Friday, March 23, 2012


Ryan Taylor's Workshop

About a month ago, Ryan Taylor spoke at the Toronto Wearables Meetup (though ironically it seems the Feburary meetup never got a webpage!), about his business Fair Trade Jewellery Company. He spends a lot of time sourcing conflict-free materials for his high-end designer jewellery. During the presentation he did a hands on demo of the casting process, using a small welding torch to heat up some pewter, which he then poured into a rubber mold. He offered to give the group a tour of his workshop, and we all thought that would be super cool, so I volunteered to organize it. Last night, that tour finally happened! See my complete flickr set: Ryan Taylor's Jewellery Workshop Tour.

We got to see his workshop, and he explained how he uses the tools to make things, which was super cool. It was really interesting for me to compare his tool set to what I got to use at the devil's workshop, he's got much nicer stuff! Including a special machine which automates the heating of the metal and pouring it into the mold, which is totally the most failure prone part of the whole process. With his machine, the metal can be heated precisely and evenly (induction!), the heating/pouring chamber can be put under vacuum or high pressure argon, and the chamber itself rotates to accomplish the pour, so you don't have to do it manually. The final touch? The chamber can also vibrate, to make sure that the metal gets into the smallest details of the mold!

That still wasn't as impressive as his new 3D Printer, which us a UV curing resin printer made in Germany. He says it's a huge pain in the butt to use (there is a 5-minute light calibration routine you have to preform, involving measuring the light at 58 points, that you have to do before each print!), but it's resolution is a STUNNING 25 nano-meters! You can see the kind of detail it's capable of in this shot, those are apparently some of the logos of his business. That's right, each logo is about the size of one of the ridges of my finger print! He says that actually the machine can print detail that can't possibly make it through the molding process and into metal, so it's a bit of overkill really. Impressive, crazy cool, really expensive overkill :-). We're all excited at hacklab about the ultimaker, an open source 3D printer that we ordered which is supposedly capable of about 20um resolution (though in reality perhaps 500um is a more realistic figure). 25nm is a whole different world.

Thanks again to Ryan for the super cool tour, I learned a lot. I need to visit again sometime during business hours, so I can actually see some of the jewellery he makes!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Tooting my own Horn

So it's totally not like me to toot my own horn, but I figured it's good to get this kind of stuff collected, and to acknowledge all the work that the various reporters and photographers went to to make these recordings, interviews and stories about me and the stuff I do. Thank you all! Here's a big list of places where you can read or watch or listen to learn more about me, my ideas, and my work:

Singularity Weblog: Hacklab.TO Toronto's Hacker Collective

Singularity Weblog: Eric Boyd on Singularity 1-on-1 DIY Transhumanism (photo to the right is by Socrates of Singularity Weblog, of me at hacklab)

TEDxLibrariansTO: The Story of Sensebridge, Maker Spaces and Libraries

CBC Spark: Hackerspaces

Make Magazine: DIY Superhuman: Heart Spark & North Paw

C-realm Podcast: This Anarchist Moment, and many others

The Mark News: Developing a Sixth Sense

Miraculously, there is so far only one video online of all my Quantified Self activity.

There is also only one video of my involvement with the Toronto Awesome Foundation, where I am now Dean of Awesome.

At hacklab (where I am now President) we're kinda camera shy, but every so often Norman makes a video of the stuff we're doing, like this one of Train Overlord, our robotic master of the rails. This summer I'm building quadcopters, so hopefully I'll have some epic flight videos to show that off eventually :-)

Update: Young Street Media has posted their story about me: Bling that blinks: How an engineer's surreal Burning Man experience grew into a fashion business. That quote about hacklab being "part workshop, part tree house, and part revolutionary lair" has us all cracking up over here!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Devil's Workshop: lost wax casting

For the last six Monday nights, I've been taking a "lost wax casting" class at devil's workshop. It's been super fascinating and fun! The process starts with wax bools, which you carve into the objects that you want. I choose to make rings, but several of the other students made pendants and necklaces; you could theoretically make almost anything (as long as it's small). The wax is then cast with a super fine grained ceramic material, making a mold. The wax is melted out of the mold, which means that it's possible to mold any shape - you don't have to worry about how to get the original out of the mold (and this is also why it's called lost wax casting - the wax is lost). Then, molten metal (we used both brass and sterling silver, but you could theoretically use gold or pewter or whatever) is poured into the mold, forming a metal object with the same shape as the wax original (plus of course the "spru", a chunk left from where the metal enters the mold). The mold itself is then disolved in water, so that you can obtain the cast metal. The process is kind of nerve-wracking, since you loose not just the original wax object (which you invested hours in making!), but also the mold of that object! And there is no guarantee that it will turn out like your wax original. Anyway, I had a great time, and four of the five rings that I made ended up turning out pretty well. Pictured is the "pac man" and "ghost" rings, in Sterling Silver. I also made a prototype "Mood Ring" in brass, basically a ring base which holds the circuit board for my next sensebridge product. It's a pretty big upgrade over the wire-wrapped version that I made earlier, but neither of those two designs are manufacturable, so I've got yet a third scheme in the works for it now. The final ring is a simple brass ring with grooves and a spike at the top, it's very mean looking :-). The ring that didn't turn out was going to be a brass "space invaders" ring, with a relief of the 8-bit space invader shape, it's super sad that it didn't work, but it was also the most ambitious of my projects there, so it's not surprising that it's the one that failed. The workshop was a lot of fun and I learned a lot, so if you're curious about how jewelry is made, I highly recommend it! See my complete Devil's Workshop Flickr Set. It was also interesting for me to see that my friend Jonathan did some lost wax casting during the same time period: 3D-printing and lost wax casting: Question Block cufflinks and crowbar pendant.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]