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Chris Anderson SFMade lecture

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KelliChristina and I went to a lecture this week by Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired and co-founder and chairman of 3DRobotics, about the maker revolution. He reminded me of how we are very much in the middle of another industrial revolution (the last being the digital revolution), and that my 3d printed jewelry business is at the forefront of it, utilizing innovative manufacturing processes that empower the inventor and designer to be entrepreneurs. The lecture was held at TechShop, and sponsored by SFMade, a wonderful nonprofit benefiting small local manufacturers.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s Mad Men-esque offices

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Before the holidays, I visited Alysha at HP Labs. Her building is home to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's corporate offices, which are kept in their original state for visitors to see.

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The offices are quintessentially modernist, and huge. There is even a little Japanese garden outside sliding doors. The furniture and linoleum floors took me back to 60's-style bank interiors I saw as a little kid, doing errands with my mom. As did this wood paneling and wall clock.

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The offices are open for viewing by the public I think; there were some Japanese tourists viewing them when I was there. They're a great addition to a tour of Silicon Valley fabulousness and geekery.

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Now I know where to do my photoshoot to enter the Mad Men casting call!

My first attempt at “tabletop photography”

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I've been wanting a tabletop photography kit for a while, to take decent pictures of my 3-D printing experiments, as well as other projects. After reading endless Amazon reviews, none of the kits seemed like the perfect choice. I finally settled on the 30" universal photography kit by EZcube. The cheaper kits sounded like they would have weaker, flimsier lights.

The EZcube itself is pretty interesting — 30" x 30," and folds up to the size of a small pizza, for storage. So it's very compact. But actually getting it folded is like making a particularly difficult origami model. After multiple attempts,I've finally got the hang of it.

As a (very) novice photographer, the lights seem decent and sturdy, though they could be brighter. The backdrop is wrinkly when unfolded, and the wrinkles show up in the photos. I followed the advice of some of the reviewers, and put a piece of white paperboard into the tent to shoot against, instead of the backdrop. This worked much better. Also, the kit could use a storage case.

I was shooting some pictures of my Speedo Clock (which I'm now calling Speedo Mandala Clock), to submit to a call for entries for an art show. They turned out alright — the main benefit of the tent seems to be to diffuse the light, making the shadows less severe.

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I'm just using a point and shoot camera — a couple-year-old Casio Exilim. Annoyingly, when the center of the clock is in focus, the outsides are out of focus. I've tried a couple of different modes to try and fix this, but they haven't made a difference. At least I got good enough photos to enter this competition with. I'll have to revisit this focus issue though.

3-D printing materials sample kit from Shapeways

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I received the Shapeways materials sample kit this week. It contains samples of 8 of their 3-D printing materials, in a handy little holder that is also 3-D printed.

Materials included are:

– Full Color Sandstone 
– Grey Robust
– Transparent Detail 
– White Detail 
– Black Detail 
– Alumide
– White Strong and Flexible
– Stainless Steel

I've already ordered models in the white strong and flexible; and white, clear, and black detail materials. But the others are new to me. I'm really excited to try full-color sandstone on some of my models in the future – the colors are bright, and the transition effect is quite nice. The stainless steel has a bit of texture to it. It would be nice for certain objects, but I wouldn't use it for a model that I wanted to look like shiny, smooth stainless steel. Alumide is also interesting it that it looks like an amalgam of materials and is kind of sparkly.

The kit also comes with a materials booklet that describes the materials and their properties and prices per square centimeter, in detail. This is great to have, although it would be nice if it was easier to tell which material sample matches which description.

The kit costs $30, but comes with a $25 Shapeways gift certificate, so really, it's practically free!