DRM Chair only works 8 times

chair

Download a song from iTunes, and you can only add that song to the music library of five other computers. Grab a copy of the latest Microsoft Office, and you’d better hope you won’t be upgrading your computer any time soon. Obviously DRM is a great tool for companies to make sure we only use software and data as intended, but outside planned obsolescence, there isn’t much in the way of DRM for physical objects.

This is where a team from the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland comes in. They designed a chair that can only be sat upon eight times. After that, the chair falls apart necessitating the purchase of a new chair. Somewhere in the flat-pack furniture industry, someone is kicking themselves for not thinking of this sooner while another is wondering how they made a chair last so long.

The design of the chair is fairly simple; all the joints of the chair are cast in wax with a piece of nichrome wire embedded in the wax. An Arduino with a small switch keeps track of how many times the chair has been used, while a solenoid taps out how many uses are left in the chair every time the user gets up. When the internal counter reaches zero, a relay sends power through the nichrome wire, melting the wax, and returning the chair to its native dowel rod and wooden board form.

Melting wax wasn’t the team’s first choice to rapidly disassemble a chair; their first experiments used gunpowder. This idea nearly worked, but it was soon realized no one on the team wanted to sit on a primed and loaded chair. You can see the videos of the wax model failing after the break.

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Want a two person self destruct button, but tired of pesky microcontrollers?

We all know that our precious cruisers/warships/assets can not fall into the wrong hands, and what better way to assure that information security than incorporating a self destruct button into the design? While the general premise is simple enough the only real way to make sure some crazy space-virus can’t infect your captain and force him to destroy your ship is to add a two button security system! Wait, what if it’s a computer virus?! Well [Andrea] has it covered with this two hand hand control switch. We guess you could also just use the scheme to flip on a dangerous piece of equipment, since it forces the operator to remove both hands from the machine to operate the buttons, but where is the drama in that?

The buttons are timed using a combination of voltage dividers and caps to activate transistors, one to activate the 555 timer and another to disable the button input after a half second or so. Since it’s all resistor capacitor timing your circuit may require just a bit of tuning (or precision components) to get everything right.  There is a bit of an issue with using two people to trigger the output, as the second button actually operates the output relay directly. If the second button is held it will only remain active until the timer’s output is triggered, but if your second in command gets cold feet and releases the button before the core goes thermo, well, you’ll have an embarrassing jog to the escape pods.

Check the video after the jump to see [Andrea] fiddling around with the switch.

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