Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Sand

Carnegie Mellon's snake robot – now better able to ascend sandy slopes (Photo: CMU)

If a robot is looking for victims at a disaster site, or even exploring another planet, then it certainly better not get stuck in the sand. That may now be a little less likely to happen, as scientists recently studied one of the best sand-travelers in the animal kingdom – the sidewinder rattlesnake. After they analyzed its movement patterns and applied them to an existing snake-inspired robot, that robot was better able climb up sandy inclines.  Read More

The miniature sledge-testing rig used in the study

In Egypt's tomb of Djehutihotep, a wall painting depicts someone pouring water into the sand in front of one of the sledges that hauled the blocks used in the construction of the pyramids. According to new research, they had a good reason for doing so – by wetting the sand, as little as half as much pulling force would have been required to move those sledges.  Read More

The design of the Rungu was inspired by trying to transport surfboards across the sand

With their huge, soft tires that allow them to "float" over snow and sand, fatbikes have experienced a surge in popularity over the past few years. Last December, British adventurer Maria Leijerstam took things a step further, using a custom fat trike to ride to the South Pole. Now, California-based Standard Bearer Machines is offering a fat-trike of its own, known as the Rungu.  Read More

Designer Peter Trimble has built a machine that creates biostone furniture

With energy production and raw material shortages becoming increasingly pertinent issues around the world, designer Peter Trimble has demonstrated a radical method of manufacture that addresses both issues. Dupe is a portable machine that uses a mixture of sand, bacteria and urine to create a material called biostone. The machine is a proof-of-concept design only and is currently set up to create a small stool, but the method can be adapted to create just about anything.  Read More

Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, as it appears today (Photo: Anton Bielousov via Wikipedia...

Sandy beaches are a delight for swimmers, surfers, sailors, and people strolling down the boardwalk. A horde of beautiful shells and buried coins (not to mention the occasional dropped ring) awaits the skilled beachcomber. Beach sand also carries within it a variety of traces of the history of that beach. A prime example is the magnetic sands of Normandy.  Read More

'Smart pebbles' are cubes about 10 millimeters to an edge, with processors and magnets bui...

Research currently underway at MIT’s Distributed Robotic Laboratory (DRL) could lead to an innovative replicative manufacturing technique with the disruptive potential equal to that of 3D printing. Imagine a sand-like material that could autonomously assemble itself into a replica of any object encased within. Incredible though this may sound, the DRL researchers have already managed to build a large scale proof-of-concept, with 10-mm cubes acting as the grains.  Read More

Markus Kayser tests his Solar-Sinter in the Egyptian desert

We’ve seen a growing number 3D printers that use additive manufacturing technology to form objects one layer at a time, usually from resin or ABS plastic. But Markus Kayser, an MA student at the Royal College of Art in London, has created a 3D printer that creates 3D objects using two things found in abundance in the desert – sun and sand. As well as being powered by the sun via two photovoltaic panels, the Solar-Sinter also focuses the sun’s rays to heat sand to its melting point so it then solidifies as glass when it cools, allowing the computer controlled device to produce glass objects from 3D computer designs.  Read More

The 3D-printed sand Microclimates cool the immediate area

The lack of cooling in large open areas inevitably sends people scurrying for air-conditioned buildings on hot days. Taking a leaf from traditional Islamic architecture that dealt with the harsh desert climate with Mashrabiyas – a projecting latticework window that provides shade from the hot sun while allowing cool air from the street to flow through – London-based design firm PostlerFeruson has designed a kind of three dimensional Mashrabiya that can cool the immediate area in an energy-free way.  Read More

Sandbricks offer a number of design advantages over the traditional sandbag

Floods are an inevitable part of life and the standard line of defense is the humble sandbag. While having applications in emergency relief, engineering and military environments, their design has remained relatively unchanged since the 18th Century. That is until now.  Read More

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