Advanced Timber Architecture Gives New Life To Wooden Structures

When it comes to building materials, wood doesn’t always draw the most attention as the strongest in the bunch. That honor usually goes to concrete and steel – steel embedded in concrete provides support and a foundation for tall buildings, while concrete increases tensile strength and can be formed into a variety of shapes with the help of rebar. Wood, on the other hand, decays and is vulnerable to moisture damage and fire.

That’s not necessarily the case anymore, thanks to the development of advanced timber. New materials like glulam, or sheets of timber bonded with moisture-resistant structural adhesives, can be produced using two to three times less energy than steel, making them environmentally-friendly alternatives to other building materials. Granted, this requires the beams to be burned at the end of their lifespan, but glulam still has an equivalent or better environmental profile compared to steel, not to mention a lower cost.

Among engineered wood, there are some varieties more commonly used among hobbyists – MDF, plywood, or particle board for instance. Others, like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) are more common among building materials. While CLT buildings have existed for decades, recently major cities like Stockholm and Vancouver have seen a resurgence of timber construction. Since wood can theoretically store carbon for the entire length of its lifespan, up to 0.8 tons in a cubic meter of spruce, some architecture firms like Oslotre are building houses with a negative carbon footprint.

Projects like Sidewalk Labs and Masthamnen are proposing entire neighborhoods and skyscrapers built from advanced timber. Compared to International Style architecture, characterized by gray concrete, shiny metal, and glass, this movement could be a step towards returning to natural architectural forms. Given the stress reducing effects of green spaces in cities, engineered wood buildings could bridge the gap between modern architectural styles and natural woodlands.

 

Breathtaking C64C Case Faithfully Recreates Original In Wood

Most computer case modders take certain liberties with their builds, to express their creativity and push the state of the art. Some, however, seek to recreate the original in as detailed a way as possible while still being unique. This faithful reproduction of a Commodore 64C in wood is a great example of the latter approach.

[Atilla Meric]’s experience with model airplane building came into play when he decided to leap into this build. Being used to making small, thin pieces of wood even smaller and thinner proved valuable here, as did working from templates and getting complex shapes cut out cleanly. [Atilla] used a miniature table saw to rough cut his stock; the wood species may have been lost in the translation from Turkish but it appears to be some variety of oak. Detail cuts were done with knives, and everything was held together with glue. The painstaking effort that went into the air vents is amazing, and the fact that they exactly match the vents on the original injection-molded case is truly impressive. We also like the subtle detail of the slightly depressed area around the keyboard opening, just like the original, as well as the smooth curve at the front of the case to comfortably support the wrists. The cutouts for connectors and the labels are top-notch too.

We appreciate the craftsmanship that went into this case mod, and the time and effort [Atilla] put into the build are obvious. We’ve seen wooden computer case mods before, but this one really pushes all our buttons.

[via Twitter]

A Single-Digit-Micrometer Thickness Wood Speaker

Researchers have created an audio speaker using ultra-thin wood film. The new material demonstrates high tensile strength and increased Young’s modulus, as well as acoustic properties contributing to higher resonance frequency and greater displacement amplitude compared to a commercial polypropylene diaphragm in an audio speaker.

Typically, acoustic membranes have to remain very thin (on the micron scale) and robust in order to allow for a highly sensitive frequency response and vibrational amplitude. Materials made from plastic, metal, ceramic, and carbon have been used by engineers and physicists in an attempt to enhance the quality of sound. While plastic thin films are most commonly manufactured, they have a pretty bad impact on the environment. Meanwhile, metal, ceramic, and carbon-based materials are more expensive and less attractive to manufacturers as a result.

Cellulose-based materials have been making an entrance in acoustics research with their environmentally friendly nature and natural wooden structure. Materials like bagasse, wood fibers, chitin, cotton, bacterial cellulose, and lignocellulose are all contenders for effective alternatives to parts currently produced from plastics.

The process for building the ultra-thin film involved removing lignin and hemicellulose from balsa wood, resulting in a highly porous material. The result is hot pressed for a thickness reduction of 97%. The cellulose nano-fibers remain oriented but more densely packed compared to natural wood. In addition, the fibers required higher energy to be pulled apart while remaining flexible and foldable.

At one point in time, plastics seemed to be the hottest new material, but perhaps wood is making a comeback?

[Thanks Qes for the tip!]

Harmonic Analyzer Does It With Cranks And Gears

Before graphic calculators and microcomputers, plotting functions were generally achieved by hand. However, there were mechanical graphing tools, too. With the help of a laser cutter, it’s even possible to make your own!

The build in question is nicknamed the Harmonic Analyzer. It can be used to draw functions created by adding sine waves, a la the Fourier series. While a true Fourier series is the sum of an infinite number of sine waves, this mechanical contraption settles on just 5.

This is achieved through the use of a crank driving a series of gears. The x-axis gearing pans the notepad from left to right. The function gearing has a series of gears for each of the 5 sinewaves, which work with levers to set the magnitude of the coefficients for each component of the function. These levers are then hooked up to a spring system, which adds the outputs of each sine wave together. This spring adder then controls the y-axis motion of the pen, which draws the function on paper.

It’s a great example of the capabilities of mechanical computing, even if it’s unlikely to ever run Quake. Other DIY mechanical computers we’ve seen include the Digi-Comp I and a wildly complex Differential Analyzer. Video after the break.

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3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

We’ve seen plenty of plywood 3D printers before; after all, many early hobbyist machines were made from laser-cut plywood. But this plywood 3D-printer isn’t made from plywood – it prints plywood. Well, sort of.

Yes, we know – that’s not plywood the printer is using, but rather particleboard, the same material that fills the flatpack warehouse of every IKEA store. And calling it a printer is a bit of a stretch, too. This creation, by [Shane Whigton] and his Formlabs Hackathon team, is more of a hybrid additive-subtractive CNC machine. A gantry-mounted router carves each layer of the print from a fresh square of material – which could just as easily be plywood as particleboard. Once a layer is cut, the gantry applies glue to it, puts a fresh sheet of material on top, and clamps it down tight. The router then carves the next layer, and so on up the stack. The layer height is limited to the thickness of the material – a nominal 3/4″ (19 mm) in this case – and there’s a remarkable amount of waste, but that’s not really the point. Check out the printer in action and the resulting giant Benchy in the video below.

Seeing all that particleboard dust and glue got us thinking: what about a 3D-printer that extrudes a paste of sawdust mixed with glue? We imagine that would be a bit like those giant printers that extrude concrete to build houses.
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Project Egress: The Hinges

A door’s hinges are arguably its most important pieces. After all, a door without hinges is just, well, a wall. Or a bulkhead, if we’re talking about a hingeless hatch on a spacecraft.

And so the assignment for creating hinges for Progress Egress, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing by creating a replica of the command module hatch, went to [Jimmy DiResta]. The hinges were complex linkages that were designed to not only handle the 225 pound (102 kg) hatch on the launch pad, but to allow extended extravehicular activity (EVA) while en route to the Moon. [Jimmy], a multimedia maker, is just as likely to turn metal as he is to work in wood, and his hinges are a study of 1960s aerospace engineering rendered in ipe, and extremely hard and dense tropical hardwood, and brass.

[Jimmy]’s build started with a full-size 3D-printed model of the hinge, a move that paid off as the prints acted both as templates for machining the wood components and as test jigs to make sure everything would articulate properly. Sheet brass was bent and soldered into the hinge brackets, while brass rod stock was turned on the lathe to simulate the hydraulic cylinder hinge stays of the original. The dark ipe and the brass work really well together, and should go nicely with [Fran Blanche]’s walnut and brass latch on the assembled hatch.

With [Adam Savage]’s final assembly of all the parts scheduled for Thursday the 18th, we’re down to the wire on this celebration of both Apollo and the maker movement that was at least in part born from it.

Note: the assembly started at 11:00 Eastern time, and there’s a live stream at https://airandspace.si.edu/events/project-egress-build.

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JigFab Makes Woodworking Easier

Woodworking is an age-old craft that requires creativity and skill to get the best results. Experienced hands get the best results, while the new builder may struggle to confidently produce even basic pieces. JigFab is here to level the playing field somewhat.

Much of the skill in woodworking comes with mastering the various joints and techniques required to hold a piece together. Cutting these joints often requires specialized tools and equipment – ideally, some sort of jig. These jigs can be difficult to build in themselves, and that’s where JigFab shines.

The workflow is straightforward and quite modern. A piece is designed in Autodesk Fusion 360. Various joints can then be defined in the model between individual parts. JigFab then generates a series of laser cut constraints that can be used with power tools to easily and accurately cut the necessary parts to build the final piece.

It’s an impressive technology which could rapidly speed the workflow of anyone experimenting with woodwork and design. There’s even smart choices, like having a toolkit of standard predefined elements that reduce laser cutting time when producing new constraints. If you’re eager to get stuck in to woodwork, but don’t know where to start, don’t worry – we’ve got a primer for that. Video after the break.

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