Fabbing eyeglasses and Morse Code fail in the Steel City.

16 July 2009

Something that’s fascinated me for a while (if you’ve been been keeping an eye on my blog for any length of time) is rapid prototyping, or the use of automated systems to build modular components by laying down successive layers of plastic, ceramic, or other materials. While the technology has not advanced sufficiently to make it truly useful to end users (i.e., your grandmother won’t be using one to make a new coffee mug anytime soon) it’s a subject of heavy development right now and the state of the art is advancing every day. For example, Will Langford of Tufts University recently used a Makerbot 3D printer to print out a pair of eyeglasses for himself. They’re big and clunky by design because they were inspired by the shades of such folks as Cory Doctorow and Bre Pettis but filtered through a first attempt. Langford broke the design down into seven basic parts, glued them together, and used paper clips to join the hinges. He says that his next attempt will be more lens-friendly (and thus more practical). If nothing else they’d make a great pair of safety glasses for the lab.

If you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh chances are you’ve seen the Grant Building in the center of the city. At night the beacon upon its rooftop can be seen from the highways which circle around the city and especially from the top of Mount Washington after sunset. For years it’s been known that the beacon blinks in Morse Code; folklore had it that the beacon spelled out ‘PITTSBURGH’ and probably most just took it as granted.

There’s just one thing: it doesn’t actually blink out ‘PITTSBURGH. Nobody really knows how long it’s been blinking “P-I-T-E-T-S-B-K-R-R-H”.

Gotta love the Steel City.