Several works were developed for the Is Technology Eating My Brain? exhibition:
Several works were developed for the Is Technology Eating My Brain? exhibition:
My residency-exhibition Is Technology Eating My Brain? at Watermans Arts Centre Brentford West London is going well. The project is based on my Wrekshop idea. The principle consists of installing an e-waste upcycling unit in a gallery space, opening it to voluntary participants and build exhibits over the period.
The residency part of Is Technology Eating My Brain? at Watermans Arts Centre has concluded with a launch on 15th May. Visitors had a chance to mingle among a Geranium Survival Unit, a Slicing Photo-Booth, eat French style radish snacks (raw with a chunk of butter and some salt), play tunes on a pedal-powered sound system provided by Pedal PA.
Other works include the techeatbrain Litany, a growing list of “Technology is…” statements read by a speech synthesizer running on an old PC retrofitted with Linux Crunchbang and espeak. Visitors can enter statements to the list which was started by myself and participant Toby Lynch. The soundscape is completed by an audio mix of atmos sounds I recorded in Australia and Japan.
Participants Jason Scording and Bobby Neighbour contributed greatly to the Big E-Waste Helmet of Tomorrow, a bulky just-about-wearable headset featuring mobile photographic eyes made of hacked 2 megapixel vintage-ish cameras. The Slicing Photo-Booth was programmed on Raspberry Pi by Vagmakr. Eugenie Smit put together a delicate assembly of small devices triggering one another (see below).
The exhibition runs until June 3rd
I have been using basic 3d printers since 2011, starting with a Thing-o-matic by Makerbot, then a couple of UP3D machines. They use plastic filament, mostly made of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), the same material used to make Lego bricks, or polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic derived from corn starch or other renewable bio-materials. The filament is generally made from virgin plastic (ie: not recycled), purchased ready-spooled and in various colours.
The frequent use of a 3D printer has a common side-effect: the production of a significant amount of faulty parts and temporary support structures, without even counting in the endless tat spewed out by the little machines in the guise of Yoda heads, clumsy plastic jewellery, door knobs that don’t quite work…
Additionally ABS plastic perfectly suitable for printing can be found in the casings of many consumer electronic items, car bumpers, fridge door compartments, lego bricks, luggage etc… The problem is how to turn this abundant source of potentially upcyclable material into suitable filament. The most spectacular and impressively robust use of recycled ABS in a 3D printer is Endless, a project by Dutch designer Dirk van der Kooij based on a modified robotic arm.
The search for an environmentally friendly solution to the needs of desktop 3D printers is underway. The Filabot was probably the first attempt for an open-source solution allowing both the re-use of discarded prints and of recycled plastics. Filabot is now providing a commercially available grinder, the Reclaimer, as well as different models of filament extruders.
Other commercial designs include and the Strudittle and the Filastruder. Open source designs can be found on the Recyclebot website. Joshua Pearce from Michichan Technological University made the news in 2013 for his recycling of milk jugs using a Recyclebot v2.2, design available on Thingiverse. Beyond the fact that high-density polyethylene, or HDPE (the plastic milk jugs are made of) retracts dimensionally while cooling, the recycling of plastics presents the inconvenient that polymer chains do break down in smaller chains each time the plastic is melted, thus weakening the material and limiting the amount of useable cycles.
Filastruder recommends a pellet size of no more than 5mm width in any dimension for use with their machine. I experimented briefly with an office paper shredder and some of my discarded prints. The coarse plastic fragments I collected are not suitable for a small extruder, and the shredder struggled to cut anything thicker than 2mm.
In November 2013 the UK based techfortrade charity launched the Ethical Filament Foundation, an initiative aiming to reduce plastic waste in developing countries while providing income to deprived populations. Their vision: ” We believe that there is an opportunity to create an environmentally friendly and ethically produced filament alternative to meet the needs of the rapidly growing 3D Printing market. We also believe that by doing this we could potentially open up a new market for value added products that can be produced by waste picker groups in low income countries.The foundation is working on a manufacturing and quality standard “.
I visited Access Space in Sheffield, where I enjoyed a two days crash training in using the command line and shell scripts in Linux. Initiated by James Wallbank and the Redundant Technology Initiative group in 2000, Access Space is arguably the first open source/community computing creative technology labs in the UK. The space is open several days per week, with two main areas: the Media Lab where visitors can access a Linux workstation for web access, design, programming, etc. A code-protected door opens on the Refab Space which hosts the digital fabrication machines (laser cutter, CNC router, several rep rap 3D printers), a lot of recycled computing gear and several solid workbenches.
During my stay I saw lots of activity in both areas, including a Sheffield Hardware Hackers meeting (every monday 6pm), and the laser cutter was pretty much always busy.
James is a great host, busy with many projects including his latest business adventure Infinite Crypt. He is always keen to share on topics of technological accessibility, community development and techno-social trends. I recorded an audio interview where he gives us his insight on Access Space and thoughts on the opportunities offered by digital fabrication technologies.
Interview with James Wallbank in Access Space Sheffield, 26th February 2014
I am gradually getting to grips with the Raspberry Pi, and I have stumbled upon a great online/hardcopy resource called The Magpi.
Currently at issue #20, The Magpi started in 2012 to deliver a monthly selection of articles written by enthusiasts about various Raspberry projects, features, and culture. All the issues are available online, and are a perfect repository for beginners and intermediate Rpi eaters.
The feel, layout and content of the magazine bring back a community based DIY computing spirit very close to that of the 1980s, which I guess the Raspberry Pi initiative is very inspired by.
The Magpi is currently running a kickstarter campaign, already 341% funded with 13 days to go!
Yet another attempt at moving away from the macwindroid world, as I am totally, in principle, pro open-source, gnu libre linux big corps get your greedy finger off my (raspberry) pie.
But, having tried a couple of times to run linux on the PCs in my studio (red hat linux in 2005, ubuntu in 2009) and finding myself booting back into windows after a couple of days/weeks, I eventually regained the hard drive space and removed the linux partitions.
Perhaps re-motivated after seeing Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, speak at Lincoln University in October, I started looking around once more for a linux distribution (distros, as they are called in linux world, are variations on the linux operating system). This time I decided to install it on my main computer, a 2009 macbook pro. I tried ubuntu which I found too bloated, trying too hard to be user friendly, which it is only to a certain extent. I tried kubuntu, puppy, and finally settled on crunchbang (aka #!), a debian variation with a nice-stripped down, no messing around feel, a sort of geeky elegance I liked (screenshot of crunchbang’s default desktop below).
Furthermore, I was at the same time taking my first steps with a raspberry pi running Raspbian, another Debian distribution which I found rather pleasant to use. All went rather well, I first installed rEFIt on my macbook, a small app allowing choice of operating system at startup. Then I installed crunchbang from a downloaded install DVD, a straightforward business.
Almost all is running fine, but I am still not using crunchbang much. The reason is that after spending hours tweaking the parameters on the crunchbang trackpad controller (synclient) I never managed to match the smooth, transparent control offered by the mac version. I feel distanciated and frustrated when I use the machine under crunchbang. The human-machine interface all of a sudden becomes clumsy, making the machine unfriendly. It is a pain to have to use a mouse on a computer fitted with such a good trackpad.
Not giving up yet, I installed Crunchbang on an older macbook, a white plastic one from 2006. This one has a rough clickpad to start with, and it responded very well to the installation. All is working, even the sleep function (which does not work on the macbook pro).
I am going to get two days of training with real pros, the guys at Access Space in Sheffield. They have been running Linux on recycled PCs for more than a decade, training and converting many users to the joys and pains of open source computing. I will take my crunchbanged laptop up to their lab and hopefully get the beam of dark light I still need to make a more committed step into gnu-linux. In return for the training I shall deliver a robotic workshop to Access Space users in the near future. Watch this (access) space…