A Grupe - Einblicke in eine litauische Weberei

News & Stories — 04. September 2014
Schön wenn es nicht mal die Sprache braucht, um zu sehen und zu spüren, was die faszinierende Welt dieser kleinen Manufaktur aus Litauen ausmacht.
Das "Wie" etwas gemacht wird bestimmt das "Was" und erklärt unsere Begeisterung für die Produkte von A Grupe ... hier im Video mal auf litauisch.

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Learn to Make Your Bed the Military Way

As we mentioned in the post on the failed self-making bed, men and women who've been in the military tend to keep the bed-making habit long after they've served. Why is that? How, exactly, are they trained to make their beds, and in what manner? To find out we both dug up a video (at bottom of this entry) and spoke to a veteran. Here NYC-based photographer, speaker and on-camera coach Michael Cinquino, who in a previous life was a Petty Officer Third Class on the fast combat support ship U.S.S. Detroit, answers our questions.

Core77: Do you still make your bed every morning?

Michael Cinquino: Yes.

The exact same way you did in the Navy?

No. Because in the Navy it was a two-man job. Our racks were basically bunk beds, so you and your bunkmate stood on opposite sides and made both beds together.

What was the procedure?

You had a set amount of time to make the bed properly, starting from scratch each time--

Sorry, what do you mean by "from scratch?"

You had to rip all of the sheets off and put them in a pile on top of the bed, and start from there.

How did they enforce that?

The drill instructor's standing right there, supervising.

Why make you start from scratch every time?

It was to teach attention to detail. To go through the whole process and teach you that executing little details correctly matters. As a sailor, if you screw up a detail, people can get killed. So the pillow's got to be centered, the catch-hem has to be pointing up, the fold a certain distance, et cetera.

Now that you're back in civilian life and people can't get killed [as a result of your actions], you've kept the habit.

I still make the bed every morning, but I don't do the corners the same way we did it.

Why not?

Takes too long.

Then why make the bed at all?

To accomplish a task first thing in the morning. By making your bed immediately after your feet hit the floor in the morning, you set yourself up to take action for the rest of the day.


Cinquino's setting-yourself-up-for-success motivation echoes that of retired Admiral William H. McRaven, an ex-Navy-SEAL who discussed the importance of making your bed at a commencement address at the University of Texas, Austin two years ago. Here's McRaven's central point:

As to how the beds are actually made, we couldn't find naval footage of the two-man procedure, but we assume it's done similarly to what we see in this footage of how it's done in the Army. Here Drill Sergeant Shane Medders explains while a grunt demonstrates:

So. Do you guys and gals make your beds each morning? And is there a designer equivalent to a little habit you execute to enforce discipline--like naming your Photoshop layers?

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Experimental Automotive Interface Design: How Should Autonomous Cars Hand Off Control to the Driver?

The interface design of automobiles hasn't changed much over the decades. And when auto designers or engineers start mucking around with established conventions, care must be taken; in several cases, people have been killed by unconventionally-designed shifters*, for instance. But now new technology is prompting a new design problem, which is how an autonomous car can communicate the "hand-off" between human and machine.

Automotive safety technology company Autoliv proposes that the design of the steering wheel itself ought signal this, er, peaceful transition of power. But I am not at all sure I agree with their execution. Have a look at their Z Force Drive steering wheel:

Let's tackle these features in the order they were presented. First off, I think the "feature" whereby the LEDs "chase" the driver's hands around the wheel isn't just silly—it's distracting, completely unnecessary and provides no functional value.

That the steering wheel knows when the driver's hands are and aren't on the wheel is certainly an intelligent feature, and one that ought be standard kit.

As for the bit about the different colors: Autoliv is proposing blue for when the driver is controlling the car, green for when the car is driving itself, and red for when the car wants you to grab the wheel. I would argue that there's no need for the blue; you already know when your own hands are on the wheel.

Also, during the act of driving, it seems common sense that you want as few distractions as possible for the driver, whose eyes ought be on the road. When I'm driving—particularly at night—I don't want a circular row of blue lights within my line of sight, and in a closer plane of focus than the dashboard.

The part about answering the phone seems particularly crazy to me--but admittedly, I hold the unpopular view that people oughn't speak on the phone at all, whether by speaker or not, while manually driving; I see too many motorists in Manhattan who are yapping away and allowing their driving to suffer as a result. So I think having the green and red lights on the steering wheel, and having to look down and tap them to engage or disengage a call, would be too distracting. I also think we've got a cognitive dissonance issue here, as green and red are already used to indicate other modes of operation.

There are a couple of additional features not seen in the video above. In the video below, we've cued it up to show you this bit after the phone call part:

As a driver, I don't want to be able to press on the steering wheel to increase or decrease speed; I don't need a second means of acceleration/deceleration beyond the pedals, and I'd worry about accidentally activating these features via the steering wheel. The potential for unwanted results seems too great here.

Here's another segment we've cued up. As a positive, Autoliv has thought out what the car should do if it asks the driver to take control and the driver refuses:

Pulling off the road seems a good solution—where possible. Something I've wondered about is what will happen when someone has fallen asleep during autonomous driving and is then suddenly asked to retake control of the car.

It's probably not fair to criticize Autoliv for the features I don't like, as the Z Force Drive is just a concept. Also, the company has been around for sixty years and thus, when it comes down to execution, presumably gets things right more than they get them wrong. Additionally, they helped pioneer a number of automotive safety features.

The design of the Z Force Drive does not appeal to me, but the company is at least trying to tackle a problem that all autonomous cars will have to confront. What remains to be seen is whether their concept will be embraced by manufacturers, or is just an experimental and evolutionary step towards the solution.

See Also:

* When Bad UI Design Kills: Is Poor Shift Lever Design to Blame for Death of Star Trek Actor?

* Gearshift Lever's Design May have Caused Woman to Drive Onto Train Tracks

- Turning a Steering Wheel into a Feeling Wheel

- Auto Design Fail: Ford's Experimental "Wrist-Twist" Steering Wheel(s) from 1965

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How Digital Fabrication has Disrupted the Gun Control Argument: People Can Now Build Their Own AR-15s and Other Firearms

The gun control debate may be over. In order to understand why, we need to look at the anatomy of the AR-15, the assault rifle that's currently dominating the headlines.

One reason that the AR-15 is popular among gun enthusiasts is because it's infinitely customizable. Owners can select from a variety of different barrels, stocks, upper receivers, scopes and sights; the Ballistic Advantage blog refers to the AR-15 as "LEGO kits for adults." Those parts can be purchased from a variety of manufacturers with little difficulty.

If all of those parts can be swapped, then what makes an AR-15 an AR-15? Technically, it's this:

That's called the lower receiver. The lower receiver houses the grip, the trigger assembly, the safety, the magazine and the magazine release button. The lower receiver is the only part of the rifle with a serial number on it--because it's the only part that the government regulates. If you want to manufacture, import or sell the lower receiver, you need a Federal Firearms License, or FFL.

To skirt this, a variety of companies manufacture what are called "80% lower receivers:"

These are cast and partially machined billets of aluminum or polymer that are, as the title implies, roughly 80% of what a finished lower receiver is; they lack the final machining to accommodate the moving parts that would make it work. There is no legal obligation to put serial numbers on these and they can be purchased for as little as $50. In the eyes of the law, this is not a firearm, just a chunk of metal. The images below are how the ATF defines them:

With a drill press, a milling machine and some patience, one could pocket out the space for the trigger, the fire control cavity and the holes for the pins, bringing the part to completion. This is legal, if you're making it for yourself. According to the ATF, "Firearms may be lawfully made by persons who do not hold a manufacturer's license under the GCA [Gun Control Act] provided they are not for sale or distribution and the maker is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms."

Previously, someone would still need some mechanical aptitude and access to machine tools to complete a lower receiver. But now Defense Distributed, the "anti-monopolist digital publishing" company founded by Cody Wilson to promulgate the efficacy of DIY digitally-fabricated firearms, has largely removed that last barrier by creating the Ghost Gunner.

The Ghost Gunner (now in its second iteration) is a highly precise, $1,675 desktop-sized open-source CNC mill with a horizontal spindle. With this machine, virtually anyone can turn 80% lower receivers for AR-15s and M1911 pistols into finished, functioning parts.

In the first half of the video below, you'll see just how easy this is to do. In the second half, you'll see a 3D-printed-gun hobbyist who has managed to design and print a firearm with a lower receiver made from PLA plastic. Plastic was previously deemed not durable enough for firearms applications, but said hobbyist estimates he has fired roughly 5,000 rounds with his and it's still ticking:

In the video below, Wilson explains what led him to create the Ghost Gunner, and the answer was not the typical pro-gun rhetoric that I expected:

Lastly, here's Andy Greenberg from Wired, a man who admits he has no experience with tools, seeing if he can build his own AR-15:

It goes without saying that this makes our current gun legislation, and the debate we're so evenly split on, kind of moot. We already don't know the precise number of assault rifles currently in circulation in the U.S. And that refers to just the ones that have serial numbers and were legally purchased. Now that virtually anyone can build one without reporting it, tracking these guns, let alone regulating who can and cannot have them, seems virtually impossible.

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Video of Wood Being Friction-Welded Together

Friction welding is a process whereby two pieces of like material, typically plastic or metal, are rubbed together at high speeds. The resultant heat essentially melts the adjoining surfaces together. Surprisingly, someone figured out that this process can also be used with wood:

According to the Laboratory for Timber Construction at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, what's happening here is…

… the interface between two timber boards is heated by a fast and short oscillating frictional movement combined with pressure. The introduction of heat energy leads to a thermal decomposition of the polymeric compounds in the wood cell material. The chemical products of this degradation process form a viscous layer of thermally softened material, which hardens when the friction movement is stopped and the interface is cooling down, while a certain cooling pressure is applied.

The video above was shot by UK-based The Welding Institute. Though the video itself is fairly recent, the technique is not, and may not offer much in the way of practical applications; in an article called "Timber Welding," TWI researchers wrote that "The world of furniture manufacture could be turned on its head shortly..." That was in 2006.

While another article from the Tennessee Forest Products Center claims that "the technology is most promising for interior joinery and furniture," it seems unlikely it will replace glue and clamps anytime soon; the machines are not cheap, and whatever time efficiencies are gained by not having to wait for glue to dry would likely be offset by the complicated clamping and jigging required to fasten two parts that weren't small milled boards. Nor is the process suitable for exterior construction, as the earlier EPFL article reports that "The relatively brittle bond is highly sensitive to swelling and shrinkage movements of the wood. Changing climatic conditions can lead to cracks within the interface."

Those of you who work with wood, particularly on an industrial scale: Can you think of any applications for this technology, given its limitations, that would lead to greater uptake? If so, you'd be cracking a puzzle they haven't been able to solve for roughly a decade.

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