Manufacturing guy-at-large.

A good, old, tool

Added on by Spencer Wright.

In early 2009 I purchased a used (and nonfunctional, at the time) Abene VHF3. It was a rite of passage: The machine was over 40 years old when I bought it, and at the time my knowledge of machine tools was tenuous at best. But I wanted the challenge, and I had decent intel that the VHF3 was a good machine, and (perhaps contrary to popular belief) the internet provides thorough documentation for even obscure machine tools. 

abene-1.jpg

In retrospect, the experience was transformational. In addition to the mill itself (and in addition to the way wipers, bearings, oil, tooling, and other sundries needed to restore a machine that's probably been sitting for a decade), I purchased gallons upon gallons of kerosene. Stripping the machine down to its core components - and stripping every bit of caked up lubricant off with kerosene - took about a month, during which time I learned not only how the machine worked but also how to navigate a good portion of industry as a whole. Simply purchasing the right lubricant would require a half dozen phone calls, a purchase order, and a drive up the island to some sleepy distributor. Replacement parts aren't just unavailable; they're totally undocumented, lost in some Swedish file cabinet. 

On the other hand, this was a tool; a machine. Its complexity only went a few layers deep, and given a week or two almost any problem I came up against was tractable. And the more I worked on the mill, the more I realized that it would eventually make the things needed to improve itself.

It was a beautiful machine. It was strong, versatile, and capable of precision work. In the right hands it would have put in another century of service. But ultimately, mine were not the right hands. I sold it a few years later, and since then have not had a shop space that would support a tool of its caliber. 

I'm not sure when I'll own another tool like it. It was a treat: Empowering, challenging, terrifying at times. I recommend the experience thoroughly.

The Prepared - Call for sponsors

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Over the past year my little manufacturing newsletter, The Prepared, has grown up. It's bigger; it's gotten a bunch of design improvements; it started a podcast, got a real website, and has had a series of excellent guest editors.

So as 2017 comes to a close, The Prepared is officially looking for ongoing sponsors.

Sponsoring The Prepared gives brand and product marketers access to an extremely high value audience. It's easy, cost effective, and reaches engineers, managers, and operators at the most interesting companies in the world today.

If you're interested in exploring an ongoing sponsorship, get in touch

A Cell

Added on by Spencer Wright.

This has been fun:

This is The Public Radio's manufacturing process development cell, and with it I've built and shipped hundreds of lil' mason jar radios over the past month. 

As I wrote in The Prepared recently: 

TPR is a side project, and the vast majority of our process development this summer was done either on my kitchen table or on my desk, which had been pushed over to the side of what was once my office to make room for our baby's play room. But as the complexity of what I was doing increased, and as I accumulated stacks of cardboard boxes and started really tripping over all of the ethernet cable, I finally admitted that I needed to move myself into the basement and set up a proper assembly station.

In retrospect I was silly for waiting so long to make the move, and despite the low ceiling and the lack of natural light and the hum of the dehumidifier it's clearly a superior workspace. This is partly because I can implement a bit of maker time there, but mostly because it helps my empathy towards the folks *actually* doing our manufacturing. 

The hard part is knowing just how much of the work I need to do. And to be honest, I know that my own sense of empathy grows in proportion to my tendency to think that I've figured out the right way to do the thing, which is not something I like to bring into a relationship with a contractor. I prefer to delegate completely; to trust everyone in the process to bring full responsibility over their domains. I'm working on it; it's a process :)

A few additional notes:

  • Making customized-to-order products is *hard;* anyone telling you otherwise is either inexperienced or has some ulterior motive. We've put a *ton* of time into our order management and manufacturing operations systems (s/o to Gabe for the former and the whole team at Tulip for the latter), and there are still a lot of edge cases and error checks that I want to build out. It's either "you need humans with judgement on the assembly line at all times" or "you need to think through every single problem that someone would use judgement for and build its decision tree into your manufacturing system." It's *hard.*
  • I've always been a stickler about workplace organization, but setting up an assembly cell (where tasks are discrete rather than general and will be performed thousands of times each) brings up ergonomic issues that I have never had to confront. Of particular frustration is basic stuff like the way that countertop height interacts with stool height (and, optionally, footrest height).
  • If you're responsible for maintaining your product's (in our case, physical + digital) manufacturing tools, you should expect to be intimately involved in building thousands of units before handing the process over to someone who isn't a competent troubleshooter themselves. We needed to ramp up quickly, and rolled out to our CM a bit prematurely; the upshot is that Tulip an be updated on the fly and the majority of our physical infrastructure is purchased from McMaster-Carr and Amazon.
  • Torque limited electric screwdrivers are great. Also, stackable/hangable parts bins. If anyone has experience/tips for easy + affordable conveyor or onramp/offramp systems, LMK ;)

Since writing the above, we've come over the hump and are now focused on holiday orders. This has required a lot of energy, and has largely sapped my ability to  post updates here regularly. BUT never fear! We're posting semi-regular updates on The Prepared's podcast, and will have a bunch more interesting stuff to share soon :)

In the meantime, enjoy this twelve minute video of me building TPR boxes:

A month or so of TPR work

Added on by Spencer Wright.

The Public Radio is in preproduction.

First: I spent part of week in Taiwan, Shenzhen, and Dongguan in late June visiting a few of our component suppliers, and parts started trickling in at our manufacturing partner last week. Proof:

A few notes here:

  • A huge thanks to Lucas, who came with me to the speaker factory and was just generally a hospitable guy while I was in Hong Kong & Shenzhen. Thanks also to Kuji for showing me an awesome time (see this video) in Shenzhen. 
  • Visiting our speaker manufacturer for the second time (the first time was two years ago) was great. Knowing our suppliers is a real treat, and I've very much enjoyed working with them.
  • Seeing the mold for our new custom speaker was big. This was an investment - both in the tool itself and in our relationship with our speaker factory - but it makes The Public Radio more robust and *much* easier to put together. It reduces the assembly's total number of parts and allows us to use larger screws, which are easier to handle and will take less time to install. That both saves us money and makes TPR an overall nicer product. This is also the second injection molded part I've ever designed and is *slightly* more complex than the one before it, so from a personal standpoint it was *really* fun to actually touch.
  • China, as always, is just mind boggling. I especially appreciated Ofo, which is amazing.

Second: Since then, I've been dealing with our remaining procurement issues (mostly logistics & cash flow planning; some vendor management) and then hammering on our actual manufacturing plan. The Public Radio has an extremely simple user interface, and to create that there's a *ton* of work that goes into managing the assembly & fulfillment process. This involves a few special things:

  1. As Zach and I discussed with Gabe on The Prepared's podcast a few weeks ago, we've now got a fully custom order management database which coordinates customers, tuning frequencies, and shipping data (and a few other little things).
  2. An instance of Tulip, which will handle not only our assembly training but is also acting as the connective tissue between our database and the real world. Tulip will coordinate barcode scans, assembly steps, and our radio programming jig to keep everything in sync. It also logs productivity and can help track defects down the road. In short, it's awesome.
  3. Our radio programming jig. Josh is taking a crack at this (among other things :) now, and hoping to make it more reliable & robust than the ones that we used on the first batch of Public Radios two years ago. 

These three things are *just* starting to really come together this week; I've got maybe a third of it all running on my desk right now.

Next up: We should have a fully functional prototype of our manufacturing system running in two weeks. We'll be testing it in NYC for about a week, and will then bring the whole thing to Chicago to fit it into Accelerated Assemblies' processes. By then we'll have all of our materials on site and, after a short run or two to iron out any kinks, will be in full production mode.

More soon :)

On Makerism

Added on by Spencer Wright.

A few weeks ago, a reporter reached out to Zach and I to say that he was including us in a list of Brooklyn makers to know. He had a question as well:  How do you define "maker"?

This isn't something I've thought about in a while, and to be honest I've never really considered myself a maker in the first place. So while I was flattered to be on someone's top ten list, my response was nuanced: 

More than anything else, I think "maker" is a cultural signifier - something that denotes a certain sense of whimsy, combined with a bit of precociousness and craft. In the best cases, makerism is simply a gateway to something else; it's a stepping stone that eventually leads to a product business or a manufacturing operation. Zach and I have put a *lot* of energy into making this transition over the past few years, and most of the other people on your list have as well.

To be a bit more blunt: I've actively eschewed makerism in my own work. Not that I don't do makery projects or like cute things. But my tolerance for whimsy is relatively low, and the things that get me excited are real, sustainable businesses, and ultimately I find it difficult to maintain a strong sense of playfulness while my primary focus is on building something.

I'm sure other people have other definitions of what it means to be a maker, and those are perfectly valid. But I'd encourage everyone, as they're working on something new, to consider whether they're actually a maker - or if they're really just building a business around a cute product.

Now, to work

Added on by Spencer Wright.

In reality we've been chugging away nights & weekends for months, but it's nice to have it be official:

As I said on The Prepared's podcast a few weeks ago, it's still a bit crazy to me that people like this thing that we came up with. It's fun - a rare way for me to relate to people who are otherwise totally dissimilar to me. 

There'll be lots to share over the next few months, and I look forward to sharing it. Thanks *so* much to everyone who kicked in - we're really excited to have you with us!

The Prepared's podcast + A history of The Public Radio

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Some updates!

So, I've been working on some stuff. 

First: Thanks to The Prepared's *awesome* donors, I've redesigned and relaunched theprepared.org. Awesome!

Second: In the spirit of expanding The Prepared's purview (which is why I'm taking donations in the first place), we now have a podcast! The goal of it, as with this newsletter, is to help people prepare for good work - and to share the results of the big things they've worked on. To kick things off, we've got two episodes: One with Zach on the history and future of Centerline Labs, the company we cofounded to create The Public Radio, and one with Zach and Gabe about some of the things we're thinking about on the eve of...

ThirdThe Public Radio's launch on Kickstarter! I'm very excited about this, and it deserves a bit of explanation:

The Public Radio started in 2013 as a longshot side project - "a product idea for a single-band FM radio," as I described it four years ago. Going back through my blog while filtering for the "publicradio" tag shows a funny story. Early on, I posted a lot of "this was my workday" posts. Then there was more topical content - my struggles finding the right potentiometer; little thoughts on how to take crowdfunding offline. In early 2014 Adafruit posted something short about us, and shortly after we soft launched

All of that was under looks-like prototypes; it wasn't until mid 2014 that we had a works-like, which we assembled (without SMT stencils! we were so naive) by hand. At this point the design iterations were more substantial, but it wasn't until late that year - after our first Kickstarter campaign - that things really became serious.

At this point we started getting some real attention, and a bit of backlash as well. It's worth mentioning that at the time, my days were spent consulting for Bank of America and GE on management & marketing strategy; The Public Radio was a weird thing to match that with. But it was getting *fun* - real engineering problems, real supply chain problems; real business problems; real press coverage; my first injection molded part. I was interviewed by New Hampshire Public Radio and by Matthew Lesko, the guy who wears the question mark suit on old '80s infomercials. 

And then, all of the sudden, we (with the oh-so-gracious help of friends/family/indentured servants) shipped 2500 radios to people all over the world. We missed our Kickstarter shipping goals by about a week; pretty good.

Almost immediately afterwards, we went to China to plan for v2.0. We visited our speaker supplier in Dongguan and roamed the Shenzhen electronics markets, and did all of the other things you'd expect. But as we were heading back to the US, my day job was in the process of vaporizing, and for the ensuing two years The Public Radio has largely been relegated to the odd warranty email.

So, this relaunch. The thing is, The Public Radio is a good product, and we want to find a way for it to live on. This is harder than it sounds. No matter how much the traditional supply chains are being (*cough*) disrupted, it's still really hard to run a hardware business in your spare time. The Public Radio is an incredibly simple device - intentionally so - and yet it's real work to get it made.

But we're trying anyway. We've got a pretty nice plan here - one that keeps TPR lean on capital requirements, keeps our supply chain short, and (most importantly) makes for a really nice customer experience. There's a lot to unpack here, and you can bet that I'll be sharing more here in the next few months :)

Anyway, that's that. Please, check out The Public Radio on Kickstarter and share it!!!! They look great, work great, and make for *excellent* gifts. And as we build out our manufacturing process, you'll be right there learning about it with us!

Desk right now

Added on by Spencer Wright.

A brief calm between many storms: 

IMG_3876.JPG

I've spent a lot of time here over the past few months. Much of my work at nTopology  happens here; probably half of The Prepared's management and composition; a *lot* of reengineering & planning for The Public Radio. Plus the odd proverbial cat video, etc. 

I'm very lucky to have such a great work space; I'm looking forward to the next few (hectic) months.

The Prepared's Podcast

Added on by Spencer Wright.

As I've said here before, The Prepared was never meant to be a media operation. And yet, when I think of its place in my life and in (apparently) the lives of its readers, it's just that - and I can't help but want it to be more

So I'm happy, then, to announce The Prepared's first experiment into audio. Appropriately enough, the first episode of The Prepared (the podcast) is a conversation between myself and Zach Dunham, the better half of The Public Radio - which, as it happens, is *about* to relaunch on Kickstarter.

You can subscribe to The Prepared's podcast on iTunes or on my favorite posting app, Overcast. Heck yeah!

Stem prints

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Almost a year ago, I posted a rendering of my printed bike stem on my blog here. Now:

These parts were printed by my friends at Playground Global on their 3D Systems DMP320 in titanium 6/4. Like the titanium parts I've had printed (and written about extensively) in the past, these are done via laser metal powder bed fusion - the generic name that often gets referred to as "DMLS". These parts were, of course, designed in nTopology Element Pro; you can see more of my design process here

As loyal readers will know, I've put a lot of time into using Abaqus to predict these parts' mechanical properties; more on that in the near future. For the time being, the goal with this print was to test the manufacturing process - and use any lessons here to guide future design iterations. As you'd imagine, there's a *lot* that goes into printing a part that has ~45,000 beams; establishing manufacturing parameters was a good way to filter out nonviable design strategies.

It'll take a bit more work to characterize the as-built design fully, but at first inspection it seems to have been a total success. I was careful to keep most of the beams' orientations at a high angles, thicknesses above .45 mm, and lengths below 3 mm; the result is a structure that's almost completely self supporting.

At this point, the part has been roughly cleaned up and bead blasted to remove any surface discoloration. The next step is to tap the holes, clean up the clamp surfaces, and mock the entire assembly up.

More soon :)

See also: DMLS lattice sample prints, where I describe the part's design a bit more.

Stamping die changes

Added on by Spencer Wright.

So, Zach and I have been working on an updated version of The Public Radio, and I figure we're about due for a manufacturing update. So! Here goes:

This is the same progressive stamping die I've shown here, but with some small changes. The locations and diameters of our main assembly screws have changed, and as a result the tool needed to be modified. 

The cool thing about progressive stamping is that you have multiple stations - in this case five - to work with. As seen above, the stations go right to left. Initially the screw holes were punched in station one (far right), but now they're being done in station two. Making this change just requires removing four punches and then adding four new ones + corresponding holes; the old holes are simply left unused.

We've got a few other updates coming up, including visits to a few factories and a new assembly/tuning management process. Stay tuned :)

NYC and Cultural Import

Added on by Spencer Wright.

A recent episode of The Riff, a podcast I've been enjoying recently, centered around a conversation about New York City's cultural influence. In it, Andy Weissman (a lifetime New Yorker whose perspectives I've grown to enjoy on Twitter) proposes the following:

My theory is that right now New York is at a peak and is on the downside of its political, economic, cultural, and social import.

This makes me concerned both as a New Yorker and as someone who likes when old things maintain their relevance. Interested people should check out the full conversation; both David Tisch and Pam Wasserstein makes some good points about New York's cultural diversity, and the whole episode is both challenging and fun. I also have a (possibly hopeful) feeling that Andy is just trying to stir up shit & get other people excited about doing great work in NYC, but that's beside the point. The question, to me, is this:

Assuming Andy's theory is correct, what do we as New Yorkers do about it?

My thoughts:

  • Work on stuff that has existential import. My main beef with Andy's argument is that he repeatedly uses Snap (née Snapchat) as the prime example for why LA is beating NYC right now. And while I will readily admit that media distribution & communications is a great business to be in if you want people to care about you, I can't help but think that in the next century, the global cultural impacts of Tesla and SpaceX will be both more powerful and more inspirational. NYC used to take on projects of this scale, but our output of late has been more focused on things like... wearables. If we can lead in exporting technologies that address existential problems, I think the whole world will be better off.
  • Embrace our own populism. To most of the world, NYC's image has a great balance of populism (it's still a *huge* magnet for immigration) and aspiration (everyone knows that wealthy people live here). But I worry that to rural American audiences, NYC seems cold, elitist, and out of touch - when to me, NYC is the warmest and most inclusive place on earth. Obviously this has political consequences, but my main concern is that NYC remains a magnet for the most talented people in the US - and it's hard to do that if people think you don't like them.
  • I believe that successful cities depend on high functioning infrastructure, and we badly need to find new ways to upgrade ours at lower cost. David Tisch makes this point in the podcast, and it's something that I've thought about more and more recently. We may have the best public transit in the country (I certainly think we do) but we're far behind other cities in the world. Unless we come up with new ways to get new subways built and old ones upgraded, it feels like we'll have a hard time competing on a global scale.

In a nutshell: NYC needs to work on meaningful stuff, maintain an approachable image, and figure out how to improve its basic urban operations.

If this is something you're working on, let's talk.

Changing the world around us

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Every few weeks, someone asks me what I think the future of 3D printing is - whether it's going to really change the way things are made.  My response is to ask if the name "PCC" means anything to them - a question that almost always elicits a blank stare.

PCC is a manufacturer of castings and forgings, primarily for aerospace and power generation. They live mostly outside of the public eye; to most folks, casting pretty much begins and ends with old-school iron cookware, and few stop to consider how improvements in casting techniques might have changed the cost and availability of electricity and air travel over the past half century.

And yet they have had a big impact. PCC sells about $10B worth of products every year, supplying critical propulsion and airframe components to companies like Boeing and Airbus. Many of these parts allow airplanes to reduce weight and improve engine efficiency, helping along significant improvements in fuel economy per seat. And so, in 2016, Precision Castparts Corp was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway for $37.2B. It's the largest amount that Warren Buffett has ever spent on an acquisition. 

I bring this up to say: The tech press may maintain their interest in 3D printing, or they may not. It's possible that, in a few years, I'll walk into a retail shop and have made-to-fit parts printed for me on demand. It's possible that manufacturing will become distributed; that supply chains will spin up and down at a moment's notice; that computers will engineer products from start to finish.

But there are many other, less sexy ways to change the world around us. And we'd all be well off if some 3D printing method achieved one of those instead.

Standards Orgs

Added on by Spencer Wright.

This week, I participated in ASME's Technology Advisory Panel on Additive Manufacturing. This is the third standards body that I've gotten involved with in the past year or so (I also sit on ASTM F42, and represent nTopology at the 3MF Consortium), and I wanted to post a few thoughts about standards development for anyone who's curious about them or interested in being involved in similar work.

  • Most standards bodies were formed out of some deep-seeded industry need: A spate of high profile product failures, a growing sense of frustration amongst customers, etc. Standards are the industry's way of improving their overall product quality, or their public image, or their relationship with key customers (the US military especially).
  • Standards orgs make money partly by selling standards and partly by enforcing them and certifying products/companies that comply. As an independent product developer, that can be frustrating (I wrote about this years ago); spending a few hundred dollars to find out how your part will be tested can often seem like a shitty alternative to more... open approaches. On the other hand, most standards orgs are all-volunteer and nonprofit. 
  • The fun thing about standards development is that if you care, they'll (for the most part) take you seriously. It doesn't particularly matter if you're officially "in the industry," and you certainly don't need to work at a huge company or have any specific set of interests in the matter at hand. When I joined F42 (ASTM's subcommittee on additive manufacturing), I was working at a consultancy whose primary clients were in marketing and HR. I was working on AM in my free time, and like any intelligent person had developed thoughts on issues the industry was facing; ASTM took me in like any other.
  • As something of an outsider myself (in a strict sense, I am not an engineer per se), the experience of being on a more or less level playing field with folks who have spent their careers at global engineering & manufacturing companies is really something. I get a lot out of hearing their takes on the industry, and am glad that someone (me) is there to provide the perspective of a generalist working across disciplines. Standards orgs tend to be places with a high degree of empathy, and it's a pleasure to talk openly - from competitor to competitor, supplier to customer - about how to push an industry in a better direction.

Only the last 10%

Added on by Spencer Wright.

From a conversation on engineering between Arup's Dan Hill and Tristam Carfrae:

In response to fears that this kind of 'algorithmic architecture' will marginalise engineers and architects, Carfrae states that this kind of approach is only really "optimising the last 10% of a problem." The software has to be described and tuned with a particular strategy or problem in mind, and that comes from the designer, not the software. 

The point here is one that I've argued many times in the past: Today's optimization approaches (and any in the adjacent possible future) do not, in fact, put computers in the driver's seat of engineering or design. Instead, they use computers to automate rote tasks that an engineer is interested in exploring.

I believe this distinction is critical, as it affects both the direction of CAD companies' efforts and the enthusiasm of a new generation of engineers. It's my desire to see the CAD industry prioritize efforts that'll have big, positive impacts on the world, and it's my goal to keep smart, driven people from becoming disillusioned with engineering. As a result, I'd encourage marketers, journalists and onlookers to seriously consider what they believe about optimization, and to be wary of anyone who tries to sell them an AI enabled Brooklyn Bridge.

For more background on optimization and the future of CAD software, see Displaced in space or time, The problem with 3D design optimization today, Computer aided design, and Exploration and explanation.

Fostering the conditions

Added on by Spencer Wright.

From a recent Stratechery article on Amazon & Alexa:

You don’t make good products because you really want to, you make good products by fostering the conditions in which great products can be made.

This is something I've put a lot of thought into, starting around mid 2012. At the time I was leading development of a highly complex electromechanical system (robot doors), a process which was itself embedded into pretty much the most complicated residential construction project you can imagine. The engineering tasks we faced were formidable, and the schedule was extremely tight - but in many ways the cultural aspects of the job had an even bigger impact on what we built.

Since that experience - and urged along by my time at Undercurrent and my work studying product companies like McMaster-Carr and Amazon - I've only become more convinced of how critical it is to foster the kind of engineering, product, and project cultures that are appropriate for what you're building. 

Build what's right for the team that you are; Be the right team for what you want to build. 

My ideal, practical, engineer's desk

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Note: I'm considering making a small run of these desks available for sale. If you're interested, let me know!


Last week I finished assembling the new desk I've been working. It's been a big upgrade to my home office, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. 

To recap:

The goal was to create a functional workstation that could be assembled (and disassembled) easily. It should have a distinctive aesthetic, use durable materials, and be sturdy as all get out. Its primary use will be as a computer terminal; but as it's designed for engineering work it'll also serve as a de facto hub for parts inspection, reverse engineering, and the occasional wrenching. 

Initially, I had wanted to get a slab of live edge walnut and make something classic. But after some consideration I realized that wasn't really appropriate. Wood's fantastic, but it offers zero modularity (making the desk difficult to move - bad for expanding workshops) and is rather messy to work with (bad for making changes down the line). In addition, the aesthetic of live edge desks tends towards cast iron and welded steel: beautiful materials in their own right, but not ones that are convenient for me to work on.

Unidirectionally wound carbon fiber tubing is subtle, but when it catches the light it looks *great.*

So: Carbon fiber legs. I've worked with composites since my bike days, and found that it offers some nice benefits over metalwork. Carbon tubing is light (not critical when you're using the desk, but sure is nice for shipping/moving), stiff, aesthetically distinctive, and easy to cut to length. 

To finish the legs' structure, I used 3D printed resin nodes. I wanted something that had good surface finish and high tensile strength, and I wanted good elongation so that nothing would break if I *really* hammered on something on the desk. Formlabs came through on all counts; their Tough resin performed fantastically. 

Formlabs' Tough resin (which I painted a matte black) make excellent connection points for the desk's structure.

Next, I needed a suitable surface to work on. After researching a variety of composite surfaces, I settled on phenolic resin. It's impervious to all sorts of harsh chemicals (including coffee cup rings), is cost effective, and has a nice monolithic feel that laminates just don't. It's also easy to machine and adhere to, which came in handy when attaching the subframe.

In order to reduce deflection in the work surface - and to allow for continuous attachment points under and on the sides of the desk - I designed an 80/20 aluminum extrusion subframe. Aluminum extrusions are fantastic for this kind of thing; they're light, strong, and easy to fasten to. And 80/20's selection of brackets and attachment options allow me to add accessories and even reconfigure the desk down the road. I attached the subframe with two machine screws and two strips of VHB tape.

Right off the bat, I knew I wanted three accessories attached to my desk:

  • A two-arm monitor stand outfitted with a laptop tray. I swap back and forth between a MacBook and a CAD laptop, and this setup has proven *really* convenient.
  • A serious, 12 outlet power strip. This mounts directly to the 80/20 subframe, and offers plenty of fixed and flex space for whatever I need to plug in.
  • Hooks for hanging my briefcase & camera bag. I mounted these to 80/20's sliding hangers using stainless steel twist shackles - an excellent setup.

Since finishing the desk, I've settled into it nicely. I love the feel of the phenolic, and *really* appreciate how stable the whole setup is. I'm continuing to play with my exact layout - my home office is a bit in flux - but having this as a new centerpiece makes me feel much more grounded.

A big thanks to Formlabs for helping out with the node engineering & printing - and for sharing a complete guide on painting SLA parts! 

Desk fab

Added on by Spencer Wright.

This weekend, in addition to setting up an Abaqus beam sizing optimization on my lattice bike stem, I got about 80% of the remaining work on my new desk done. Completing it (which I should get done in the next week) will be a long awaited upgrade to my home office, and I've put a lot of research and care into selecting my materials and designing a system that's functional, lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, and modular. The structure is based on unidirectionally would carbon fiber tubing - the same stuff that I use for my titanium-carbon road bike seatpost

I cut the tubing to length with a 10" diamond grit blade, and use a piece of aluminum oxide wet/dry cloth to knock down any slag (stray, partially cut fibers). I then wiped the tubes down with tack cloth and used a two-part high gloss clear coat to seal and protect the tubes. The result looks great - it's hard, smooth, and allows the fiber to shimmer when it catches the light. 

The last pieces to prep before assembly are the frame's nodes. These were printed on a Form 2 in their "Tough" resin, which most people would use for functional prototyping but which I'm planning to use indefinitely. I considered leaving the nodes in their natural blue-green (you'll note that I even changed the color on the parts in my model a few months ago), but ended up deciding to paint them black. 

I was a bit hesitant to take on a finish paint job - I've been painting more and more recently, but my spray skills are mostly untested on small, intricate parts - but Formlabs has a good two part (one, two) guide and anyway I didn't have any other options. I used the Tamiya primer and spray paint they suggested (a note on this: Tamiya's bottles are pretty small. I ended up buying three bottles of primer and five bottles each of black topcoat and matte clear.), which goes on soft and easy - much nicer than the big rattle cans that I'm used to.

I've still got to sand, prime and paint three more of the nodes, but once that's done I'll be able to assemble the entire desk and start attaching accessories - which, because I'm particular about my workspace, will be more complicated than maybe most people's setups :) 

More soon!