Why Are There So Many Bad Tools?

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Prometheus writes:

I think your cousin got his paranoia button pushed reading some of the thrillers that feature the diamond industry (11 Harrowhouse for one). I can't imagine how the natural diamond suppliers would find out about someone buying synthetic diamonds without assistance. The original buyers are not necessarily the ones using the stuff in tools, so the list would grow almost exponentially. Are they going to black list every small maker who uses a bit of the material? The blacklist can do no harm to the small maker who uses only synthetics, anyway.
From all the stories, natural diamonds are damned near a drug on the market, with supplies far in excess of desires (outside of industry, there is no NEED for diamonds). If blacklisting is a marketing technique they employ, sooner or later someone is going to grow a substitute that is a shade better than real diamonds for some industrial purposes, and the current big boys will be on the outside looking in. Which would be nice, as over the years, the reputation they developed in S. Africa was not one a good business would want.
Too, it's easy enough, if blacklisting is true, to use a substitute to buy the natural diamonds.
But a bit of googling turns up the fact that suppliers of synthetic industrial diamonds also sell DeBeers industrial diamonds.
Charlie Self "Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy." Edgar Bergen, (Charlie McCarthy)
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On 03 Dec 2004 09:12:48 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote:

Those thrillers any good? I don't believe I've run across them.

It would be superb- then maybe people would realize that a diamond is just a damn rock, good for grinding and real pretty for the ladies- but a rock nonetheless. Hardly worth people getting all hyped up over.

Sounded like he was referring to supply houses and jewelers, not industrial shops. I should have been more clear on this, as I mentioned in the last post I responded to. There's also a chance that he's a little paranoid as well, though I'm not going to make that claim.

I think your sig below explains why I didn't bother with that! :)

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Prometheus asks:

Yeah, I used to like them. The author's name is Gerald Browne, IIRC. The technology may seem a wee bit ludicrous these days as all of them I read were written in the '80s and '70s. I do love stuff from that era as it attempts to describe the then current state-of-the-art computers, which in almost no case did the writer understand at all.

Fortunately given what a freelance writer makes in too many years, my wife feels the same way. She prefer colored gemstones (but, man, have you priced emeralds these days!).
Charlie Self "Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy." Edgar Bergen, (Charlie McCarthy)
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On 04 Dec 2004 09:34:53 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote:

Take a look at Morion's synthetic emeralds made in the former Soviet Union. http://www.morioncompany.com/CutStones.htm
How does $22 a carat for cut emeralds in 5 carat sizes grab you?
And yes, those are real emeralds. Just man-made.
--RC

You can tell a really good idea by the enemies it makes
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rcook responds:

Sounds intriguing. In fact, it intrigues me enough to become a research file starter.
Thanks.
Charlie Self "Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy." Edgar Bergen, (Charlie McCarthy)
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On Sun, 05 Dec 2004 14:03:17 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@TAKEOUTmindspring.com calmly ranted:

I know it's in part due to the lousy photography, but those emeralds look awfully pale, as do the hydrothermal rubies. The pulled rubies are a lot deeper, more realistic. Have you seen these in person? If so, how do they compare to the real items?
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On Sun, 05 Dec 2004 08:14:48 -0800, Larry Jaques

Not the Morion ones, no. I think I'd want to see them before I invested in more than one small stone.

You can tell a really good idea by the enemies it makes
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On Thu, 02 Dec 2004 10:14:46 -0500, "J. Clarke"

Guidance systems. See http://www.smalltimes.com/document_display.cfm?section_idX&document_idG01
I don't recall if the information made it into the finished article, but the next step is a guidance system that costs a few hundred dollars per unit and fits in a NATO standard fuze well. That guidance system will include the active elements (pop-out fins), an intertial sensing system, control electronics, actuators for the active elements and possibly a GPS system as well.

It might be, but the odds are against it. The expense lies in fabricating these things. Our experience with these kinds of materials is that the prices drop sharply as we learn how to make them and the volumes increase. We're still at the beginning of this particular roller coaster ride, but we're already seeing this happen.
Fabricating these devices and materials is closer to making simple semiconductors than anything else. In fact most of the technology for fabricating this stuff is adapted from semiconductor manufacturing. The same kinds of economies of learning and scale apply.
This statement is not, please note, just a matter of looking at price trends. The people working on these advanced materials and MEMS devices generally have a very clear idea of what they need to do to bring the prices down. It's simply a matter of learning and doing it.

The technical name for the most common form of the stuff is "Diamond Like Coating". This refers to materials, usually films, which are composed of diamond without the long range crystaline structure. This is sometimes called 'amorphous diamond'. Some of the coatings have a certain percentage of other forms of carbon mixed in, hence the term 'near diamond'. There are a lot of variations on this general theme and they're being used for a number of things. See
http://www.shahlimar.com/diamond/ for an overview.
For an explanation of the composition, see: http://www.diamonex.com/abouttech.htm
or in pretty plain English: http://www.esi-topics.com/fbp/2003/october03-JohnRobertson.html
DLC is even being used to coat AIT data storage tape: http://www.qualstar.com/146103.htm
Notice one DLC maker is even branching out into areas like performance automobile parts: http://www.morgancrucible.com/cgi-bin/morgan_news/morgan_news.cgi?database=MAC%20Diamonex.db&command=viewone&op=t&id &rnds3.8257858682609

Their use in woodworking tools is speculative. The reliability of MEMS devices is not. As a rough rule, the devices are somewhere between as reliable as microprocessors (acellerometers for air bags) and about one-tenth as reliable (laboratory structures).

Think adaptive optics compared to a conventional telescope mirror. A conventional mirror works because it is both rigid and precisely shaped. An adaptive mirror works in almost exactly the opposite manner. It is flexible and its shape is determined by the network of actuators behind it. The adaptive mirror is constantly deformed to produce the desired results as determined by the sensor system.
Now imagine a fence/table system that works the same way. The sensors feed back information on the straightness of the cut and many other things and the fence and table actuators use that information to guide the wood. (I'm assuming some sort of passive control over feed speed here. The user pushes the wood through, but the system will either indicate when it is being fed too quickly or restrict the feed speed. ) Not only does this give you inherently superior control over the cut, but since it doesn't rely on mass and precision of machining or casting, it has the potential to be significantly cheaper.
Where this particular analogy breaks down is in the way the technology is used and its effect on price. Adaptive optics isn't (yet) used to make astronomical telescopes cheaper and more widely available. Astronomical telescopes of this class are pretty much one-off items, which limits the opportunities for economies of scale and restricts how fast you slide down the learning curve. Instead we use adaptive optics to give the telescopes capabilities (effective apeture, cancelling atmospheric distortion) that we pretty much can't get otherwise. So adaptive optic astronomical telescopes don't get cheap.

Much more than hype. There are a lot of proof of principle devices working in labs, more stuff in advanced development and a few devices in consumer products, in some cases for more than a decade. The acellerometer that is the heart of an air bag sensor is a MEMS device.
Google MEMS and you'll find a lot of hype. But you'll also find a lot of very real devices.

Well, we can start with the basic laws of physics and what happens when you scale structures. Or we can go by why I've been told repeatedly by the researchers and companies working in the field. Or we can go by their demonstrated performance.

You should have read further into the ASME paper you cite. On p 16 there is a chart (table 2) comparing material properties. Conventional alloys for jet turbines top out at about 1000 C. (This is the temperature of the material, not the inlet temperature of the turbine, which can be much higher.) Silicon carbide, which is a long way from the optimum material, can run at 1500 C by the same measure.
A little further along Fig. 23 compares the performance of alloys and MEMS-type materials at various temperatures.
Ultimately the material properties determine the device characteristics (or at least set the outside boundaries). Higher temperature materials allow higher temperature devices and hence more thermodynamic efficiency.
Of course even silicon carbide isn't the ultimate for microturbines. There are a number of materials with better properties we are still learning how to fabricate using MEMS techologies. The paper mentions sapphire as an example.
There are other considerations as well, of course. For instance most turbines have active cooling of some kind. Active cooling for microturbines is aided by the greater heat transfer that results from the higher surface to mass ratio. Bearings are a notorious failure point in gas turbines. Microturbines can use air bearings, which can be made much more reliable. The list goes on.
Even the early, very (and deliberately) crude microturbine described in the paper matches the performance of WWII jet engines.

Well Duh! The whole point is that these turbines are small. That's what gives them their advantages. You use them in groups to get more power, not make them bigger.

The statement appeared in an article in "Science" several years ago about MIT's micro turbine program. The researcher who made it was being facetious, obviously. But the thrust would be there and he was pointing out that microturbines for larger aero vehicles would be used in large numbers.

You forgot the smiley on the that one. :-)

You can tell a really good idea by the enemies it makes
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snipped-for-privacy@TAKEOUTmindspring.com wrote:

I can see where MEMS might be useful for the gyros, but how is it used in the fin actuators?

The price per square inch doesn't drop appreciably, the price per part drops as more can be fitted into a square inch. You need a certain amount of surface area to cut wood. That means that any macroscopic woodworking tool based on this technology is going to be expensive.

And low cost then relies on high density.

Well that's fine for optics, but we aren't talking about optics. Now tell us what, specifically, your tool would do better than existing tools and how, specifically, it would accomplish it.
Adaptive optics is a useful technology because for many purposes a correction has to be made for variations in air density. It is not a cheaper way to make telescopes and in the absence of air it is not a better way either.

Fine, you have sensors that feed back the information. Now what makes the adjustment with sufficient force to overcome the forces exerted by the hand of the operator pushing the piece through? Can you make that actuator entirely from your hotshot technology? How much will that much silicon cost? How durable will it be? A little piece of silicon properly supported can be pretty durable, a big piece is quite fragile.
Now, you claim that it "doesn't rely on mass and precision of machining". Instead it relies the technology you are advocating being able to provide high forces for practically no cost. It does not appear to be the nature of this technology that it will be able to do that.

I see. So Celestron doesn't enough benefit in this for small telescopes to put it in their mass-production consumer telecopes? Or maybe it's because there's no way to reduce the cost significantly?

Nope, hype.

None of which are tools that are anything like what is needed for woodworking. Yes, some woodworking tools might have some MEMs components someday for some purpose. But using MEMS instead of electromagnetic or hydraulic actuators to move fences and the like is a huge stretch.

None of which do anything like what you are claiming the technology can do.

Define "tough". I'm pretty sure that I can, using tools commonly available in a woodworking shop, break any MEMS device you want to provide me.

I see. So they provide the same 1980 pounds of thrust as the Junkers Jumo 004? I don't think so. They may match the _efficiency_ or the thrust to weight ratio, but that does not mean that they could be substituted unless they can match the thrust for a reasonable cost. And that does not seem likely to happen based on anything that you have described except some pie in the sky hype about how the price will come down because electronics prices came down.

So how many do you need to power a 747? And what would the engine look like?

How large would these numbers be, how many square inches of silicon would be required to make the devices, and how much would that silicon, just the raw silicon in the appropriate grade cost? And what would happen if one of these hypothetical engines ate a seagull?

I note that you have not addressed this one. Tiny devices get clogged up with tiny amounts of dirt.

Because there wasn't one. You're advocating a technology that you clearly do not really understand. Learn some engineering and you'll see what's wrong with your claims. It's just not going to scale the way you think it will.

--
--John
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On Fri, 03 Dec 2004 01:31:11 -0500, "J. Clarke"

I don't know that it will be. But that doesn't effect my original statement that MEMS devices are tough enough to be used in artillery stills. (Not all of them, but not everything has to take the 5000 Gs that's the reference acelleration for an artillery projectile in the tube.

Well, no. There are economies of scale as well as a learning curve to consider. (Not to mention amortization of equipment.) And it is untrue that more parts can necessarily be fitted into each square inch. You're neglecting the growth in die size in things like microprocessors as they become more complex and more powerful. The cost decreases hold true even though the feature size has been dropping like a rock. If you were to hold the feature size, and hence the die size constant, you'd get at least a factor of 10 improvement in price per square inch over the first generation parts.

Nope. You're assuming the whole tool is made of active elements. Of course it won't be any more than a desktop PC is made entirely of microprocessors.
In fact the tool I'm envisioning is cheap because it is built light, low precision parts. The accuracy comes from the sensors, processors and actuators built into it.

Nope. This is a common misconception about semiconductors and it is even less true in MEMS systems. The low cost relies on the peculiar economics of semiconductor-like manufacturing processes. Essentially no matter how complex the device, the cost tends toward the cost of the raw materials. This is independent of density.

active element under precise control rather than trying to make the active element rigid.

At least equivalent accuracy, lower price, increased safety. That will do for a start.

Huh? This is incorrect. It is a _much_ cheaper way to make telescopes of equivalent performance. In fact I'm not sure we could build telescopes with conventional methods that could match the performance of the big adaptive instruments.

As I noted, it is not cheaper because of the economics of large astronomical telescopes. The use of adaptive optics in these instruments has focused on added capabilities rather than reducing the price of an instrument of the same capability as existing instruments.

The tool does. Probably the 'fence' in combination with the cutting element and some kind of speed control in the table itself. (Think a variable friction surface leading up to the cutting element.) In the first instance this provides feedback to the operator. Feed too fast and this element slows you down by increasing the friction on the table. Try to overpower that and the machine stops.

The actuator is the element in the control system that causes the thing to move. It isn't necessarily the whole moving part. So, yes, you make the actuators entirely this way.

> How durable will it be? A little piece of silicon properly

Not if it's properly supported. The answer is the components be as durable as they need to be.
Again, you seem to be envisioning this thing as being built entirely out of unprotected silicon. That's silly.

What high forces? How high do you think these forces have to be?

For the cost equivalent to perhaps half the cost of a good-quality table saw. Or, to put it another way, about the cost of a Harbor Freight cheapie.
>It does not appear to be the nature

Obviously I disagree.

Today no. Give it a few years and things might be different.

Once again, the time confusion.

And you base this opinion on what, precisely?

Gee what a surprise. Something that isn't predicted for a few decades doesn't exist today.

There's a huge difference between 'precision' and 'adjustment'. I suspect the initial adjustments will be made by hand, or if not by a cheap screw actuator -- just threaded rod driven by a cheap motor, for example. That's the 'adjustment'. The precision comes from the sensor/processor/actuator network handling the fine control once you're in the neighborhood. That's the precision.

Time confusion.

I'm pretty sure using nothing more than a big hammer I can break any tool in a woodworking shop -- unless you consider an anvil a woodworking tool.

Strawman. And a rather absurd one at that.
The point is that in the first generation, using wildly unoptimized design, we get equivalent results in basic design paramters.

Who said anything about subsituting them? Powering aircraft with microturbines, perhaps. But it's not going to be a subsitution for a WWII era engine.

There are a lot of people in the field who disagree with you. However again you're getting sidetracked by your inability to follow the argument. I offered the microturbines as examples of the toughness, strength and efficency of MEMS based technologies.
You still don't seem to have an answer for that.

This is another irrelevancy, but. . .
Depends on how much power each one produces. As a rough estimate thousands of them.

They'd probably be integrated into the structure of the aircraft rather than hung on the wings in nacelles. It's unlikely the aircraft would look like a 747, although you could design a craft to match the performance of a 747.
Understand powering aircraft of any size isn't going to be the initial application. (Well, okay, maybe some tiny RPVs). Battery replacement is a much more likely application.

The guy was being facetious, for God's sake! See if you can get your mind off these irrelevancies and stick to the main issues.
I mentioned it to demonstrate the compactness and power output of microturbines, not because anyone's going to build one.
--RC

You can tell a really good idea by the enemies it makes
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Snip .....

Hi Charlie,
I rather doubt your black snake chewed it's way in ... though what a good idea for a horror movie! Actually, you had field mice chew their way in, and the black snake followed the smell of mouse farts, surrounded them and had a nice mouse snack.
I saw a similar situation helping my brother move some lumber he was air-drying (he built his house by himself, cut the cherry for the floors and trim, air drying it and then did all the milling himself) ... and when we lifted a layer, there was a black snake in a nice coil, surrounding the remains of a mouse nest. The snake had several mouse-shaped lumps ... so we were able to figure out how that evening ended.
Regards,
Rick
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On Wed, 01 Dec 2004 08:42:27 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@TAKEOUTmindspring.com wrote:

so no woodworking, eh?
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snipped-for-privacy@all.costs wrote:

When a failsafe system fails, it fails by failing to fail /safe/.
(^8
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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<<Snippage for brevity throughout>>

Actually, you got right to the heart of what I find a little sad about it. Of course nobody wants to lop off a finger on a table saw, but when I was a little kid we used to shoot one another with BB guns and play on rusty jungle gyms set on blacktop. Now, half the people have turned into a bunch of whining sissies! Sometimes you do things that might just be a little unsafe with a tool because it's a calculated risk, and it ends up leading to innovation. If everything is monitored and controlled to the hilt, you'd be able to do anything the tool is designed to do, but you are absolutely bound to the limits that tool has. Sure, you're safe- and the end product is technically perfect, but it comes with a cost. Instead of a cut or a bruise, some of the small defects that add charm to the finished product and your pride in it's construction is taken away- and that's what I like about making things in the first place!

Aha! You've been reading "Prey", haven't you? Interesting ideas, it'll be neat to see how it all comes out- but remember, we still don't have flying cars! (No matter how much I may want one- boy would that be spiffy...) Not everything that people predict comes to pass- something totally different could come out of thin air, and up end everything you've said. I still think it'll be a little sad, but that won't stop me from staring at new technologies in admiration.
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On Wed, 01 Dec 2004 18:50:08 -0600, Prometheus

tools compared to their unpowered predecessors. (Anyone here think hewing a plank or beam with a broadax was safe?)
It's where you choose to place yourself on the continium.

I've seen in the labs and on the websites. The most speculative element of what I'm 'predicting' here is the cost of the finished tool. Most of the rest of the stuff already either exists in at least proof-of-principle form or is in advanced design.

The flying car is a very interesting example. The basic problem with the flying car, as originally conceived, is that it takes a great deal of judgement to fly safely. You cannot approach an airplane/helicopter/autogyro with the same attitude people have towards automobiles or the death rate becomes astronomical. It's not a matter of brains or desire, but judgement. I don't have the right kind of judgement and that's why I quit taking flying lessons.
With modern control technology, machine intelligence, GPS and other stuff we are just about at the point where we can build a flying car that would be safe enough for the average person. In fact there are a couple of very promising projects underway right now. Of course this involves some infrastructure cost and, more importantly, some major modifications of the regulations. So it's becoming practical, but it still may not happen.

I won't guarantee anything about the technology that will be used, but I'm reasonably sure that in a few decades we'll have tools with the capabilities I'm describing.

--RC
You can tell a really good idea by the enemies it makes
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snipped-for-privacy@TAKEOUTmindspring.com wrote:

So where is the "proof of principle" form of the table saw replacement?

Actually, the two big obstacles have always been cost and runways. Helos address runways but they still need a good deal of space and make a huge amount of noise. While in principle I could keep a helo in my back yard, in practice the neighbors would lynch me in a week. The new designs use ducted fans for vertical takeoff but they don't promise to be any quieter and are unlikely to be very fuel-efficient and you can buy a fighter jet for the projected cost of most of them.

You haven't really described any "capabilities" in the context of actually working wood. You've done a lot of "rah-rah" stuff but you haven't demonstrated how something that is only cheap if it is made small is going rip a piece of 2" lapacho in less than a month.
And there is no indication that the cost of silicon per se is going to go down. Chips get cheaper because you can fit more of them on a wafer, not because the wafer costs less. Your microtools are only going to be cheap if you can fit a lot of them on a wafer.

--
--John
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