EYE ON INNOVATION: Turning the Tables on Turntables

The resurgence of vinyl records has been well documented.

The biggest music industry comeback story is the soaring popularity of vinyl records, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Nearly 8 million records were sold in 2014 in the United States, up 49 percent from the previous year. Indie-rock fans especially are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl, the ritual of putting needle to groove and the physical connection to album art that is sometimes lost in the digital age.

One Chicago-based startup has turned the tables on record players by creating the Floating Record, a vertical turntable that sits on a simple, minimal block of wood that contains speakers and electrical components.

Gramovox, a consumer electronics company that, as its website says, “re-imagines vintage audio design with modern technology,” just closed the books on a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign for this vertical record player. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gramovox is working with AssemTech as its assembly partner, and expects to deliver the turntables to market by December. Last year, Gramovox brought the Bluetooth Gramophone to market, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that looks like an antique gramophone.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Converse, Nike Prove It’s Never Too Late to Innovate

Changing an icon can be risky business. Yet that’s just what Converse Inc., and its parent company Nike, are doing.

Boston-based Converse plans to release a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor shoe, or Chucks, which have been around since 1917. The new version will have more support and be lighter, using technology from design engineers at Nike.

The Chuck II, which arrives in stores next week, incorporates Lunarlon cushioning, which features a soft, yet resilient foam core that’s encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon foam, invented by Nike, is 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon, which is normally Nike’s go-to midsole material. Lunarlon allows the force of impact to be more evenly distributed, which helps reduce painful pressure points on feet.

Simply stated, the Chuck II will be more comfortable, which may be a nod to aging baby boomers who love the counter-culture fashion statement of Converse shoes but are now seeking more comfort.

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Casting into the Shark Tank: Cool Idea! Award Winners Featured at Event

Logo credit to ABC

Starry-eyed entrepreneurs flocked to the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management Saturday April 25, 2015 for their chance to land on ABC’s Shark Tank. The private casting call was open to students, staff, faculty, alumni and Minnesota Cup participants who had the opportunity to pitch their product or business to the shows’ casting directors in hopes of advancing to the show. Continue reading

Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity on Display at SXSW Interactive

SXSW Interactive wraps up in Austin, Texas today and Proto Labs was proud to make our debut at the notoriously cool event — both as an exhibitor and attendee. Fittingly, we brought our Cool Idea! Award gallery to SX Create, a come one, come all event within the Interactive Festival that showcased innovative technologies and products that are shaping our future. Visitors to our space could check out a selection of previous Cool Idea! Award recipients to see how the inventive ideas went from concepts to actual products with a manufacturing hand from Proto Labs.

Our booth at SX Create showcased past Cool Idea! Award winners.

One of the many things SXSW is known for is its comprehensive music and film schedule where some tough decisions need to be made — the interactive counterpart is no different. By the time I finished plotting out my schedule, two hours had passed. Here are some session highlights: Continue reading

It’s National Engineers Week!

Know an engineer? Give them a big hug, an epic high five, an aggressive fist bump, because it’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 16-22). It’s a seven-day celebration of our friends who help create nearly everything we interact with on a daily basis, from the cars we drive to the hinges on our laptop computers. The purpose of the week is to “observe how engineers make a difference in our world, increase public dialogue about the need for more engineers and bring engineering to life for kids, educators and parents.” At Proto Labs, we staff a team of experienced customer service and design engineers who work with a variety of engineers from companies large and small around the world. This engineering partnership helps develop some of the most innovative products found across all industries. Continue reading