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Notes, 2019-09-23.
Hello Prepared readers, Eric here – I’m very excited to be back for my fourth appearance as guest editor of this wonderful newsletter. I’m a Prototype Engineer at Bolt, a SF-based venture firm, where I run our prototyping shop and assist portfolio companies with product design.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how to properly select tools to maximize autonomy and efficiency in a shared space. I can obsess over the quality and features of a tool I buy for myself, being the only user. Tools I buy for work, however, are used by dozens, take a lot of abuse, and generally hit the middle of the road in terms of price and quality. Too cheap and they’ll fall apart immediately, too expensive and they’re more likely to end up on someone’s desk. Part of this constant search led the Bolt engineering team to share our findings in the form of a website called Boltcutter. Take a look!

The most clicked link in last week's issue (~15% of opens) was 50 digital wood joints.
The Prepared is supported by people like you.

Planning & Strategy.

  • The Ikea Fitting Catalogue, a compilation of dimension drawings for all Ikea fittings and tools.
  • I enjoyed Maciej Cegłowski’s fascinating accounts of the Hong Kong protests (part 1, part 2). Particularly interesting to me is the clever change in strategy that protestors made since 2014: If there are no clear leaders among the crowd, arrests cannot take momentum out of the movement.
  • Jeff Bezos announced a new initiative called The Climate Pledge, which Amazon co-founded to push itself and others to meet The Paris Agreement 10 years early (by 2040).
  • Hand tools are easy enough to swap and test without having much impact on a large group, but a change of the layout of workbenches is far more disruptive. I’m working towards making a rare, major change to our shop layout at the end of the year, and am using the fantastic Make Space book as inspiration.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • The Porsche Taycan production line is full of complex tooling, unsurprisingly. This video tour is a half hour well spent.
  • I’ve recently been enjoying the great generative art that appears on Twitter via #plottertwitter. The main plotter in use seems to be the AxiDraw, which has the precision to crank out some incredible work. If you appreciate a more analog approach, refer to James Gandy, a talented “drawing machinist”.
  • Back in 2015, when I first guest-edited The Prepared, I shared this incredible series of prototyping videos by Dan Gelbart. Well, Dan is back with his first new video in years, and it is an-depth examination of metal 3d printing. He’s founded a company to develop a low-cost (less than $200k), sintering-type metal printing system for producing small parts.
  • Airbow, a New Zealand-based company, recently announced a cordless, battery-free nail gun that “charges” from a compressor in 10 seconds. I wasn’t able to find any information about how many shots you get off a single “charge” of the framer, but the whole paintball-gun-meets-nail-gun idea is neat nonetheless.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • Back in 2019-08-19, Ben shared an in-depth article from 2014 that observed the Curiosity rover’s wheel damage. Take a look at these images and note the changes made for the 2020 Mars Rover: Straighter grousers and a thicker shell. I hope the new helicopter will be helpful in scoping out the best driving routes, if its initial technology demonstration is successful.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • The logistical challenges of recycling plastic are fascinating. The key point: “placing [plastics] in the recycling bin won’t make a difference if [the recycler] can’t make money off of them”.
  • Rocket Lab recently announced that they would attempt to retrieve their first stage booster with a helicopter. Reading about this led me down a rabbit hole of mid-air recovery, which has been happening in various forms since the 60’s. For the Genesis spacecraft, which collected solar wind particles, things didn’t go as planned.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • Once an image of the Iranian Space Agency’s launch pad was declassified, the source of the image was quickly found to be a KH-11 satellite. The 2.4 meter main mirror found in the Hubble telescope is the same used for these reconnaissance satellites, to reduce fabrication cost.
  • Inspectar, an AR tool for PCB inspection, seems incredibly useful.


  • This POV footage of “threading up” a 30 year old IMAX projector is immensely satisfying to watch.
  • I linked to Maciej’s fantastic accounts of the Hong Kong protests above, but did you know that he also wrote my favorite fictional food delivery piece about a trans-contintinental burrito tunnel? As someone who grew up in New Jersey and now frequently enjoys burritos at home in Alameda, this one really hits home.

Thanks to our recurring donors for supporting The Prepared. Thanks also to the following readers for sending links and posting interesting things to Twitter: Andrew, Star, Dan and Kevin

Until next time,

p.s. - If you’ve really enjoyed using a tool for a particular task recently, get in touch! I want to hear about it.
p.p.s. - Whenever possible, we work to encourage inclusivity. Here's how.

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