3D or not 3D…


The clever Dutch, not content with taming the waters of the North Sea, are now building a 3D printed pedestrian bridge, to be installed in Amsterdam. I do have a bit of a conceptual problem with 3D printing – I can only imagine a big manufacturing box with 3D printers working like crazy. But no, apparently it’s not like that.

The design studio leading the work says its six-axis robot printers are capable of printing objects of almost any size. Rather than being restricted by need to print within a machine, the MX3D bots move around the work being printed. So yes you can build a bridge (or anything really) with 3D printing. It’s due to be completed and installed later this year, or early 2019, so look out for that.

If you are in Holland…

at the moment, you can go to the far north and cross the Afsluitdijk, a 20 mile long causeway that separates the North Sea from fresh water Holland.


As well as being a great bit of geography, it’s now been enhanced by the Gates of Light artworks, which shield the entrance at both ends.



It’s a good cycle ride as well, of course on a separate cycleway, and there’s a mid-point café if needed. The cycle path is further up the dyke that the road, so you do get good views.


I started on the eastern side by cycling through Friesland which is delightful, full of tiny villages with great cafes. So I just turned around in Den Oever (on the west) and returned the same way.

Coda: I recognised the original “To be or not to be, that is the question” quote as being from Hamlet but couldn’t really remember the rest of the text, so a few google and Wikipedia pages later I am more informed. But I also learnt that what I was doing with the title was a “Snowclone”. So now you know.


Art on a Wall

Sometimes you see something and you think, that’s clever. Well the Scribit Robot is just that. Designed by a team including Carlo Ratti, an Italian architect and somewhat renaissance figure, this device allows users to personalise their walls with digital artwork. And then replace that artwork whenever they like. More prosaically it can do menu boards and anything else that requires printing.

The Scribit Robot

This clever concept is going to be crowdfunded later this year, so either it will be a great success or it will slowly slide away into oblivion and we will be none the wiser. So is it a genius idea with brilliant potential or just an expensive design concept that should have been kept in-house, what’s your view?

As big as a Bus….or Bigger!

The GE9X Engine (the larger one!)

This new video of a massive aircraft engine, the new GE9X, had me enthralled. As well as being neatly produced, it reveals that a wealth of parts are being produced by 3D printing.

I’m just fascinated by large structural things, be they buildings, bridges or boats. They don’t even have to start with a “B” either!

Most aircraft have 4 engines, or a quartet  but maybe this engine is so powerful it only needs two engines per aircraft. Or maybe that’s a new style, three normal sized engines and one massive one. An engineering marvel.

New Themes

I’ve been so focused on writing my blogs that its only now that I have reviewed how it actually looks. I have used EDIN as my blog template, which I initially selected as I liked its clean lines and text. I took some time to learn, Gingerly , how to customise the sidebar and footers to fit my theme. There were a few things I wanted to look at improving, modifying the header image, having my blog title visible on the actual header if possible, while keeping features like displaying the sidebars, the about me page, and showing images in the blogs.

Original EDIN theme

My approach was to use the facility in “WP admin” to select a new theme and make it active, changing my blog theme, which immediately shows the main features on the existing content. This way it was easy to visually see themes that didn’t look “right”. This excludes templates that only show blog excerpts, those “read more” types , or didn’t show an image. This still left quite a few templates that seemed OK. It would have been nice at this stage to be able to see blogs that had used these templates, but with the rare exception that doesn’t seem to be available, not surprising as I don’t know how to show what template I’m using on my own blog!.

So it was back to ploughing through a short list of templates, and finally reducing these to two options, Dara and Independent Publisher. They seemed to do all that I wanted, so I saved the Dara theme and started to review what the website looked like.

DARA theme

With “Dara” I seemed to have border edges which I hadn’t noticed on the template, and the “about me” seemed a bit less clear. I also thought that while the text looked fine for short text, taken for the entire blog it didn’t look that pleasing.

So I loaded “Independent Publisher”. Because in all of these themes you can customise them, its sometimes hard to work out what is the best template for your blog and what will be the best-looking one once you have done a lot of editing and customising. So far I am happy with this one and looking forward to making some further changes and seeing how that goes.

What’s your favourite blog and blog theme?

Floating windfarms?

statoil hywind

Love them or loathe them, wind power is growing as an energy source for us here in the UK. Wind Turbines (those tall white things that look like modern windmills) currently generate about 12% of our electricity and is set to grow to 20% by 2020. Currently over half of that is generated by on shore wind farms, but more investment is now heading towards building large off shore wind farms, and this should see off-shore wind contribute much more to that capacity.

The latest innovative concept to take shape is the world’s first floating wind farm, off the east coast of Scotland. The Hywind £200m project initially seems far-fetched, but the pioneering technology could open up a whole new development in renewable energy.



So how big is this industry?

Well, the world’s largest off shore windfarm is being built off the Yorkshire coast. Hornsea 2 is being built after nearby Hornsea 1, and this multimillion-pound project will see 300 turbines, each taller than the Gherkin, span more than 480 sq km in the North Sea. It is expected to deliver 1800 MW of energy, enough to power 1.8m UK homes. Dong Energy, a Copenhagen-based company responsible for many off shore wind farms, and working on this project, recently floated for £10B on its recent stock flotation. And the world’s largest wind turbines have just gone live off Liverpool.

So this technology is important. Wind energy as part of the renewable energy industry (this includes the likes of wind, solar, biomass and marine sources, like the proposed Swansea Tidal Lagoon) provided about 26% of the UK’s electrical needs in 2015, and is set to grow to 30% by 2020. While there can be criticism of their looks, and where they are placed, the biggest barriers are the cost of developing them and the cost of the power they generate.

A recent Mckinsey report suggests that these barriers are being eroded….

For many years, 3- to 4-megawatt turbines were standard; now 8- to 10-megawatt models are common, and by 2024, 13- to 15-megawatt models will likely hit the market. This reduces the cost per megawatt. Even as turbines have become larger, they have also become better. In the 1990s, the expected lifetime of offshore wind parks was only 15 years; now it is closer to 25 years, and new sites project an operational lifetime of 30 years.





Airlander in the air

Anyone driving along the A421 near Bedford, England will wonder what are those two massive buildings that sit just off the road, but at enough distance to be near-unrecognisable. The locals know that what were once derelict giant ex-aircraft hangers are now hubs of industry. Being near enough to Bletchley Park, and with numerous active military airfields nearby, maybe there is a reluctance to let on what goes on there. But now all is revealed. It’s an airship

It is Big, And it is clever (hopefully). And apparently its not an airship, as it is not lighter than air! Watch the video for a few minutes in and you will see the giant airlander get inflated like a child’s beach toy, you can tell this is English technology! Interesting background and story. The actual company making this, have an interesting website for more information. There are some fascinating images of the Cardington Hangers and related pictures of RAF stations and equipment. And of course next door they filming Superman!

Too fast for Solar Impulse

Still way too fast for the Solar Impulse – The cycling world hour record has been broken. Bradley Wiggins completed 54.526km (33.88 miles)in the long-awaited attempt at Lea Valley in the UK. Beating the previous recent record held by fellow cyclist Alex Dowsett, who had done 52.937km (32.89 miles) back in May. So that’s it for a while.

And no it wasn’t all downhill!

It’s a gas

Gasometers, love em or hate ’em they soon won’t be here anymore. Curiously when they were operational they were (imho) a bluddy eyesore. Once they were emptied and stripped to a bare skeletal form they developed an empathy within the area, and developed a personality favoured like so much of our beloved Victorian structures.

This didn’t preserve these huge structures, even if the remaining structure looked, well structural, the resulting hoarding remained an eyesore. But posterity still remembers these great structures even if they no longer remain in situ.


DRONES. A bit like mobile phones, once they start to become ubiquitous you know a trend is happening. I’ve seen a few and although there is a concern about where they are, where they go and what they do it, looks like they are here now.

The drones can provide astonishing images although with a limited battery and most flights measured in minutes, these quality images may be the exception rather than the rule.

The plethora of boys-own type names like DJI Phantom 2, Parrot AR.Drone 2.0, Blade 350 QX suggests some are boys toys. But not the really big boys toys, that’s the preserve of the military. According to Wiki these are “An unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as a combat drone or drone, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is usually armed. Aircraft of this type have no onboard human pilot. Drones are usually under real-time human control, with “the human’s role in UCAV system [varying] according to levels of autonomy of UCAV and data communication requirement.” So now you know.

But when they can be used to generate such great content like this delightful tracking of a cycle journey set in Vancouver, Canada, what’s not to like about drones.