Shared posts

10 Jun 12:45

How MIT Is Hacking Thousands Of Worms To Print Buildings

by Mark Wilson

Leveraging a biological swarm of silkworms, MIT has constructed a beautiful pavilion that questions the very nature of 3-D printing.

We think of 3-D printers as desktop machines, stagnant workhorses used to generate piecemeal shapes for humans to relocate in the real world. But a new, stunning piece of architecture by the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab brings all of those assumptions into question.

It’s called the Silk Pavilion, and while a robotic arm laid the basic hexagonal framework, 6,500 live silkworms extruded the pavilion’s hauntingly gorgeous shell. It’s what researchers call a “biological swarm approach to 3-D printing,” or what may be the most epicly named piece of fabrication technology since the blowtorch. You see, while silkworms have been used for millennia to give us our beloved silk, that process has always required a level of harvesting--boiling cocoons to generate silk filament. MIT has discovered how to manipulate the worms to shape silk for us natively.

“The silkworm embodies everything an additive fabrication system currently lacks,” Mediated Matter’s director Neri Oxman tells Co.Design. “It’s small in size and mobile in movement, it produces natural material of variable mechanical properties, and it spins a non-homogeneous, non-woven textile-like structure.”

Silkworms embody everything an additive fabrication system currently lacks.

Why would you want the printing to be non-homogeneous? That’s a good question. Imagine if you were constructing a building, but you wanted to leave room for a window. Or imagine you were sewing a shirt, but you wanted the elbows to be more flexible than cuffs. By exploiting biological hacks--tweaking light, heat, and basic geometric scaffolding--researchers can guide the worms to create the intricate and varied patterns necessary to complex creations.

The most immediate implications may be in the potential for a “templated swarm” approach, which I picture as a factory producing a line of clothing just by releasing silkworms across a series of worm-hacking mannequins. But the silkworms’ greater potential may be in sheer scale.

“Imagine the future of additive manufacturing outside of the printer’s gantry, imagine a swarm of small-scale printing units collaborating to ‘print’ something bigger than themselves,” Oxman writes. “Future research aims to unite 3-D Printing with Artificial Intelligence to generate printing swarms operating in architectural scales depositing structural materials.”

In other words, a biological swarm can break outside the bounds of even the largest 3-D printer, building structures in their actual environments. Now combine that idea with another discovery the researchers made when producing the pavilion: The 6,500 silkworms were still viable after finishing construction. They actually pupate into moths (on the structure), and those moths can produce 1.5 million eggs. That’s enough to theoretically supply what the worms need to create another 250 pavilions.

In this sense, the silkworm fabrication process becomes self-propagating, like a 3-D printer that can print itself with all the virulence of an insect colony. And while that may sound a little horrifying, do try to keep in mind: At least MIT isn’t working with spiders.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Dezeen]

    


05 Jun 18:53

The one thing that makes a company last forever

by Commentary
IBM's slogan: Smarter together.

All companies hit rough patches from time to time. But only a few manage to survive decade after decade—some of them in a form that bears no resemblance to the original organization. Nokia began in 1865 as a riverside paper mill along the Tammerkoski Rapids in southwestern Finland. In the late 1880s, Johnson & Johnson got its start by manufacturing the first commercial sterile surgical dressings and first-aid kits. And in 1924, the founder of Toyota came out with his company’s first invention, wood pulp mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids—an automatic loom.

What explains this longevity? Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Charles O’Reilly calls it “organizational ambidexterity,” the ability of a company to manage its current business while simultaneously preparing for changing conditions. “You often see successful organizations failing, and it’s not obvious why they should fail,” O’Reilly says. The reason, he says, is that a strategy that had been successful within the context of a particular time and place may suddenly be all wrong once the world changes.

Staying competitive, then, means changing what you’re doing. But the change can’t be an abrupt switch from old to new—from print to digital distribution, say, or from selling products to selling services—if that means abandoning a business that’s still profitable. Hence the call for ambidexterity. You can’t just choose between exploiting your current opportunities and exploring new ones; you have to do both. And the companies that last for decades are able to do so time and time again.

O’Reilly’s work builds on that of other organizational scholars who have noted the value of a two-pronged survival strategy. In a seminal paper published in 1991, Stanford professor James March wrote about the need for organizations to do two things at once, and articulated the challenge. “Both exploration and exploitation are essential for organizations,” March wrote, “but they compete for scarce resources.” That means organizations that try to do both face difficult trade-offs, choosing one only at the expense of the other. Harvard professor Clayton Christensen went a step further, pointing out in The Innovator’s Dilemma in 2011 that the very things that make an organization successful today will actually work against it as conditions change. It’s not just that resting on your laurels is tempting, or that managers are blind to the changes around them. Rather, innovation can easily seem like a threat to a business that is already working well.

When Christensen wrote The Innovator’s Dilemma, he saw no way out, O’Reilly says, except to spin out the innovative part of the organization. According to that approach, the best way for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, to cope with the advent of internet retailing was to continue to focus on its brick-and-mortar stores and to spin off website Walmart.com as a separate company, as it did in 2000.

But a spinoff doesn’t really solve the problem, O’Reilly says, because it doesn’t help Wal-Mart make money in the long run. A better way, his research suggests, is to run the mature business alongside the newer business under the same organization—but, crucially, to do it in a way that makes smart use of the organization’s resources.

A good model is the way in which Wal-Mart is rolling out its Express stores, the much smaller alternatives to the company’s behemoth supercenters and among its best hopes for continued growth. This venture, which is moving in on the turf occupied by the likes of CVS and Walgreen, seems likely to pay off, O’Reilly says, because Wal-Mart’s senior managers aren’t merely moving into a new, related business; they’re leveraging “the strengths of the mother ship” to do so. For Wal-Mart, those strengths are in real estate, purchasing, logistics, and information technology—all capabilities that will be useful in the drugstore business, too.

Christensen, O’Reilly says, now sees ambidexterity as the solution to the innovator’s dilemma, but not everybody does. The idea that organizations can reshape themselves to adapt to change runs counter to a decades-old tradition in organizational studies that says, in effect, that organizational survival is a matter of luck. That school of thought, influenced by evolutionary theory and known as organizational ecology, holds that the companies that survive today are products of natural selection. These organizations have the right features to thrive in their current environment, organizational ecologists say, but sooner or later, the environment is bound to change. And if it changes in ways that favor a different set of traits, the argument goes, an individual business can’t adapt any more than a zebra can change its stripes.

That view is too fatalistic, O’Reilly believes, because it ignores managers’ power to learn and change. If Wal-Mart is continuing to grow while Sears is in decline, it’s because Wal-Mart’s leaders are deliberately doing the right things.

O’Reilly and his colleagues, especially his close collaborator Michael Tushman, of Harvard Business School, have found what some of those things are. Above all, an ambidextrous organization needs a leader with an “overarching vision,” or clarity about why different businesses within the organization are important. But their research also shows that problems arise when other senior managers disagree with that vision. Therefore, the leader must also “make sure that everybody is singing off the same hymnal,” O’Reilly says.

Managers must make sure their organizations actually align with that vision, as well—a difficult feat, given that different business units’ cultures and incentives might be tugging them in different directions.

The best leaders manage to pull it off. One example is Glen Bradley, who in the early 1990s led Ciba Vision, a maker of contact lenses that was losing ground to Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson had the economies of scale to defeat Ciba Vision in the market for conventional lenses, so Bradley redirected his organization’s resources toward developing innovations, such as contacts that people could wear while sleeping. At the time, the concept of extended-wear contact lenses was to conventional contacts what digital photography had been to Kodak’s film business: If successful, many feared, the new product would kill the old one.

To make clear why the old business should support the exploratory projects, Bradley crafted a new vision for the entire company: “Healthy Eyes for Life,” a statement whose breadth conveys the idea that the company should pursue whatever technologies and opportunities they had to promote healthy eyes. To forestall conflicts over resources, he set up a separate organization for each project, each with its own research and development, marketing, and finance group, and each headed by a leader given free rein to create the right culture to meet that organization’s goals.

At the same time, Bradley wanted to make sure the new projects benefited from the expertise of the old business, so he put all of them under the control of a single executive, who knew the old business and had the personal relationships to facilitate sharing across divisional boundaries. Bradley also revamped the company’s incentive systems, to reward managers mainly for the performance of Ciba Vision as a whole. Thanks to these efforts, the new project teams became remarkably productive: Besides new types of contact lenses, Ciba Vision successfully introduced a drug to fight eye disease and pioneered a manufacturing process that greatly reduced the cost of making lenses. In the first 10 years after Bradley’s move to ambidexterity, the company’s annual revenues grew from $300 million to more than $1 billion.

Ciba’s experience shows that with deft ambidextrous leadership, an underdog can stand up to a powerful rival. But Johnson & Johnson could have done what Ciba did. We often think of large organizations as lumbering bureaucracies incapable of swift change, a notion perpetuated by highly visible David-and-Goliath stories in business. (Think Netflix trouncing Blockbuster, which had years to respond to the little company with the red mailers.) In fact, large companies are often better-positioned for ambidexterity than small ones, O’Reilly says, because one bad bet won’t wipe them out. “If you’re a small company, you place all your chips on this one thing, whereas a large organization can do lots of experiments,” he explains.

IBM, an organization that O’Reilly has studied extensively (and for which he and Tushman have consulted), is a case in point. In 2000, the company’s leaders, acknowledging that running their existing businesses with incremental improvements wasn’t enough to grow revenue, launched a project to foster more exploration. Called Emerging Business Opportunities, the initiative might sound like just another stuffy big-company acronym. But reading O’Reilly’s descriptions of the EBOs makes them look almost like startups within Big Blue, with each reporting to a division head and to the head of new growth opportunities—somewhat the way entrepreneurs remain accountable to their funders. Like actual startups, some of these organizations failed to bear fruit. But there were enough of them (seven in the beginning) that in the first five years alone, the EBOs added $15.2 billion to IBM’s top line, O’Reilly and his colleagues report, or more than twice as much as acquisitions did.

A recent study by O’Reilly and colleagues suggests that while IBM’s experience was extraordinary, the company does have something in common with other thriving organizations. The researchers looked specifically at what type of corporate culture was associated with growth in revenue and net income, and found that more adaptive cultures, or ones that emphasized speed and experimentation, did much better. “A culture that says, ‘We don’t have all the answers; we’ve got to try these experiments’—that’s the type of culture that promotes ambidexterity.”

What determines the ideal balance between exploration and exploitation is one of the big open questions in the research on ambidextrous organizations. It’s safe to say, though, that the right amount of experimentation has much to do not only with a company’s resources, but also with the pace of change in its industry. “If the industry isn’t changing rapidly, doing 100 experiments is unproductive and expensive. But if you don’t do experiments, you’re likely to be in trouble if the industry is changing.”

This piece was originally published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has been reprinted with permission. Follow the school on Twitter at @StanfordBiz

Marina Krakovsky is a Bay Area writer whose work has appeared in Discover, the New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, Slate, Stanford Magazine, and the Washington Post.

We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com


19 May 22:00

Eye-Poppingly Gorgeous Underground Stations from Around The World

by Vincze Miklós

The history of rapid-transit began 150 years ago, with the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in London in 1863. In the next century and a half, dozens of architects and engineers have worked on underground tunnels and stations. Some are abandoned now, but others are as good as new. Here are some of the most wonderful underground railway stations.

Rådhuset, Stockholm, Sweden

Rådhuset (Court House) station was opened in 1975 as a part of the Stockholm rapid transit system, one of the best examples of organic architecture. Pictured above.

(via Tobias Lindman/Flickr)

T-Centralen Station, Stockholm, Sweden

The only place where all three of Stockholm's metro lines meet has this really wonderful one platform station, opened in 1975.

(via Paolo Rosa/Flickr and Erzsébet)

Solna Station, Stockholm, Sweden (1975)

(via Wikimedia Commons/Wargklo)

Stadium Station, Stockholm, Sweden (1973)

(via Skye Christensen/Flickr and Wikimedia Commons/Allgau)

Westfriedhof Station, Munich, Germany

This station was opened in 1998, but the 11 large lamps (with red, blue, and yellow lights) were installed three years later.

(via Hannes Maurer 1 - 2)

Marienplatz Station, Munich, Germany

Marienplatz Station is one of the most frequently used stations in Munich, and was opened as part of the new S-Bahn network for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

(via Jaw3, Flickr/MrOmega and Wikimedia Commons/FloSch)

St.-Quirin-Platz Station, Munich, Germany (1997)

(via Wikimedia Commons/Florian Schütz, Wikimedia Commons/FloSch and Ian Fisher/Flickr)

Brudermühlstrasse Station, Munich, Germany (1989)

(via Jaw3)

Olaias Station, Lisbon, Portugal

Olaias Station was designed by Tomás Taveira and opened shortly before the Expo 1998. Walk through the station on 360cities.

(via IngolfBLN/Flickr)

Drassanes Station, Barcelona, Spain

This station was opened in 1968, but was completely renovated between 2007 and 2009 with GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete) panels and interesting details designed by the Barcelona-based ON-A Architects.

(via buildtonet)

Budapest Metro Line 3, constructed in the 1970s and 1980s

(via Hype and Hyper)

Avtovo Station, Saint Petersburg, Russia

This highly ornate white marble station was opened in 1955 and designed by Y. A. Levinson.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Sbarichev, Wikimedia Commons/Florstein and Andrew L. Moore)

Elektrozavodskaya Station, Moscow, Russia

Elektrozavodskaya Station was named after an electric light bulb factory nearby and opened in May 1944 during the WWII. It's famous for its decorations, designed by Vladimir Schuko, Vladimir Gelfreich and Igor Rozhin.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Eugeny1988)

Komsomolskaya Station, Moscow, Russia

Opened in 1952 and designed by Alexey Shchusev and Viktor Kokorin, this station has some mosaics, red granite, marble and other artistic decorations.

(via 3 years in Moscow, Chaos In Patterns and Wikimedia Commons/Lite)

Kiyevskaya Station - Koltsevaya Line Hall, Moscow, Russia

The richly decorated hall was opened in 1954 and has a quasi-baroque style with large mosaics by A.V. Myzin and gold-colored trim.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Antares 610)

Slavyansky Bulvar Station, Moscow, Russia

The station, designed by S. Volovich and opened in 2008, has green Cuban marble on the walls, and grey granite with darker (Gabbro granite) marble edges.

(via Wikimedia Commons/VanHelsing.16, Jaime Silva/Flickr and somebody_/Flickr)

Zoloti Vorota Station, Kiev, Ukraine

The Orthodox cathedral-like Zoloti Vorota was opened on December 30, 1989 as the part of the first stage of the Syretsko-Pecherska Line. Designed by Boris and his son Vadim Zhezherin, S.Adamenko, and M. Ralko.

(via Wikimedia Commons/AMY)

Puhŭng and Yonggwang Station, Pyongyang, North Korea

Puhŭng

Many foreign tourists were allowed to travel only between Puhŭng Station and Yŏngwang Station (both opened in 1987) on the Chŏllima Line. The Pyongyang Metro is the deepest in the world–the track runs 360 ft (110 m) underground.

Puhŭng

Puhŭng

Yŏngwang

Yŏngwang

(via Wikimedia Commons/Gilad Rom, Wikimedia Commons/John Pavelka, Geolocation.ws/afchagen, Flickr/John Pavelka 1 - 2)

Museum Subway Station, Toronto, Canada

This station was redesigned by Diamond and Schmitt Architects in 2008.

(via architecture NOW)

O'Hare Station, Chicago, Illinois

This station, with its curved and luminous walls made of glass, is located at O'Hare International Airport. It was designed by Murphy/Jahn and opened in 1984.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Schwen and Eden Politte/Flickr)

Arts et Métiers Station, Paris, France

The steampunkish underground station near the Musée des Arts et Métiers was opened in 1904, but was redesigned by the famous Belgian comics artist François Schuiten in a style inspired by the works of Jules Verne.

(via Pathien/Flickr, Steve Calcott/Flickr and RG1033/Flickr)

Formosa Boulevard Station, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

This transfer station was built for the 2009 World Games, but opened in September 2008. It has the largest glass work in the world, designed by Narcissus Quagliata, covering an area of 23,465 sq ft (2180 sq m) with 4,500 glass panels.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The stations of the Line A, Prague, Czech Republic

The colorful opened Dalek skirts with hemispheres on the walls make these stations from the 1970s look really fantastic.

(via Flickr/Brad Ackerman, Flickr/ian LF and Kristin Esteves)

Bockenheimer Warte Station, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The construction was finished in 1986, but it was expanded in 2001 under the leadership of Zbigniew Peter Pininski.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Jcornelius, Bobanac Andreas/fotocommunity, Christine Moje/fotocommunity, mibi55/fotocommunity and Jürg Stuker/Flickr)

20 May 21:51

سامسونج تعرض مليون دولار جائزه لأفضل تطبيق لهواتف جالاكسي

by طارق عابد
قامت سامسونج بعرض مليون دولار تقريباً كجائزه لمطور الاندرويد الذي يستطيع ان يأتي بأفضل تطبيق مبتكر وجديد لسلسة هواتف جالاكسي الخاصه بها وذلك كمحاوله لتحسين جودة وسمعة تطبيقات اندرويد الخاصه بها على أجهزتها والتي تعاني من فتره من سوء جودتها ومشاكل اخرى، سامسونج بدلا من الجلوس وانتظار مطوري جوجل المسؤولين عن نظام الاندرويد بان يعملو [...]