Friday, March 2, 2018

In Medical 3D Printing, The Ears Have It.

A before-and-after of how a 3D printed prosthetic accurately "snaps" into place.
As 3D printing makes its way out of the prototype labs and into countless real-world scenarios, it seems to be accelerating fastest among the advances in the medical industry. While this includes uses such as designing and building cutting edge technology and instruments, 3D printing has now extended beyond the tools, and is now showing multiple ways it can assist in the actual material of the medical world itself: the human body.

In the US, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore worked to combine CT scanning with 3D printing to create custom-designed prosthetic replacements for parts of the middle ear. Led by Jeffrey Hirsch MD, assistant professor of radiology at the university, the team finally created a breakthrough in a procedure that had been attempted unsuccessfully before. Hearing loss can often be a result of damage to the three tiny bones in the middle ear called the ossicles. Because their job is to conduct sound from the ear drum to the cochlea, ossicles are extremely unique to the shape of an individual's ear. Whereas surgery has been an option in the past to repair or reconstruct those bones, the ossicles are so tiny that the procedure has a high failure rate. Integrating 3D printing into the process of prosthetic manufacture, however, greatly improves the accuracy of a replacement doing the job of the original bones. As Dr. Hirsch explained in a press release to Radiological Society of North America, "This study highlights the core strength of 3-D printing — the ability to very accurately reproduce anatomic relationships in space to a sub-millimeter level...With these models, it's almost a snap fit."

 reconstruct the degenerating ears of five children. The patients, each suffering from a form of microtia, had their healthy ears mapped out, and new ears cultivated from their own cells in a lab. Thus, a major regenerated body part grown on a mold, was able to remain compatible and reattach itself. This has incredible ramifications. In addition to revolutionizing how facial and body reconstruction is done, it proves the current limits of surgery when it comes to cartilage growth, organ donation, and prosthetics themselves may soon prove obsolete.
While this is one demonstration of the successful role 3D printing can have to bridge gaps existing between traditional technology and biological progress, it is not the only one. Using the similar method of complimenting 3D printing with CT scanning, tissue engineers in China were recently able to

How CT scanning works with 3D printing for reconstruction
Is it possible both these advances can co-exist? Or do they demonstrate a fork in the road for the medical industry. Beyond the ear, it seems the added bonus of creating organic composition with 3D printers makes using any foreign materials unnecessary for any part of the human body, in the long run. Perhaps this could one day be the case, but as engineering advancements on the genetic level with CRISPR are currently proving, to give the green light to our anatomy as a part of the supply chain may open up very dicey ethical questions.  3D printing is obliterating walls between the industrial and biological revolutions; we may find out sooner than later whether we are prepared for what that could mean.

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Three Models to Bring the Mobile Home Into the Future

Mobile home owners in America generally deal with an unfair stigma of being low income, underinvested, or impermanent. Out of the 20million mobile home owners in America, however, there is so much variety, it would be unfair to apply these characteristics to them all. Mobile communities in the U.S. are not only numerous; they are growing and diversifying in so many forms. In fact, the space-conscious models of the typical mobile home make it ideal to create new generations of homeowners that must co-exist in ever-increasing populations across cities of the new century. 

Ironically, thousands of mobile home communities dotting across the country consist of residents who never leave their lot. Yet, as population and weather pattern shifts around the country, picking up and leaving can be more and more considered a necessity for many citizens.  
Considering this, it makes sense for companies in construction and manufacturing - both residential and commercial- to explore this rising demand. Trends such as “tiny houses” and redesigned prefabricated homes may be pointing towards a “new norm” of home ownership. While there have already been numerous ideas that emphasize space-conscious minimalism and repurposing or relocating, they tend to be aimed at small luxury markets. The potential for the average American small business or resident, however, to be part of a rethinking of movable homes, is still there, and largely untapped.

MADI’s Sustainable Pre-Fab Home: There are many companies already exploring with ways to build flexible and mobile residences. One such  is the Italian-based prefab home company, MADI. Designed by world-renowned architect, Renato Vidal, the company’s newest model is a singular A-frame that can be delivered and installed on a property in just under seven hours with minimal labor. Available in three sizes, MADI’s house is solar-powered, so it can function off-grid, and its smallest version comes in at only $33,000; a few thousand cheaper than the average single-wide mobile home.

Ten Fold Engineering: This UK company has come up with a one-of-a-kind lever-folding system to produce homes that can literally "build themselves" within 10 minutes. All that is needed is an electric drill to begin the process, and a fail-safe designed around the floors being folded ensure the building will never fold on its own while residents are inside.What’s more, Ten Fold’s construction is designed around ready-made spaces, making it possible to even transport desired furniture and utilities. 

Their protoypes can apply to homes, but also events or businesses where comfort and style is prioritized over permanence. As the company’s founder, David Martyn, has said, the mobility aspect of the home was intentionally explored to address economic realities of shifting workforces that value the choice to relocate for opportunity: “It changes the dynamics of the market, which does need to change because it is a transportable property asset. This is a real solid building that doesn’t have to stay in the same place. This is about speed, size and ease, and there’s nothing else that does it.”

Jet Capsule: Mobile lots don’t need to be limited to the ground, either. In2016, we profiled Jet Capsule, an Italian yachting company that was exploring a line of floating “UFO” homes. Since then, the solar and wind-powered mini-homes have progressed past the prototype phase and are due to debut this year with an initial price of around $200,000: pricier, but still a reasonable price for homeowners seeking something flexible, if unconventional.

These examples are just one of many, and have all moved beyond the prototype phase and are one step closer to mass production. Any one of them could be invested in and applied to communities across America right now. If such an undertaking were to happen, the term "mobile home" could one day have a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sea Urchin Spines Inspire Tougher Cement

Sea Urchins usually call to mind horrid hours of pulling their dreaded spines out of one's feet after a careless step in the ocean. The long sharp tendrils are a natural defense mechanism for the invertebrate, and notorious for the pain their venom causes (though not fatal). While a nuisance during a day at the beach, however, the animal may have proved invaluable in a seemingly unrelated way.

Researchers at the University of Konstanz may have found a method to create a fracture-resistant type of cement. The team's evidence boils down to replicating the nanostructure of the sea urchin spine, reinforcing durability.

Enhanced view of sea urchin spine calcite
Publishing their work in the December 1st edition of Science Advances, the Physical Chemistry team, led by Professor Helmut Colfen, were able to engineer, on the nanoscale, a layer system mirroring a natural process. Dubbed the "brick and mortar" method, the sea urchin spine especially demonstrates this by alternating layers of hard crystalline with soft calcium carbonate. In this design, impact may indeed crack an outer layer, but the force is redistributed and nullified through a softer layer working in tandem with its counterpart. Applied to the make-up of cement, Colfen and his research team were able to produce samples showing "a value of 200 megapascals." The report continues:
"By comparison: Mussel shells, which are the gold standard in fracture-resistance, reach a value of 210 megapascals, which is only slightly higher. The concrete commonly used today has a value of two to five megapascals." 
Sea Urchin spines have served as inspiration before in the science community. In fact, a Chinese university published their findings in March in how the spines can be used to advance bone repair in humans. In the world of raw materials, cement being restructured to exponentially withstand impact like this opens vast potential for construction and architecture possibilities. Traditional limits in structural integrity may be rendered obsolete, and reorganizing materials on the microscopic level before they even reach the stage of sale could demand a completely new type of technological infrastructure in the industry. It is all just another reminder that while Mother Nature gets overlooked, she rarely is improved upon.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bionic Boots Prove The Potential in Amateur Manufacturing

Keahi Seymour shows off his years-long creation at the Worlds Fair Nano (via Inverse)
For lessons in the patience required of entrepreneurship, look no further than Keahi Seymour. All the way back in 2014 at the Maker Faire, Seymour was showing off his bionic boots prototype to interested spectators and potential investors alike. At the recent Worlds Fair Nano in New York City, Seymour was still at it, giving demonstrations to curious onlookers and interviews to assigned press. From a shortsighted perspective, Seymour's invention, boots that mirror an ostrich's muscle structure to achieve speeds up to 25 mph, can be seen as a market burnout. While able to be purchased on Amazon, the product does not seem to have picked up speed from any major capital investment since Seymour's demonstration in 2014. If he has any major buyers looking to assist his goal of three price-tiers for different customers, Seymour hasn't been forthright about it.

In the bigger picture, however, it would be wiser to view the gigantic potential in Seymour's design. The current prototype, the X17, is made out of a variety of carbon composite materials: materials that become cheaper over the years as more efficient methods are developed in making them.  Not to mention, as more and more urban areas realign their transportation landscapes to compensate for overpopulation and an automated future, the less a vehicle takes up shared space on the road, the better. The X-17 not only has the advantage of shifting from roads to sidewalks, but the user doesn't need to look for a parking spot, or even find a place to lock it up. They can store these boots in the office.

Of course, any potential product needing expensive materials such as titanium and carbon fiber will be a pretty penny to bring to mass retail. Seymour has claimed in an interview with Inverse, though, that he sees lower price grade versions of his bionic boots being made with cheaper materials. He has also said in the past the same power can be replicated using traditional parts such as springs and actuators. These are not above the realm of an average American manufacturer, and Seymour is convinced this X-17 is ready for just that. If his boots are, indeed, introduced into the consumer transportation and leisure market, it may be one of many oncoming trends of crowd-sourced robotics coming to fruition.

You can track updates from Seymour about his bionic boots here at his website.

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Virtual Reality Hits the R&D Lab

Through many eras, the toys of past, with advances in technology, often turn into the tools of the present. Nowhere is there a better current example of this than the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Normally associated with entertainment culture and the gaming world, VR/AR tech has found a valuable role in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

In a recent announcement, global firm AECOM and tech corporation HTC, pledged to jointly develop and produce virtual reality technology designed for mass architecture, engineering, and construction efforts. Although the announcement revolves around HTC's Vive software and brand new VIVE-FOCUS headset, exclusive to the Chinese market, it is indicative of a trend the US has shared for some time.

US manufacturers have already demonstrated not only an openness towards VR integration, but real-time transformation, as well. In a survey back in 2015, PWC found roughly one-third of manufacturers had planned or were already adopting VR/AR equipment for their daily product development and design. The use is only increasing, so much so that North American companies like Fleetway Inc. employ virtual reality for all its marine and navy architecture concept designs.

Ford Motors was utilizing VR even back in 2012
The advantages of VR/AR in manufacturing exist in the cost and time effectiveness. Creating VR models an engineer can interact with reveals potential design and application flaws that would cost tremendous amounts of money and effort even at the prototype stage. In addition, demonstrations for potential investment partners are exponentially more informative and impacting than a PowerPoint presentation.

As a new industrial model adapts to smart data and lightning-fast information exchange, simple but efficient development and research will be crucial. VR/AR technology was once thought of as a novel way to spend free-time, but it may soon prove invaluable to the serious business of moving America into 21st century manufacturing. 

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rise of The Microgrid

A basic Microgrid design (c/o
With global instability on the uptick in multiple ways, many industries are reconsidering even the most basic of traditional models. The recent horrors Hurricanes like Maria and Irma inflicted exposed the fragility of the standard energy grid, and proved that, while the US national grid may not be as vulnerable to natural disaster everywhere, it could very well need to adapt in order to survive.

In this context, the microgrid as an option can be seen as a national asset. Microgrids, a largely American phenomenon so far (almost 54% of all microgrid systems are in the US),  are site-specific energy infrastructures designed to work within the greater energy grid while also functioning independently. Moreover, because they are designed to distribute energy locally, microgrids do not lose as much in transmission, and so are very cost-efficient.  Most microgrids are also designed for flexible integration, so as technology improves, they can adopt innovative models without needing to be remade, which usually results in costly shutdowns for traditional grid services.  

At the recent COP23 Conference in Bonn, Germany, microgrids were a chief interest among investors and government officials, alike. Pittsburgh Mayor Joe Peduto represented his city’s brugeoning microgrid community, which has demonstrated itself as quite ahead of other areas of the field. While still in development, the existing microgrid, created and implemented at the nearby University of Pittsburgh engineering department, has already been planned to complement other nearby microgrids, resulting in a chain system. This design is ideal for a mid-sized city like Pittsburgh, which may see population and business fluctuation in an uncertain future, and can unlink or link its multiple energy grids with ease, depending on demand.

In addition, microgrid technology has the extra advantage of being an ideal line of defense against cyberwarfare. Because of their flexibility within the larger grid, microgrids can be both connected and disconnected- a process called “islanding”- when cybersecurity compromises the integrity of national systems. With this in mind, defense interests have a good reason to consider how to assist in quick and efficient microgrid integration.

The success of microgrids in natural disasters has alreadybeen demonstrated in the past few months. While Puerto Rico and St. Croix continue with majority power loss, other Carribbean islands that were already implementing microgrid technology had working water and electricity the day after Maria passed them by. St. Eustatius made good use of its 4 megawatts of solar energy as well as battery storage and inverter infrastructure. Necker Island (home to Virgin Group owner Richard Branson) was also able to sustain damage from Hurricane Irma, even to its solar panels, due to its state-of-the-art microgrid.
Necker Island's Microgrid

As America looks forward, the idea of the small-scale model seems more and more beneficial for businesses looking to revitalize communities sooner rather than later. The microgrid not only already benefits from a proven track record, but a climate of necessity, as well.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Story of Rotor Clip and Mr. Slass

Americans take pride in their work. It is what defines us and makes us grow in our society. We learn, educate and pass the torch to future generations, so that they may be endowed with the same values and ethics that previous generations held. This isn’t to say that every country doesn’t take pride in their work; rather it exemplifies the American dream and spirit. One man who resembled these characteristics perfectly was Robert Slass, founder of Rotor Clip Company. He was a brilliant man, who over the years shaped Rotor Clip into the world leader it is today-leader in the production of retaining rings, wave springs, self-compensating hose clamps and other related products. For those who knew him best, he was a man of passion and fiercely believed in American Capitalism being a force for good in this country. It is because of him that Rotor Clip stands today at 60 years old. Through the years, he implemented creative ideas and trends that established prominence in the manufacturing industry and helped expand his company. Through his hard work and dedication, he created a company that is now celebrating 6 decades of life.                                                                   
In today’s fast moving world, many companies are bought out, merged, or simply forced out of business: their identity and uniqueness taken from them and thrown into a melting pot. While this is common, it doesn’t mean it is right. Also, one thing is for certain; if Robert Slass were still around today, he would have none of it. He believed in everyone coming to work happy and feeling secure in their job. He encouraged employees to do their best work and be passionate about what they were doing. Though he was described as a little demanding, he inspired his workers to take pride in the company they worked for and encouraged them that everyone had a function in the machine. His establishment of Rotor Clip is capitalism at its finest; providing meaningful jobs for a variety of people with varying skills and educations levels and give them the opportunity to live the American Dream. Bob wanted his employees to feel like he felt; a man with purpose and total devotion to the company he built and the vision to expand and do better.                                                                                                                                                                          
When Rotor Clip opened its doors in 1957, it was in a small 2000 square foot facility in Farmingdale, New York. Bob bought used equipment and refurbished it and he bought broken stamping presses and replaced them with custom models, using parts from other machines. For a majority of the first few years, Robert experimented with retaining rings from strips of steel and determined they would produce little waste and help the customer save on costs. Back in the 1950s, it was common for men to start businesses in garages and American corporations would buy from them. After World War 2, these open spaces and garages were the foundation of innovation, where ideas could be tested and perfected with minimal amount of investment. Some of these companies that originated in small spaces would end up becoming leaders in their industries, like Rotor Clip. Robert Slass was one of those lucky men who created something out of this small work space. 


If you analyze the story of Rotor Clip Company and Robert Slass, it is one of innovation and vision. Robert understood that in order to stay in business, he had to adjust to the times. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were many movements in the automotive industry; Toyota, Honda and Nissan emerged as leaders, overtaking Ford and GM, and companies like Samsung were producing and selling more electronics than American brands like Magnavox. The world was becoming more global and Bob knew that as an engineer, he had to demonstrate to manufacturers why Rotor Clip’s retaining rings, instead of traditional fasteners, could result in significant savings without sacrificing quality and reliability. The response was very positive, as many automotive manufacturers began to use retaining rings on several of their part components. Our company has been at the forefront of this trend for several decades, and the product and process improvements that were pioneered and implemented by Robert Slass are still serving the global marketplace today.                                                                                             
Looking back at the 80s, Japan was emerging as an economic powerhouse and an innovator of products and services. Japanese companies had a strong advantage in selling everything from automobiles to consumer electronics and these greatly threatened American companies. As all of this unfolded, Bob Slass watched closely, as he was concerned by companies who had been in business for several years in America suddenly sell out or go bankrupt. He knew then that Rotor Clip had to adjust to the Japanese manufacturing process. In 1980, he bought a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) vertical machining center to speed up production of die sets that held the tools to stamp retaining rings. With the CNC machine, retaining rings were produced with high accuracy in a much shorter time. Also, in 1987, he utilized Wire EDM machines, so that his retaining rings could be produced at incredible accuracy. All of this was done in an effort to compete with the Japanese market and Mr. Slass always had a plan in the back of his mind. He managed to find ways to produce rings at a much faster rate and also with immense precision and accuracy. Robert Slass eventually began construction on the facility that is now the company headquarters in Somerset, NJ. It still stands strong today; a testament to Bob’s life’s work. 


For those who knew Mr. Slass, they wouldn’t have a bad thing to say about him. He was a man with vision and passion for his work. He built things with his bare hands, and was always there with his workers through it all. He encouraged his employees to be innovative and ask questions and always be involved in what he was doing. He resembled all the qualities of a great leader; similar to the company he created. Rotor Clip stands today at 60 years old, as one of the last great manufacturing leaders in the United States. Just like manufacturing was at the forefront of the American economy during the Industrial Revolution, Rotor Clip still stands based on that foundation and hard work. I think we all owe a special thank you to Mr. Slass for a wonderful 60 years.

Justin Arbadji is a Marketing Assistant for Rotor Clip Company Inc.