‘Strange Lenses’ Art Project Captures Cool Idea! Award

Call it digital manufacturing meets art.

Proto Labs’ latest Cool Idea! Award grant helped artist and engineer Robb Godshaw create the art installation “Strange Lenses.”

The project uses injection-molded optical liquid silicone rubber (LSR) lenses—designed by Godshaw and manufactured by Proto Labs—to create geometric distortions of people’s faces (similar to funhouse mirrors) when viewed from the other side. At the same time, the lenses created connections between strangers when they viewed each other through these distortions at the Strange Lenses art installation.

Photos Courtesy: Strange Lenses

Strange Lenses was a part of The Market Street Prototyping Festival, which occurred earlier this month in San Francisco, and will remain on display on the streets of San Francisco for two years as part of a public-art installation.

The Proto Labs award allowed Godshaw, who is also an Artist in Residence at Autodesk’s Pier 9 in San Francisco, to create the LSR lenses quickly, efficiently, and in time for the prototyping festival.

“I had tried 3D printing some lenses with other manufacturers, but the optical quality just wasn’t there,” Godshaw said. “When I met Proto Labs, I was blown away by its optical LSR—especially the speed and clarity.”

In addition, Godshaw said, “Optical LSR is robust and durable. You can’t scratch it, crack it, or melt it, so it’s perfect for my installation and for the millions of people who will interact with it over the next two years.”


IoT-Enabled Water-Management System Wins Cool Idea! Award

The developers of AgPulse, a water-management system that uses wireless technology and the internet of things to optimize watering and irrigation for farms, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, a service grant given to innovative companies.

This AgPulse sprinkler control system is set up in a vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Mist Labs/AgPulse

AgPulse, developed by California-based Mist Labs, Inc., uses a set of wireless soil sensors to continuously monitor and optimize farm, vineyard or orchard irrigation, though it can also be used for backyards and gardens.

Mist Labs used the Cool Idea! Award grant from Proto Labs to manufacture its custom-designed components that were injection molded using high-strength polycarbonate in order to withstand the conditions of an agricultural environment.

“Water is a valuable commodity,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This product will help conserve this important natural resource and help all of us, whether we’re large-scale farmers or backyard gardeners, to use water more efficiently.”




Compact Drone Wins Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award

The developers of the Sprite, a small, durable drone that offers an alternative to larger, generally more fragile quadcopter drones, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

The popularity of drone aircraft for consumer use is surging. More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are also getting lots of buzz as a hot holiday gift item this year.

“Drones are already playing key roles in a variety of industries, and for military and public safety applications,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This particular drone is innovative because of its consumer-friendly design: a smaller size, greater durability and ease of use.” Continue reading

Microscope ‘Game-Changer’ Garners Cool Idea! Award

The developers of a hybrid microscope — called the Revolve — which merges two microscopes into one, and replaces conventional eyepieces with an iPad, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

In life sciences research, two types of microscopes are used — upright (for viewing glass slides) and inverted (for live samples in dishes). As a result, industry sources estimate that nearly 75 percent of labs today own both. The Revolve, developed by San Diego-based Echo Laboratories, is a hybrid microscope that transforms between these two configurations, eliminating the need to purchase two separate instruments. This frees up valuable lab space and offers cost savings, given that the Revolve costs about the same price as a traditional, research-grade microscope. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: EPA Rules Fuel Inventive New Gas Can

As a homeowner, have you ever noticed how frequently you’re filling up your gas can in order to fuel your lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chainsaws and more?

The spill-proof SureCan works to make this chore less messy and way more environmentally friendly

Photo from Building-products.com

As a reviewer from Tool-rank.com recently raved, SureCan is “the best gas can I have ever used. It is a gas can that doesn’t leak and doesn’t spill, even when you are trying to use a heavy, full gas can to fill a small chainsaw tank.”

This spill-proofing is especially important these days, given that the EPA has strict new rules regarding gas cans to cut down on spillage and the venting of gas fumes into the atmosphere. Tool-rank.com again: “With these new regulations, the EPA made the cheap and common plastic gas can a thing of the past, which had the side effect of putting some gas can manufacturers out of business. If you have had a hard time finding a cheap gas can, this is why.”

The durable, six-layer, high-density polyethylene container features stainless steel springs, aluminum rivets, viton seals and a self-ventilating feature. SureCan calls its product the greenest red can on the market.

Prices vary: 2.2 gallon can, $37; 5 gallon can, $45.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at cool technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.