If Society Is In Danger Of Collapse, Here’s How We Should Do Our Bit

If you’ve been following the news, you can’t have missed the series of floods, droughts, and wildfires that have occurred seemingly in all corners of the world. Coming on the heels of a Northern Hemisphere winter that had its own extreme weather events, it would be perhaps foolhardy not to by now take climate change seriously. You may also have seen the news about a return to a 1970s paper in which MIT crystal-ball-gazers predicted the collapse of our civilisation in the mid-21st century, and a review based upon the empirical data gathered since then which concluded that we could be right on track with that prediction set to happen in about 2040.

It’s sobering stuff, and something which could so easily form the basis of many a Hollywood apocalyptic disaster movie. But sitting here in 2021 amid extreme weather events and a global pandemic it’s certainly something to think about. It’s not as though we’re riding biogas-powered weapon cars through the post-apocalyptic desert just yet though, we still have a chance to do something to avert catastrophe and no doubt over the next decade a raft of changes will reduce our CO2 impact and make our infrastructure more resilient to stave off any coming crises.

Our mind was turned to the halcyon time before the pandemic, to the Danish BornHack hacker camp back in August 2019. One of the talks at the event came from [Igor Nicolic], whose day job as an academic with Delft University of Technology takes him into the study of ecology and sustainability. In it he looks at the current state of global sustainability, and identifies the roles which the hardware hacker community could play in an uncertain future. It’s a fascinating lecture from an expert in the field and it’s well worth a watch and taking note of his points, so we’ve placed it below the break. Continue reading “If Society Is In Danger Of Collapse, Here’s How We Should Do Our Bit”

Ford And HP Teamed Up To Drive Down Plastic Waste

This mass manufacturer movement towards electric cars is one thing, but what about sustainability on the plastic part production line? Ford and HP have teamed up to turn used 3D printed parts and powders into pellets that will be fodder for injection-molded parts — specifically the fuel-line clips for Super Duty F250 trucks.

Two of the sustainably-made fuel clips.

According to Ford’s press release, their goal is to reach 100% sustainable materials in all their vehicles, not just the diesel-drinking Super Duty. Their research team found ten other Fords whose existing fuel-line clips could instead be made sustainably, and the company plans to implement the recycled plastic clips on all future models.

There are all sorts of positives at play here: the recycled clips cost 10% less to make and end up weighing 7% less than traditionally-made clips, all the while managing to be more chemical and moisture resistant.

And so much plastic will be kept out of landfills, especially once this idea takes off and more manufacturers get involved with HP or form other partnerships. One of the sources of Ford’s plastic is Smile Direct Club, which has 60 printers cranking out over 40,000 dental aligners every day.

There’s more than one way to combine 3D printing and sustainability. Did someone say fungal sound absorbers?

[Images via Ford]

There’s A Fungus Among Us That Absorbs Sound And Does Much More

Ding dong, the office is dead — at least we hope it is. We miss some of the people, the popcorn machine, and the printer most of all, but we say good riddance to the collective noise. Thankfully, we never had to suffer in an open office.

For many of us, yours truly included, home has become the place where we spend approximately 95% of our time. Home is now an all-purpose space for work, play, and everything in between, like anxiety-induced online shopping. But unless you live alone in a secluded area and/or a concrete bunker, there are plenty of sound-based distractions all day and night that emanate from both inside and outside the house. Headphones are a decent solution, but wearing them isn’t always practical and gets old after a while. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print your own customized sound absorbers and stick them on the walls? Continue reading “There’s A Fungus Among Us That Absorbs Sound And Does Much More”

Weird Substances: Hagfish Slime

In the cold, dark recesses of ocean floors around the world, hagfish slither around like sea snakes, searching for food. When a hagfish finds a suitable carcass, it devours the dead fish in two different ways. As it burrows face-first through the tissue, eating with its jaw-less, tentacled mouth, the hagfish also absorbs nutrients through its skin.

Hagfish are not the unholy result of dumping toxic waste in the ocean. They’re one of the oldest creatures on Earth, having been around for more than 300 million years. How have they lasted this long?

A coiled hagfish reveals its slime ports. Image via Oregon Coast Aquarium

These ancient creatures have no eyes, no backbones, and no scales. They are often misidentified as eel, and often called ‘slime eels’, but they are definitely fish. They just don’t look like conventional fish. In fact, when conventional, gill-faced fish come after hagfish, those guys are in for a surprise, because hagfish have a disgusting but ingenious defense mechanism.

Whenever hagfish are attacked or even just stressed by nearby fish or curious grabby humans, they immediately emit amazing amounts of mucus at an alarming rate. At the same time, the hagfish shoots out silky strands of protein that hold the slime together in a cohesive blob. Any predator that tries to bite down on one of these velvety frankfurters of the deep sea will find its mouth and gills covered in a wad of suffocating slime.

How is it that hagfish haven’t slimed themselves out of existence? Whenever they get get a taste of their own medicine, these boneless noodles quickly twist themselves into a pretzel. In the same motion, they use their paddle-shaped tails to squeegee off the slime.

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A Farmer’s Guide To Technology

One of the hardest aspects of choosing a career isn’t getting started, it’s keeping up. Whether you’re an engineer, doctor, or even landscaper, there are always new developments to keep up with if you want to stay competitive. This is especially true of farming, where farmers have to keep up with an incredible amount of “best practices” in order to continue being profitable. Keeping up with soil nutrient requirements, changing weather and climate patterns, pests and other diseases, and even equipment maintenance can be a huge hassle.

A new project at Hackerfarm led by [Akiba] is hoping to take at least one of those items off of farmers’ busy schedules, though. Their goal is to help farmers better understand the changing technological landscape and make use of technology without having to wade through all the details of every single microcontroller option that’s available, for example. Hackerfarm is actually a small farm themselves, so they have first-hand knowledge when it comes to tending a plot of land, and [Bunnie Huang] recently did a residency at the farm as well.

The project strives to be a community for helping farmers make the most out of their land, so if you run a small farm or even have a passing interest in gardening, there may be some useful tools available for you. If you have a big enough farm, you might even want to try out an advanced project like an autonomous tractor.

3D-Printer Extrudes Paper Pulp Instead Of Plastic

We’ve seen all sorts of 3D-printers on these pages before. From the small to the large, Cartesians and deltas, and printers that can squeeze out plastic, metal, and even concrete. But this appears to be the first time we’ve ever featured a paper-pulp extruding 3D-printer.

It’s fair to ask why the world would need such a thing, and its creator, [Beer Holthuis], has an obvious answer: the world has a lot of waste paper. Like 80 kg per person per year. Thankfully at least some of that is recycled, but that still leaves a lot of raw material that [Beer] wanted to put to work. Build details on the printer are sparse, but from the photos and the video below it seems clear how it all went together. A simple X-Y-Z gantry moves a nozzle over the build platform. The nozzle, an order of magnitude or two larger than the nozzles most of us are used to, is connected to an extruder by a plastic hose. The extruder appears to be tube with a stepper-driven screw that lowers a ram down onto the pulp, squeezing it into the hose. [Beer] notes that the pulp is mixed with a bit of “natural binder” to allow the extruded pulp to keep its shape. We found the extrusion process to be just a wee bit repulsive to watch, but fascinating nonetheless, and the items he’s creating are certainly striking in appearance.

This may be the first pulp printer to grace our pages, but it’s not the first pulp hack we’ve featured. Pulp turns out to be a great material to keep your neighbors happy and even makes a dandy fuel.

Continue reading “3D-Printer Extrudes Paper Pulp Instead Of Plastic”

Hackaday’s Omaha Mini Maker Faire Roundup

The 2nd annual Omaha Mini Maker Faire wasn’t our first rodeo, but it was nonetheless a bit surprising . Before we even made it inside to pay our admission to the Omaha Children’s Museum, I took the opportunity to pet a Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken at one of the outdoor booths. The amiable fowl lives at City Sprouts, an Omaha community farming collective in its 20th year of operation. There seemed to be a theme of bootstrappy sustainability among the makers this year, and that’s great to see.

Just a few feet away sat a mustard-colored 1975 Chevy pickup with a food garden growing in its bed. This is Omaha’s truck farm, an initiative that seeks to educate the city’s kids in the ways of eating locally and growing food at home.  On a carnivorous note, [Chad] from Cure Cooking showed my companion and me the correct way to dry-cure meats using time-honored methods.

Continue reading “Hackaday’s Omaha Mini Maker Faire Roundup”