Welcome to Section View! A (mostly) weekly newsletter from the folks at Five Flute focused on prototyping and R&D for mechanical and electrical engineers. We’ll be sharing our favorite tools and techniques for designing and building better prototypes, along with an equal dose of inspiration and a pinch of silliness. We hope you learn a little something with each issue while having some fun. Subscribe here.

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For those of you who don’t know what Five Flute actually does, you should check out this little explainer video that we just put out. If any of that sounds familiar or intriguing, I’d love to chat with you!

Tools of the week

Reach for the stars...or the bottom of the oil pan at least. For those oh sh*t moments during assembly its good to have a telescoping magnet. You can fish out small parts like washers and screws from areas where you don’t want them.  I like this version on McMaster with an integrated LED light.

Go where no marker has gone before. Hat tip to the folks at SuperAOK for showing me this one.  Long nose markers!  This particular marker has a nose diameter that's very close to the felt tip diameter, making it perfect for tracing profiles in hard to reach places.  Wish I’d known about these years ago.

Prototyping Tips

Everyone owns at least one CNC machine.  The most ubiquitous CNC machine, the one that almost everyone has, is the desktop printer. Printing drawings and templates to scale is an essential fabrication technique for quick and dirty prototyping.  Combined with 3M super 77 adhesive and a drill press and you can make a lot of different parts, with surprising accuracy.

You can see this technique in action in the beginning of this amazing video by Machine Thinking on the foundations of mechanical accuracy, and on Tommy Tompkins woodworking channel.

Designer’s Corner

Bearings Decoded. If you’ve ever replaced a bad bearing on your bike or car, you may have noticed the little code on the outer or inner race of the bearing.

It turns out this is a (sort of) universal practice among bearing manufacturers, that can help you determine the exact specification of a particular bearing if you can’t find the replacement part number anywhere else.  Many different manufacturers have their own internal codes that enumerate all aspects of a bearing design and display them in a single “smart part number” (SKF and Koyo for example), but for the most part they all follow the ISO-15 designation system.

I recently stumbled across this video interview where Hambini gives a great and very approachable overview of bearing designations plus a lot more about how bearings function.  Worth checking out even if you don’t design rotating machinery often.

If you want a more thorough look into bearing numbers, NSK published a deep dive into the ISO bearing designation system.  Not exactly a thrilling read, but a decent bookmark for when you need it later.

Fun Stuff

Stick a fork in it, its done. Continuing with the bearings theme, Hambini gives a thorough roasting of Cervelo for not getting even close to the required bearing tolerances on their high end carbon frames.  Warning: NSFW language abundant.

Only you can help stop robot abuse….errr wait, only robots can? In one of the more bizarre and amusing pieces of research I’ve seen, the folks at the Interactive Machines Group at Yale recently studied the impact of bystander robots on human-robot abuse.  From this IEEE article on the research...

Here’s the idea: You’ve got a small group of robots, and a small group of humans. If one human starts abusing one robot, are the other humans more likely to say or do something if the other robots reacted to the abuse of their friend with sadness? Based on previous research on robot abuse, empathy, and bullying, the answer is maybe, which is why this experiment was necessary.

And perhaps my favorite section from the paper (download full text here).

A major issue for robots operating in human environments is the possibility of people exhibiting aggressive behaviors towards them, particularly when they are operating without clear supervision. For example, HitchBOT was a robot designed to hitchhike around various countries, but it met its end when it was destroyed by people in Philadelphia [36].

Alright, that's it for this week :)

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Wanna go the extra mile? If you are an engineer, supply chain manager or technical PM we’d love to talk with you (support@fiveflute.com).  We want to make prototyping easier, and I’d bet you have some thoughts on how to do that. Coffee is on us.