Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NASA Chooses Finalists For Deep Space Exploration Habitat

Hot off last year's successful results, NASA's public-private joint program, Next-STEP has just announced its newest aim to enlist private manufacturing for deep space exploration.

Next-STEP 2 will feature a competitive contract model for six companies chosen by NASA: Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corp, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks, and Boeing. These companies will provide prototypes from a shared grant of $65 million provided by NASA, along with up to 30 percent of their own money to added developmental costs.

Deep Space Habitat Prototype
Whereas the previous objective of 2015's Next-STEP included "commercial capabilities in low-orbit" (basically, airliners in space), this year's criteria focuses fully on developing a habitat environment for humans to survive the long time and conditions of deep space travel. The resulting technology could significantly advance NASA's well-publicized goal of astronauts reaching Mars by 2040. From NASA's press release detailing the endeavor:

"The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing, and to help define overall system functionality, These are important activities, as they help define the design standards, common interfaces and requirements while reducing risks for the final flight systems that will come after this phase."

 In essence, all six companies will have to find innovative ways to develop new designs of deep space habitats that will be subject to rigorous testing and risk assessment. Afterwards, NASA will almost certainly tweak whatever final prototype they choose, which will serve as the basis for the next generation of an increasingly interesting landscape of deep space exploration.


Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, October 28, 2016

"UFO" Houseboat Brings the Tiny House Concept To The Ocean





Off-the-grid lifestyles seem to be all the rage these days, and the tiny home trend is a an excellent reflection of this. Having a small, sustainable habitat has become more and more enticing to younger generations looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional homes, even if it means a bigger price tag up front. Italian-based company Jet Capsule , however, has taken this movement to a whole new level.

Sea level, that is.

The company, which manufactures yachts, has designed plans for a pod-like concept home that floats in the ocean. This "Unidentified Floating Object" will not only include 322 square feet of livable area, but also an off-the-grid energy apparatus including onboard solar panels and wind turbine as well. The fiberglass pod would include a fresh water generator, a vegetable garden on its outer rim, and an economic, slide-out kitchen. While it can cruise on its hydrojet propellers at a rate of 4 miles per hour, the pod's elastic anchor system ensures it won't capsize in stormy weather, provided it's docked in shallow water.
Jet Capsule's Floating Pod design
includes panoramic viewing of
underwater sea life.

One could see an issue if a vessel that moves this slowly had to gamble long distances with the risk of an approaching storm. Nevertheless, while it may not be an impervious home, many interests of the future dovetail with this design. The prospect of living off the grid, with the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, can appeal to all generations, whether green-minded or in retirement mode. And while the prototype Jet Capsule is promising currently demands a total of $800,000, the owners project the model could cost as low as $200,000.

More than a standard yacht, but less than your average home.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Wazer Desktop Waterjet Cutter Debuts at TechCrunch

At the recent TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield event, San Francisco-based Wazer debuted something that could very well revolutionize the small business world: a desktop waterjet cutter.

Image result for wazer printer
Wazer sets its desktop cutter at $6,000 for small business budgets
What was once considered appropriate for hobbyists now takes a different meaning in the context of the maker, DIY movement. The machine has a 12" x 18" bed and can even have its noisiest component (the pump) stored in a separate room. These features make it ideal for small businesses who, while they may have low volume orders compared to franchises, still need to produce original products faster than the speed of hands.

The major advantage of Wazer's product is the surprising effectiveness water and sand has compared to other laser and plasma technology in cutting. The machine issues a stream of water and garnet at a pressure somewhat less than industry standard but at different speeds, depending on the choice of raw material. While Wazer's cutter sacrifices a tiny bit of precision, it can make accurate cuts through one inch of almost any material provided. Steel is no issue, but even paper can be carved in creative methods without dissolving. In addition, the variety of possible materials even gives Wazer's product an edge over current 3D printing methods for start-ups looking to create prototypes. As Wazer CEO and co-founder Nisan Lerea says to TechCrunch:

"The problem with 3D printing,” says Lerea, “is that you’re making something out of relatively fragile plastic. With water jet technology, you can create prototypes out of the materials that will be used in the final products. If you need limited production runs, you can even do small-batch manufacturing with this machine, which doesn’t work with most 3D printing technologies.  
 Although the owners- who began this project as an academic experiment at Penn Engineering- do not believe water cutting will reach beyond niche markets. they have a very clear vision as to who those markets will be. “One of our test users is a jewelry maker who creates beautiful pieces out of coins,” Lerea continues. "Each piece she makes costs $5-600. The problem is that it takes her forever to make each piece. We can help her make more jewelry with better consistency, faster.”

Wazer's Kickstarter goal of $100,000 is all but in the bag, and as it centers on a resource more and more finite in a world of droughts and environmental instability, it would be interesting to see if the company ever considers plans to integrate resuseable water in its models.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 LAGI Designs For Desalination And Clean Energy Winners

First place at the 2016 went to the Regatta H2O
The 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative entries are no less than breathtaking. The competition, intended every two years since 2008 as a way to blend public art with sustainable energy in architecture and design, centered this year's theme around clean water. The subsequent concept works from all over the world are now officially open to the public at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California until November 1st, and the competition's panel has just announced its winners.

The purpose of the exhibits were not only to celebrate innovative aesthetic designs, but also to explore possible futures for infrastructure that can harvest clean energy while integrating into existing societies in ways that please the eye. As recent history has proven, local communities that don't want their landscapes altered have proven a necessary constituent for clean energy advocates to win over.
Having this year's initiative in Los Angeles- a city wracked by years of drought- made it a perfect opportunity to search for ideas built around water infrastructure. The designs were shown throughout the previous months at the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Highlights included a "Giant Orb" design by a Korean group of artists/architects that not only provided its own energy to stay buoyant, but also uses solar powered panels to generate drinkable water as well, producing an annual amount of 600,000 gallons.
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Second place was a US-based effort, created by University of Oregon. The ingenious design, inspired by whales in shape and utilizing high end reverse osmosis, (a process that is perfect for a marine location) can generate over 4300 megawatts of electricity and 172 million gallons of drinking water. Engineers in Pittsburgh took third place with "Paper Boat" . A network of iconic paper coat shapes that mask an underwater apparatus, where coral and kelp, encouraged by electrical currents from on-board solar cells, will grow and provide more habitats for diverse marine life.First place was taken by Tokyo-based Chrostopher Sjoberg and Ryo Salto, and is called the Regatta H2O. The concept involves aesthetically beautiful sails that collect and store wind energy, while also producing fresh water through fog harvesting. The project is estimated to create over 30 million gallons of water per year for local Angelinos.

The "Paper Boat" entry featured giant paper boats
 that cultivated underwater habitats for local marine life
Perhaps the boldest entry, was "The Pipe", designed and manufactured by Canadian-based Khalili Engineers. The Pipe features a solar-powered, electromagnetic desalination system that is capable of generating over 1.5 billion gallons of drinkable water each year. That kind of volume could make a real and immediate difference in local Angelinos who grow more and more each year, putting ever-mounting pressure on a city losing fresh water options with each dry summer that passes. It may not have placed, but The Pipe is the kind of grand thinking more experts in all industries and arts should explore in for the challenges of the next century.


Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Still Made in America...." Rotor Clip E-Book Now Available

US manufacturing companies that have survived the last few decades have a story to tell. Rotor Clip is no exception, which is why we are proud to offer our e-book, “Still Made in America…The Story of Robert Slass and his Contributionto US Manufacturing.

It’s not a self-congratulatory book, though we have always taken great pride in what we do. Rather, it is a look at how Bob Slass, our founder, met the many challenges he faced while transforming Rotor Clip from its modest beginnings in 1957 to the global leader it has become in the 21st century. As we all know, manufacturing changed dramatically in our country in the past as foreign concerns lured many companies and jobs away from the US with the promise of cheap wages and low overhead costs.
Rotor Clip E-Book Now Available

But, despite these factors, Bob Slass acted in the true spirit of American entrepreneurism in this country, working hard to restructure his company and embracing the latest technology to counter the adverse economic trends that drove many manufacturing companies out of business.

I was young and disillusioned when I walked into Bob Slass’ office in 1982. I had previously worked at companies that seemed mediocre and complacent, unwilling to recognize how things were changing in our country and what to do to counter them. Bob on the other hand was on top of it, enthusiastic and optimistic, challenging me and all those who worked for him not to sit still for what many saw as the demise of manufacturing in America.

Even when our competition was purchased by a large international company in the 1980’s, he never faltered, never once lost sight of his vision for Rotor Clip and what we could and did become.

That’s the spirit we wanted to convey in our book and that’s the story we want to tell.

I invite you to download a copy of our book by clicking on this link. Then forward it to anyone you think would want to celebrate a US manufacturing company that has not only survived, but thrived as an example of American commitment to hard work, dedication and entrepreneurism.


Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, June 17, 2016

STUDENT CONTEST WINNERS VISIT ROTOR CLIP AND NYC TRADE SHOW

It was our pleasure to host the winners of our recent “Ring-A-Majig” contest at Rotor Clip’s manufacturing facility in Somerset, New Jersey, this past week. James Powell, Joshua Adams, Josh Katsikis and Owais Siddiqui from EastCarolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, were given a tour of Rotor Clip’s manufacturing facility as well as an opportunity to visit the “Design in Engineering” trade show held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, June 14-16, 2016.

They were also taken on a tour of New York City, including a visit to the 9/11 memorial site in lower Manhattan.

The four won the 2016 Rotor Clip “Ring-A-Majig” contest, challenging students pursuing technical courses of study to use retaining rings (non-traditional fasteners) in original product designs. The contest was held in affiliation with ATMAE, the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering.

The winning student team of the Rotor Clip "Ring-A-Majig" contest from East Carolina University display their winning entry at the recent Design Show in NYC: a toy tank held together entirely by retaining rings. They are, from left to right, Josh Adams, James Powell, Josh Katsikis and Owais Siddiqui.

I had the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues with the students during their stay here at Rotor Clip. I was particularly impressed by their optimism and belief the future is looking good for those pursing manufacturing as a career.

Owais Siddiqui noted that his parents originally wanted him to pursue a career in IT. But he countered that “hardware was always exciting for me.” Before you can utilize software, he said “you need hardware.”

James Powell understood the concern about automation and how it eliminates conventional factory jobs. But embracing robotics will, in his view, create the need for more skilled technicians in the future. “We will just be re-directing what is needed as we evolve to a different skill set,” he noted.

Just working for a paycheck is not how Josh Adams regards his career. “I want to feel good about what I’m doing.” He said. He noted breakthrough technologies like 3-D printing bode well for US manufacturing. “Imagine what it (3-D printing) will be like in 10 years,” he said.

TV shows like “How it’s Made” first turned Josh Katsikis on to manufacturing. His studies at East Carolina University have demonstrated to him that “manufacturing is a very viable option as a career.” He also believes that new technologies like robotics “can increase production and create technical jobs that pay well.”

This belief in US manufacturing and the promise it holds for creating meaningful jobs is not just na├»ve optimism. As a recent Wall Street Journal article noted, “Countries that don’t make anything, soon lose their edge.”

Not if these students have anything to say about it.


Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tidal Power: Think "Not So" Big?

There is a general sentiment that in order for alternative energy technology to be taken seriously, it must illustrate the capacity to compete on a large a scale with traditional fossil fuel infrastructure. While that may be an inevitability, the "think-big" perspective has increasingly run up against practical difficulties all over the globe. This was to be expected; after all, it is going to take a long time to match the availability of gas stations off every highway exit. But in the case of tidal power, numerous new projects are demonstrating the feasibility of smaller scale.

WW Turbine's protoype en route to testing before
its use in Vancouver, BC.
In British Columbia, Canada, for example, Water Well Turbine is putting the finishing touches on a $5million prototype projected to generate enough energy for just about 500 homes in a small community. The project has garnered local interest not only by the BC manufacturing and construction industries, but small businesses hamstrung by rising diesel prices as well. Already, Water Well has gotten a pledge from Dent Island Lodge, a nearby
fishing resort company. Water Well claims this one turbine can cut the lodge's electricity price by more than 75%.

Another small-scale project yielding intriguing results is the Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Company. ORPC just recently received the Outstanding Stewards' of America's Waters award for its successful demonstration of its RivGen technology in the small Inuit community of Igiugig, Alaska. The RivGen is a small system that is, according to tidalenergytoday.org
ORPC's RivGen tidal turbines in Alaska.

 "a 25 kW self-deploying submersible hydrokinetic system designed to reduce and stabilize the cost of power in remote communities located near rivers and tidal estuaries that currently use diesel fuel for power generation."
Over the course of two summers, ORPC set up the RivGen in the waters of the Kvichak River and accumulated data of its maintenance, durability, and output. The results were extremely promising: the tidal power source produced a third of electricity needed to sustain the small village of 70 people. Considering the RivGen consists of two turbines 34 feet in width combined, supported by pontoons, the cost-efficiency alone is worth further investment.


While these two projects prove comprehensive efforts to integrate tidal energy into everyday communities are happening, they also prove the lack of consistent funding. In the case of ORPC, the state grants that matched private funds are currently on the chopping block in Alaska's upcoming budget. Furthermore, while WW Turbine's technology will be closely looked at by public utilities, BC Hydro still takes an official position that tidal energy infrastructure is not cost-effective, nor promising enough for mass investment. While that may be accurate on a large scale, the key to addressing it may be to, indeed, think smaller.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.