democratizing Science

A microscope for your smart phone. I believe that "democratizing" science – creating tools for scientific research that are sophisticated and capable, but inexpensive enough for students and entrepreneurs – will significantly advance scientific and technological achievement.

Thus my interest in 3D printing and the Xeon Phi processor. But here are some other exciting and accessible technologies.

Computing and High-Tech

Intel's Supercomputer on a Chip


Intel Xeon Phi Coprocessor In 2013 Intel released the Xeon Phi coprocessor, a 61-core processor which delivers over one teraflop of computing perfomance on a single chip.

Teraflop Computing from 1997 to 2013 This slide, taken from an Intel Xeon Phi product launch presentation, really puts this into perspective. What took a room-sized computer in 1997 is now a single server, workstation or add-in card.

I believe this will "democratize" access to High Performance Computing (HPC) technology and unleash an explosion of research and innovation.

Stampede Supercomputer Xeon Phi is also a major part of the Tianhe-2, currently the world's fastest supercomputer, and the 10 petaflop Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

But coprocessors entail performance bottlenecks, complex programming models, and increased cost. However, Knight's Landing will be a 72-core standalone processor with both scalar and vector cores, leading to huge advances in HPC performance.

Intel Xeon Phi Coprocessor High Performance Programming Intel's Jim Jeffers and James Reinders literally wrote the book on Xeon Phi. Intel Xeon® Phi™ Coprocessor High Performance Programming was the first book on how to program the HPC vector chip, and they've since written another. Both books, and several others, are available through Amazon.

The Birth of the Mainframe

The IBM System 360 mainframe As someone who started out programming in COBOL on mainframes, it warmed my heart to see this article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IBM System 360. The 360 introduced processing techniques that would become commonplace, including multitasking, memory protection, lookahead pipelining, branch prediction, and generalised interrupts.

My father was in Poughkeepsie, NY for a demo within a month of the 360's announcement, and became one of the first programmers in the country to create applications for the new machine.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing Alan Turing was one of the most important men of the 20th century. His theories were the foundation of modern computing, and his role in breaking the German Enigma codes during WW II helped shorten the war and secure an Allied victory. Afterwards, however, he was treated brutally by the British government due to his homosexuality, and committed suicide at the age of 41.

German Enigma machine Turing's story is getting attention lately, including numerous web articles and the film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley:

Tech Nostalgia

The Difference Engine Radio Shack TRS-80 computer

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Space Exploration

Space Lives!

The NASA Solar Probe Space exploration is alive and well, with many exciting and innovative projects advancing our understanding of the universe are happening all over the world, using amazing technologies.

SpaceX Unveils Dragon V2 Spacecraft

The Dragon V2 space capsule The Dragon V2 space capsule SpaceX, the private space exploration company started by PayPal founder Elon Musk, has unveiled the new version of their Dragon space ship. The existing unmanned version berthed with the ISS last year, with the help of the space station's mechanical grappling arm; Dragon V2 will hold a crew of seven, dock with the ISS without assistance, and after returning to Earth land vertically under control, like a helicopter.


Lockheed A10 Thunderbolt II, aka "The Warthog"

The A10 Thunderbolt fighter plane FOR MORE THAN 30 years, the Lockheed A-10 Thunderbolt II–better known as the Warthog because it’s so ugly–has performed a crucial role: attacking hostile targets that threaten troops on the ground, a task called close air support. The plane, designed for the Cold War, is old. It’s slow. And it’s about as sophisticated as a hammer. But it is heavily armored and wickedly armed, making it a ruthlessly effective weapon. And that is why, despite ongoing efforts by Defense Department brass to kill it, the Warthog is headed back into battle to help in the fight against ISIS.

Lockheed SR71 "Blackbird"

The SR71 Blackbird reconnaisance plane The SR-71 Blackbird is still the fastest plane that has ever flown and served an important role in history as a spy plane. Its first test flight was on December 22, 1964 and was never once hit by a missile during its 25 years of service. Read more …


Formula E: All-Electric Open-Wheel Racing

The Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E is the world's first fully-electric racing series. Starting in September 2014 ten teams will compete in the heart of ten of the world's leading cities, including London, Beijing and Los Angeles.

The 2014-15 Formula E Season

DeltaWing's Disruptive Technology

Delta Wing Automobile Magazine awarded its Racing Car of the Year award for 2012 to the DeltaWing, perhaps the most radical racing car to come along since the late Jack Brabham brought his rear-engined car to Indianapolis in 1961.

Delta Wing at Daytona DeltaWing's aerodynamics and light weight (under 1300 pounds with fuel and driver) allow it to use a much smaller engine, making it one of the "greenest" race cars ever built. Designer Ben Bowlby believes it could lap Indianapolis at 235 mph with a 4-cylinder, 300 hp engine, vs. today's 6-cylinder, 700 hp engines.

Delta Wing at Le Mans


The Plot Against Trains

California High-Speed Rail Two articles from the New Yorker, The Plot Against Trains and It’s Time to Get Serious About Transportation Infrastructure look at the dismal state of America's railway system, and our failure to invest in infrastructure.

California Breaks Ground on High-Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail On a more optimistic note, construction has begun on a new high-speed rail line that will eventually link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

National High-Speed Rail The group California Rail Map has a website to publicize the project, and to attract attention to high-speed rail in general. One of their available products is a conceptual map for a national high-speed rail network. While it appears ambitious in scope, it's worth noting that the project could (according to their estimates) be completed over 30 years at a cost of 1.1% of the annual US budget. Food for thought ...