Fail of the Week: Secret Agent-Style Book Hideaway

fotw-book-hideaway-with-laser-cutter

Ah, the movies are an inspiration for so many projects. How many times have you seen a spy movie where a cutout in the pages of a book are hiding something? This was the inspiration which led [Paul] and his crew to try using a laser cutter to remove a handgun-shaped cutout from the pages. The fail began before the project even got started. The sacrificial book they had chosen was too thick to cut directly so they tore it in thirds for the cutting process.

The hijinks are portrayed well in the clip after the break. The infectious giggling as this first trace of the laser cuts the outline makes the video worth watching. As they try to go deeper, the success falls off rapidly. This makes for a great Fail of the Week discussion: Why can’t you cut through multiple layers of a book with a laser cutter? Is this merely a focal length issue that would be solved with a higher-end cutter or is there something else at play here. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

 

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Popup book includes a playable piano keyboard

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This popup book contains several interactive electronic elements. It’s the creation of [Antonella Nonnis] using mostly scrap materials she had on hand. Of course there are some familiar players behind the scenes that take care of the electronic elements.

Her photo album of the build process sheds light on how she pulled everything together. Instead of adding switches for interactivity she built capacitive touch sensors on the backs of the pages. Strips of copper foil serve as flexibly traces, moving the connections past the binding and allowing them to be jumpered to the pair of Arduino boards which control the show. That’s right, there’s two of them. One is dedicated to running the pop-up piano keyboard seen above. The other deals with Art, Math, and Science elements on other pages.

This continues some of the multimedia work we saw popping up in popups a few years back.

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Wherein books are judged by their cover

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Yes, Kindles are wonderful, a computer full of PDFs are awesome, and [Tim Berners-Lee] will probably go down in history as more important than [Gutenberg]. That doesn’t mean there’s not something intangible about books that brings out the affections of so many bibliophiles. Even a book filled with blank pages can be a work of art unto itself, and most of the time these volumes are handmade.

 This video of a hardbound volume made by Smith Settle bookbinders covers the entire process from words on a page to a finished book. No, they’re not using movable type; the folios are created using lithography, but sorting, gluing, sewing and binding the folios is done in much the same way as it was done in the middle ages.

Next up is a wonderful film from 1968 by Iowa state university on creating the gold tooling on fine leather-bound volumes. You’ll be hard pressed to find a book with gold tooling nowadays, but it’s still a technique accessible to the industrious amateur bookbinder.

First, gold leaf is applied to the leather spine of a book. Then, custom-made tools are heated to a few hundred degrees  and pressed into the leaf. The heat bonds the gold with the leather, and with custom-designed tools designs are burnt into the leather. After that, the excess leaf is simply wiped off, and a fine tooled leather book is born.

What’s really cool about bookbinding is the fact that just about anyone can do it. Go to a craft store, pick up some hardboard and paper, and bind yourself a book. You could make a blank journal, or for the nerds out there (myself included), make a hard bound volume of the NASA wiring standards.

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Bilbio-mat is an awesome yet simple used book vending machine

You’ll find this used book vending machine at The Monkey’s Paw in Toronto, Canada. For two Loonies you can buy a random book from the machine’s hopper. Silly? Absolutely. But as you can see from the video after the break, the act of buying a book this way is a lot of fun, and we always like to see the insides of a machine like this.

[Craig Small's] creation looks vintage, and the chugga-chugga and mechanical bell that accompany each sale go along well with that appearance. Of course the machine is new. A trio of hoppers behind the façade hold stacks of books at a forty-five degree angle. Each stack is raised one at a time by a winch and pulley. Once the top book on the stack is high enough to slide into the dispenser chute the winch stops and the bell rings. A simple solution to dispensing something that is not a standard size.

Because the Biblio-Mat is meant to clear out the discount books, slight damage caused by falling down the chute won’t even be noticed. And if you end up really loving the book you can digitize it by running it through one of these.

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Google Books team open sources their book scanner

It’s no secret that Google has been scanning hundreds of thousands of books in the hope of recreating the Library of Alexandria. Publishers and authors really didn’t like that idea, so the Google books team is doing the next best thing: they’re releasing the plans for a very clever book scanner in the hope others will pick up the torch of creating a digital library of every book ever written.

Unlike some other book scanners we’ve seen that rely on an operator manually flipping pages, this linear book scanner turns the pages automatically with the help of a vacuum cleaner and a cleverly designed sheet metal structure after passing them over two image sensors taken from a desktop scanner.

The bill of materials comes in at around $1500, but according to the official design documents this includes a very expensive scanner, something that could be replaced in true hacker style with a few salvaged flatbed scanners.

After the break you can check out a Google Tech Talk presented by [Dany Qumsiyeh] going over the design and function of his DIY book scanner. There’s also a relatively thorough design document over on a Google code page.

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Hackathon results in the Facebook book

[Jeremy Blum] and [Jason Wright] pose with their project at the end of a 24 hour hackathon. The Facebook headquarters in New York City held the event as part of their Summer of Hack program. As an homage to the hosts, the hacking duo decided to create a physical book and populate it with the virtual Facebook. And what do you call such a creation? The Face(book)^2.

The video after the break gives the best overview of the hardware, but here’s the gist of it: They started with the largest hardcover book they could find, hollowing out its pages to house their own hardware. When you open the book it calls back to a computer over an Xbee link with a request for data. The python script on the computer pulls the newest from a Facebook feed, sending it back to the book to be displayed. There is a graphic LCD and four character LCDs built in for this purpose. There’s also an accelerometer which is used for detecting page turns when the cover is jostled. The rest of the interactivity is provided by a few tactile switches mounted next to the smaller LCD screens for navigation and the ‘like’ feature.

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Book Review: Eight Amazing Engineering Stories

We’re big fans of [Bill Hammack], aka the Engineer Guy. His series of engineering videos dredge up pleasant memories of watching Mr. Wizard but spin to the adult science enthusiast. The most resent season (he calls it series #4) scratches the surface of the topics covered in his book Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, which was written with fellow authors [Patrick Ryan] and [Nick Ziech]. They provided us with a complimentary digital copy of the book to use for this review.

The conversational style found in the videos translates perfectly to the book, but as with comparing a novel to a movie, the written word allows for much more depth. For instance, we loved learning about how Apple uses anodization to dye the aluminum used for iPod cases. The same presentation style makes the topic easily understandable for anyone who took some chemistry and math in High School. But primers a sidebars offer an optional trip through the looking-glass, explaining the history behind the process, how it compares to natural materials, and what trade-offs are made in choosing this process.

Some of the other topics included are how CCD camera sensors, lead-acid batteries, mems accelerometers, and atomic clocks work. As the book progresses through all eight topics general concepts the complexity of the items being explained advances quickly. By the seventh story — which covers the magentron in a microwave oven — we’d bet the concepts challenge most readers’ cognition. But we still enjoyed every page. The book would make a great pool-side read. It would make a great graduation gift (too bad we missed that time of year) but keep it in mind for any science minded friends or relatives. You can see [Bill's] own description of the book and all its formats in the clip after the break.

TLDR: Buy it or give it as a gift

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