3D Printing, The printed world

This is the end of Bandai. Who would buy over priced plastic model if you can print your own Gundam? Probably it will be the end of ToyR’us too.

By Feb 10th 2011, Economist
Three-dimensional printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things

FILTON, just outside Bristol, is where Britain’s fleet of Concorde supersonic airliners was built. In a building near a wind tunnel on the same sprawling site, something even more remarkable is being created. Little by little a machine is “printing” a complex titanium landing-gear bracket, about the size of a shoe, which normally would have to be laboriously hewn from a solid block of metal. Brackets are only the beginning. The researchers at Filton have a much bigger ambition: to print the entire wing of an airliner.

Far-fetched as this may seem, many other people are using three-dimensional printing technology to create similarly remarkable things. These include medical implants, jewellery, football boots designed for individual feet, lampshades, racing-car parts, solid-state batteries and customised mobile phones. Some are even making mechanical devices. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Schmitt, a PhD student, has been printing something that resembles the workings of a grandfather clock. It took him a few attempts to get right, but eventually he removed the plastic clock from a 3D printer, hung it on the wall and pulled down the counterweight. It started ticking.

Engineers and designers have been using 3D printers for more than a decade, but mostly to make prototypes quickly and cheaply before they embark on the expensive business of tooling up a factory to produce the real thing. As 3D printers have become more capable and able to work with a broader range of materials, including production-grade plastics and metals, the machines are increasingly being used to make final products too. More than 20% of the output of 3D printers is now final products rather than prototypes, according to Terry Wohlers, who runs a research firm specialising in the field. He predicts that this will rise to 50% by 2020.

Using 3D printers as production tools has become known in industry as “additive” manufacturing (as opposed to the old, “subtractive” business of cutting, drilling and bashing metal). The additive process requires less raw material and, because software drives 3D printers, each item can be made differently without costly retooling. The printers can also produce ready-made objects that require less assembly and things that traditional methods would struggle with—such as the glove pictured above, made by Within Technologies, a London company. It can be printed in nylon, stainless steel or titanium.

The printing of parts and products has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks. No longer does a producer have to make thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of items to recover his fixed costs. In a world where economies of scale do not matter any more, mass-manufacturing identical items may not be necessary or appropriate, especially as 3D printing allows for a great deal of customisation. Indeed, in the future some see consumers downloading products as they do digital music and printing them out at home, or at a local 3D production centre, having tweaked the designs to their own tastes. That is probably a faraway dream. Nevertheless, a new industrial revolution may be on the way.

Printing in 3D may seem bizarre. In fact it is similar to clicking on the print button on a computer screen and sending a digital file, say a letter, to an inkjet printer. The difference is that the “ink” in a 3D printer is a material which is deposited in successive, thin layers until a solid object emerges.

The layers are defined by software that takes a series of digital slices through a computer-aided design. Descriptions of the slices are then sent to the 3D printer to construct the respective layers. They are then put together in a number of ways. Powder can be spread onto a tray and then solidified in the required pattern with a squirt of a liquid binder or by sintering it with a laser or an electron beam. Some machines deposit filaments of molten plastic. However it is achieved, after each layer is complete the build tray is lowered by a fraction of a millimetre and the next layer is added.
And when you’re happy, click print

The researchers at Filton began using 3D printers to produce prototype parts for wind-tunnel testing. The group is part of EADS Innovation Works, the research arm of EADS, a European defence and aerospace group best known for building Airbuses. Prototype parts tend to be very expensive to make as one-offs by conventional means. Because their 3D printers could do the job more efficiently, the researchers’ thoughts turned to manufacturing components directly.

Aircraft-makers have already replaced a lot of the metal in the structure of planes with lightweight carbon-fibre composites. But even a small airliner still contains several tonnes of costly aerospace-grade titanium. These parts have usually been machined from solid billets, which can result in 90% of the material being cut away. This swarf is no longer of any use for making aircraft.

To make the same part with additive manufacturing, EADS starts with a titanium powder. The firm’s 3D printers spread a layer about 20-30 microns (0.02-0.03mm) thick onto a tray where it is fused by lasers or an electron beam. Any surplus powder can be reused. Some objects may need a little machining to finish, but they still require only 10% of the raw material that would otherwise be needed. Moreover, the process uses less energy than a conventional factory. It is sometimes faster, too.

There are other important benefits. Most metal and plastic parts are designed to be manufactured, which means they can be clunky and contain material surplus to the part’s function but necessary for making it. This is not true of 3D printing. “You only put material where you need to have material,” says Andy Hawkins, lead engineer on the EADS project. The parts his team is making are more svelte, even elegant. This is because without manufacturing constraints they can be better optimised for their purpose. Compared with a machined part, the printed one is some 60% lighter but still as sturdy.

Lightness is critical in making aircraft. A reduction of 1kg in the weight of an airliner will save around $3,000-worth of fuel a year and by the same token cut carbon-dioxide emissions. Additive manufacturing could thus help build greener aircraft—especially if all the 1,000 or so titanium parts in an airliner can be printed. Although the size of printable parts is limited for now by the size of 3D printers, the EADS group believes that bigger systems are possible, including one that could fit on the 35-metre-long gantry used to build composite airliner wings. This would allow titanium components to be printed directly onto the structure of the wing.

Many believe that the enhanced performance of additively manufactured items will be the most important factor in driving the technology forward. It certainly is for MIT’s Mr Schmitt, whose interest lies in “original machines”. These are devices not constructed from a collection of prefabricated parts, but created in a form that flows from the intention of the design. If that sounds a bit arty, it is: Mr Schmitt is a former art student from Germany who used to cadge time on factory lathes and milling machines to make mechanised sculptures. He is now working on novel servo mechanisms, the basic building blocks for robots. Custom-made servos cost many times the price of off-the-shelf ones. Mr Schmitt says it should be possible for a robot builder to specify what a servo needs to do, rather than how it needs to be made, and send that information to a 3D printer, and for the machine’s software to know how to produce it at a low cost. “This makes manufacturing more accessible,” says Mr Schmitt.

The idea of the 3D printer determining the form of the items it produces intrigues Neri Oxman, an architect and designer who heads a research group examining new ways to make things at MIT’s Media Lab. She is building a printer to explore how new designs could be produced. Dr Oxman believes the design and construction of objects could be transformed using principles inspired by nature, resulting in shapes that are impossible to build without additive manufacturing. She has made items from sculpture to body armour and is even looking at buildings, erected with computer-guided nozzles that deposit successive layers of concrete.

Some 3D systems allow the properties and internal structure of the material being printed to be varied. This year, for instance, Within Technologies expects to begin offering titanium medical implants with features that resemble bone. The company’s femur implant is dense where stiffness and strength is required, but it also has strong lattice structures which would encourage the growth of bone onto the implant. Such implants are more likely to stay put than conventional ones.

Working at such a fine level of internal detail allows the stiffness and flexibility of an object to be determined at any point, says Siavash Mahdavi, the chief executive of Within Technologies. Dr Mahdavi is working on other lattice structures, including aerodynamic body parts for racing cars and special insoles for a firm that hopes to make the world’s most comfortable stiletto-heeled shoes.

Digital Forming, a related company (where Dr Mahdavi is chief technology officer), uses 3D design software to help consumers customise mass-produced products. For example, it is offering a service to mobile-phone companies in which subscribers can go online to change the shape, colour and other features of the case of their new phone. The software keeps the user within the bounds of the achievable. Once the design is submitted the casing is printed. Lisa Harouni, the company’s managing director, says the process could be applied to almost any consumer product, from jewellery to furniture. “I don’t have any doubt that this technology will change the way we manufacture things,” she says.

Other services allow individuals to upload their own designs and have them printed. Shapeways, a New York-based firm spun out of Philips, a Dutch electronics company, last year, offers personalised 3D production, or “mass customisation”, as Peter Weijmarshausen, its chief executive, describes it. Shapeways prints more than 10,000 unique products every month from materials that range from stainless steel to glass, plastics and sandstone. Customers include individuals and shopkeepers, many ordering jewellery, gifts and gadgets to sell in their stores.

EOS, a German supplier of laser-sintering 3D printers, says they are already being used to make plastic and metal production parts by carmakers, aerospace firms and consumer-products companies. And by dentists: up to 450 dental crowns, each tailored for an individual patient, can be manufactured in one go in a day by a single machine, says EOS. Some craft producers of crowns would do well to manage a dozen a day. As an engineering exercise, EOS also printed the parts for a violin using a high-performance industrial polymer, had it assembled by a professional violin-maker and played by a concert violinist.

Both EOS and Stratasys, a company based in Minneapolis which makes 3D printers that employ plastic-deposition technology, use their own machines to print parts that are, in turn, used to build more printers. Stratasys is even trying to print a car, or at least the body of one, for Kor Ecologic, a company in Winnipeg, whose boss, Jim Kor, is developing an electric-hybrid vehicle called Urbee.
Jim Kor’s printed the model. Next, the car

Making low-volume, high-value and customised components is all very well, but could additive manufacturing really compete with mass-production techniques that have been honed for over a century? Established techniques are unlikely to be swept away, but it is already clear that the factories of the future will have 3D printers working alongside milling machines, presses, foundries and plastic injection-moulding equipment, and taking on an increasing amount of the work done by those machines.

Morris Technologies, based in Cincinnati, was one of the first companies to invest heavily in additive manufacturing for the engineering and production services it offers to companies. Its first intention was to make prototypes quickly, but by 2007 the company says it realised “a new industry was being born” and so it set up another firm, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, to concentrate on the additive manufacturing of higher volumes of production parts. It says many small and medium-sized components can be turned from computer designs into production-quality metal parts in hours or days, against days or weeks using traditional processes. And the printers can build unattended, 24 hours a day.

Neil Hopkinson has no doubts that 3D printing will compete with mass manufacturing in many areas. His team at Loughborough University has invented a high-speed sintering system. It uses inkjet print-heads to deposit infra-red-absorbing ink on layers of polymer powder which are fused into solid shapes with infra-red heating. Among other projects, the group is examining the potential for making plastic buckles for Burton Snowboards, a leading American producer of winter-sports equipment. Such items are typically produced by plastic injection-moulding. Dr Hopkinson says his process can make them for ten pence (16 cents) each, which is highly competitive with injection-moulding. Moreover, the designs could easily be changed without Burton incurring high retooling costs.

Predicting how quickly additive manufacturing will be taken up by industry is difficult, adds Dr Hopkinson. That is not necessarily because of the conservative nature of manufacturers, but rather because some processes have already moved surprisingly fast. Only a few years ago making decorative lampshades with 3D printers seemed to be a highly unlikely business, but it has become an industry with many competing firms and sales volumes in the thousands.

Dr Hopkinson thinks Loughborough’s process is already competitive with injection-moulding at production runs of around 1,000 items. With further development he expects that within five years it would be competitive in runs of tens if not hundreds of thousands. Once 3D printing machines are able to crank out products in such numbers, then more manufacturers will look to adopt the technology.

Will Sillar of Legerwood, a British firm of consultants, expects to see the emergence of what he calls the “digital production plant”: firms will no longer need so much capital tied up in tooling costs, work-in-progress and raw materials, he says. Moreover, the time to take a digital design from concept to production will drop, he believes, by as much as 50-80%. The ability to overcome production constraints and make new things will combine with improvements to the technology and greater mechanisation to make 3D printing more mainstream. “The market will come to the technology,” Mr Sillar says.

Some in the industry believe that the effect of 3D printing on manufacturing will be analogous to that of the inkjet printer on document printing. The written word became the printed word with the invention of movable-type printing by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. Printing presses became like mass-production machines, highly efficient at printing lots of copies of the same thing but not individual documents. The inkjet printer made that a lot easier, cheaper and more personal. Inkjet devices now perform a multitude of printing roles, from books on demand to labels and photographs, even though traditional presses still roll for large runs of books, newspapers and so on.

How would this translate to manufacturing? Most obviously, it changes the economics of making customised components. If a company needs a specialised part, it may find it cheaper and quicker to have the part printed locally or even to print its own than to order one from a supplier a long way away. This is more likely when rapid design changes are needed.

Printing in 3D is not the preserve of the West: Chinese companies are adopting the technology too. Yet you might infer that some manufacturing will return to the West from cheap centres of production in China and elsewhere. This possibility was on the agenda of a conference organised by DHL last year. The threat to the logistics firm’s business is clear: why would a company airfreight an urgently needed spare part from abroad when it could print one where it is required?
Our TQ article explains the technology behind the 3-D printing process

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of additive manufacturing is that it lowers the cost of entry into the business of making things. Instead of finding the money to set up a factory or asking a mass-producer at home (or in another country) to make something for you, 3D printers will offer a cheaper, less risky route to the market. An entrepreneur could run off one or two samples with a 3D printer to see if his idea works. He could make a few more to see if they sell, and take in design changes that buyers ask for. If things go really well, he could scale up—with conventional mass production or an enormous 3D print run.

This suggests that success in manufacturing will depend less on scale and more on the quality of ideas. Brilliance alone, though, will not be enough. Good ideas can be copied even more rapidly with 3D printing, so battles over intellectual property may become even more intense. It will be easier for imitators as well as innovators to get goods to market fast. Competitive advantages may thus be shorter-lived than ever before. As with past industrial revolutions, the greatest beneficiaries may not be companies but their customers. But whoever gains most, revolution may not be too strong a word.

中文起義 – 陳雲





不乖 – 候文詠






第五篇文章「知道是一回事﹐做到又是另一回事」﹐四個字可以總結這篇文章﹐知易行難。把知道化為行動的方法﹐便是構思和規劃﹐把複雜的事情﹐拆細為簡單的步逐﹐然後專注於每一步。Divide and conquer的思維練訓﹐那是我在工程系學到最有用的東西。





Turning garbage into gas

Why burn or bury garbage when you can vaporize them and turn garbage into electricity? This is the solution for landfill.

Feb 3rd 2011, Economist
Atomising trash eliminates the need to dump it, and generates useful power too

DISPOSING of household rubbish is not, at first glance, a task that looks amenable to high-tech solutions. But Hilburn Hillestad of Geoplasma, a firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, begs to differ. Burying trash—the usual way of disposing of the stuff—is old-fashioned and polluting. Instead, Geoplasma, part of a conglomerate called the Jacoby Group, proposes to tear it into its constituent atoms with electricity. It is clean. It is modern. And, what is more, it might even be profitable.

For years, some particularly toxic types of waste, such as the sludge from oil refineries, have been destroyed with artificial lightning from electric plasma torches—devices that heat matter to a temperature higher than that of the sun’s surface. Until recently this has been an expensive process, costing as much as $2,000 per tonne of waste, according to SRL Plasma, an Australian firm that has manufactured torches for 13 of the roughly two dozen plants around the world that work this way.

Now, though, costs are coming down. Moreover, it has occurred to people such as Dr Hillestad that the process could be used to generate power as well as consuming it. Appropriately tweaked, the destruction of organic materials (including paper and plastics) by plasma torches produces a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen called syngas. That, in turn, can be burned to generate electricity. Add in the value of the tipping fees that do not have to be paid if rubbish is simply vaporised, plus the fact that energy prices in general are rising, and plasma torches start to look like a plausible alternative to burial.
Related topics

The technology has got better, too. The core of a plasma torch is a pair of electrodes, usually made from a nickel-based alloy. A current arcs between them and turns the surrounding air into a plasma by stripping electrons from their parent atoms. Waste (chopped up into small pieces if it is solid) is fed into this plasma. The heat and electric charges of the plasma break the chemical bonds in the waste, vaporising it. Then, if the mix of waste is correct, the carbon and oxygen atoms involved recombine to form carbon monoxide and the hydrogen atoms link up into diatomic hydrogen molecules. Both of these are fuels (they burn in air to form carbon dioxide and water, respectively). Metals and other inorganic materials that do not turn into gas fall to the bottom of the chamber as molten slag. Once it has cooled, this slag can be used to make bricks or to pave roads.

Electric arcs are a harsh environment to operate in, and early plasma torches were not noted for reliability. These days, though, the quality of the nickel alloys has improved so that the torches work continuously. On top of that, developments in a field called computational fluid dynamics allow the rubbish going into the process to be mixed in a way that produces the most syngas for the least input of electricity.

The first rubbish-to-syngas plants were built almost a decade ago, in Japan—where land scarcity means tipping fees are particularly high. Now the idea is moving elsewhere. This year Geoplasma plans to start constructing a plant costing $120m in St Lucie County, Florida. It will be fed with waste from local households and should create enough syngas to make electricity for more than 20,000 homes. The company reckons it can make enough money from the project to service the debt incurred in constructing the plant and still provide a profit from the beginning.

Nor is Geoplasma alone. More than three dozen other American firms are proposing plasma-torch syngas plants, according to Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, a waste consultancy based in Fairfax, Virginia. Demand is so great that the Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, an American manufacturer of plasma torches, is able to hire out its test facility in Madison, Pennsylvania, for $150,000 a day.

Syngas can also be converted into other things. The “syn” is short for “synthesis” and syngas was once an important industrial raw material. The rise of the petrochemical industry has rather eclipsed it, but it may become important again. One novel proposal, by Coskata, a firm based in Warrenville, Illinois, is to ferment it into ethanol, for use as vehicle fuel. At the moment Coskata uses a plasma torch to make syngas from waste wood and wood-pulp, but modifying the apparatus to take household waste should not be too hard.

Even if efforts to convert such waste into syngas fail, existing plants that use plasma torches to destroy more hazardous material could be modified to take advantage of the idea. The Beijing Victex Environmental Science and Technology Development Company, for example, uses the torches to destroy sludge from Chinese oil refineries. According to Fiona Qian, the firm’s deputy manager, the high cost of doing this means some refineries are still dumping toxic waste in landfills. Stopping that sort of thing by bringing the price down would be a good thing by itself.










雖然整體上電影失手﹐但片中有幾個笑位很到肉。最精彩一段是余交樂評論網上交友為世紀騙案﹐女方網上的相片與真人差天共地﹐嚇得從台灣過來會佳人的男網友慌落而逃。片尾那段解釋余文樂與楊千嬅開房﹐他沒有乘人之危飛擒大咬的真正原因﹐絕對是讓人拍案叫絕的神來之筆。片中的模疑記錄片﹐訪問劇中人對愛情的看法﹐很有張小嫻式的sound bite爛gag。電影中主角兩人短訊傳情﹐把n 55!w ﹗上下倒轉來讀變成I miss u這個橋子很浪漫。可是其他的短訊因為鏡頭關係﹐常常看不到電話螢幕中的內容﹐不免影響觀眾對電影的投入。


哲學功課﹕Proofing the Existence of External World


In this essay, I am going to evaluate Moore’s and Russell’s proof of the existence of external world. I will first outline Moore’s argument and Russell’s argument respectively. Then I will point out the difference in the scope of claim in the two arguments. Moore’s argument asserts a smaller scope of claim than Russell’s, thus it is more defendable. Furthermore, I will propose counter examples to nullify Russell’s argument. At last, I am going to propose my proof to the existence of external world to address the shortcomings in both Russell and Moore’s argument.

On the surface, Moore’s argument is surprise simple. It is so simple that it does not seem to be very convincing. His argument can be illustrated as the following. By holding out two hands, here is one hand and here is another hand. There are two hands exists in front of you. If those hands exist, which is something you cannot deny, there must be external world. [1-p451]

Let’s us understand Moore’s claim a little bit more. Moore’s claim is actually an argument to convince a skeptic who does not believes there is an external world but maintain the belief that there is still an external mind outside of his own mind. In another word, to begin with he has to at least believe that there is other mind, who is trying to convince him that there is an external world, already exists outside of him. Moore’s claim will not work on soloist who does not even believe there is anything outside of his own mind. Moreover, Moore’s claim is based on Kant’s early doubt that “the existence of things outside of us … must be accepted merely on faith, and that if anyone thinks good to doubt their (here, their refer to the external world, not those people) existence, we are unable to counter his doubts by any satisfactory proof.” [1- p439]. Most important of all, Moore’s claim does not survive Descartes style of self-meditation scrutiny. Moore believe there exists an external world and convince the other minds he experience in his external world to believe there really is an external world, but he can never proof to himself that he is not a sole existence that all the external world he experience are merely a product of his own mind.

Moore’s argument is pretty straight forward. He is playing word games on Kant’s argument by separating the definition of the terms use by Kant. He redefines “things outside of us”, “external things” and “things external to our mind” as three separate terms. (Notice that that he uses the term “things outside of US” instead of “things outside of ME”.) He excluded transcendent things from his argument, since that belongs to the department of metaphysics. Then he flipped the argument to equate “external things” to “things not internal to our mind”. Notice this slight change of term is the slate of hand he played to separate “things that can meet in space” from “physical objects” and here is he introduced the term “present in space” which supposed to have a lesser definition than “things that can meet in space”. He used a few examples like shadows, after image to illustrate his points, but I am not going to repeat the arguments here due to the limitation of space. Now, here he plays the finally trick, he used the “two hands” as a common experience shared between two different minds, which the skeptic cannot deny. Since there is a gap between the two minds and now there is a common experience come form that gap, there must be something existence between the two minds originate that experience, so the external world must exist.

Let’s move on to Russell’s argument, if that is qualified an argument. First of all, Russell’s claim is more ambitious than Moorse’s. Russell actually goes one step more to define the nature of external world, which is the existence of matter. Moorse is smart to leave the external world remains undefined which gives him more room to play with his definition tricks. Instead of arguing for the existence of matter, Russell simply makes the instinctive belief assertions without even bother to argue for it. To begin with, one cannot doubt his own existence and the existence of the sense data he experienced. Russell is quite frank to admit that “we can never prove the existence of things other than ourselves and our experience” [2-p.14], then he immediate follow by asserting that “although this is no logically impossible, there is no reason whatever to suppose that it is true.” and appeal to the common sense hypothesis to assert there are external objects that cause our sensations. Here he had commit the two fallacies. First, the appeal to common sense is begging of question. Second, even given that we can indeed somehow rule out the soloist possibility, his so-call argument still suffered from the false dilemma fallacy. He assumes that if we can rule out the soloist hypothesis, our sense data must come from physical objects, but he forgot the origin of experience can skipped the existence layer and come from the transcendent layer directly. For practical reason, we may operate on the “external object exists” instinctive belief proposed by Russell, but he should at least compare and evaluate all alternatives instincts before concluding his particular version of instinct is most simple thus should be the most possible solution.

In [2-p15] and chapter 3, Russell uses more examples to illustrate his instinctive belief of the existence of external object. In [2-p15], he uses the existence of a cat that is independent of his perception as an example. He thinks it is quite natural to think that a cat will continue to exists and feel hungry regardless of his sense-data. There is a famous counter example which is also a cat, Schrodinger’s cat. According to Quantum theory, the wave equation is only collapse at the moment of observation. Strictly speaking, Schrodinger’s cat are free to seize its existence when there is no observer, except that once when it is being observed, its state variable collapse to a known state and catch up with what supposed to happen during the unobservable moments. The Schrodinger’s cat does not sound nature to most people, but it conforms to the laws of quantum physics. Therefore whether something sounds nature or not cannot be used to justify the intrinsic belief. In chapter 3, Russell uses the common between public space and private space to argument for his existence of matter. I can nullify his arguments with two terms, “Virtual Reality” and “Augmented Reality”. In virtual reality, there is no public space and each one’s private space is truly private to him. In augment reality, although there still a public space, but the sense data of the public space can be augmented and altered before it arrive at the private space. In addition, Russell argues that a blind man cannot experience light. With the latest technology, the vision chip, a blind can actually experience light more or less like a seeing person although he never experience lights. The vision chips implanted in his retina stimulate the visual nerve to send image to the brain. In theory the whole visual process can stay digital and electrical without anything related to light. Therefore light must be something that can be reduced and transformed into a set of computer equations and can be recreated using digital processors.

Both Moore and Russell did not give a satisfying proof of the existence of external world to a soloist. I am going to propose my solution in the last paragraph in an attempt to bridge the gap left open in Moore and Russell’s argument. My proof that I am not a lone existence in this world is very simple. If I am alone in this world, no one is going to mark my philosophy paper and I will have no reason to write it. The very fact that I am writing this philosophy paper is the proof that I am not alone in this world, which imply there must exists an external world. Now, assume that there is a philosophy professor who is marking this philosophy paper. The very fact that he is marking this paper also is a proof of the existence of an external world; otherwise he has no reason to mark this paper. In fact, if there is no external world, why would anyone bother to read a paper trying to proof the existence of the external world? Therefore the mere existence of this philosophical paper on its own is the proof of the existence of the external world. Q.E.D.

[1] Paul K. Moser and Arnold Vander Nat, Human Knowledge Classical and Contemporary Approaches, 2003, Oxford Press
[2] Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, 1912, Feedbacks

IP Integration : What is the difference between stitching and weaving?

I should write a article on: What is the difference between reusing and salvaging…

by David Murray, 12/15/2010, Design and Reuse

As a hardware design engineer, I was never comfortable when someone talked about IP integration as ‘stitching a chip together’. First of all, it sounded like a painful process involving sharp needles, usually preceded by a painful accident. I happened to be the recipient of said stitches when, at 8 years of age, I contested a stairs post with my forehead, and sorely lost. I have to say, luckily, I have been quite adept at avoiding the needle and thread ever since. That was of course until once when, an hour before that important customer presentation, my top-shirt button, due to an over enthusiastic yawn, pinged across my hotel room floor like a nano-UFO. A panicked retrieval of the renegade button was followed quickly with a successful hunt for an elusive emergency sewing-kit. The crisis quickly dissipated as I stitched back the button in a random-but-directed type of methodology. Needle-less to say stitching, whilst sometimes necessary, makes me uncomfortable.

Stitching, according to Wikipedia, is “.. the fastening of cloth, leather, furs, bark, or other flexible materials, using needle and thread. Its use is nearly universal among human populations and dates back to Paleolithic times (30,000 BCE).” It also states that stitching predates the weaving of cloth. So, 32,000 years later, in these hi-tech times we are still stitching things together. It’s not fur this time, but ‘ports’. Stitching a chip together involves connecting ports together with wires. (Note the terminology also where, if you don’t use certain ports you ’tie’ them off).

Weaving is a different game altogether. One definition simplifies weaving as ‘creating fabric’. Thus a key differentiator between stitching and weaving is that stitching may refer to fixing/mending things whilst weaving is used to create. Stitching is an emergency, an ah-hoc approach (please refer to my stitched button above) whilst weaving is more structured, more planned. Stitching invokes the image of being bent over, eyes squinted, immersed in the tiniest of detail. Weaving is more graceful and productive. In IC design flow terms, I equate stitching with scripting. It is task that is useful to join pieces of the flow together. Weaving creates something. It transforms thread to cloth, and therefore equates more to synthesis. Weaving is a process.

So when it came to developing and naming a tool used to effectively integrate IP and create a chip hierarchy, in a structured manner, we didn’t consider consider ‘STITCHER’ – It had to be ‘WEAVER’.

Stitching is important to fix things, and is necessary in emergency situations, however it has its limitations and as if used as a core creation process, it may come undone. So as I ranted on during that vital presentation, as I got to the cusp of the value-add, I curbed my enthusiasm, keep it slightly in check just in case those button stitches came undone and resulted in a serious eye injury of an altogether innocent customer. What then, of those poor stitched chips? What if those threads start to unravel and your chip integration is running very late. You may have to resort to different type of Weaving, when dealing with your management, customers or partners.

Which MBA? Think twice

According to Economist, studying MBA is not a good investment. So I should be glad that MBA school rejected my application.

2 Feb 2011, Economist
Set your heart on an MBA? Philip Delves Broughton suggests a radical alternative: don’t bother

Business schools have long sold the promise that, like an F1 driver zipping into the pits for fresh tyres, it just takes a short hiatus on an MBA programme and you will come roaring back into the career race primed to win. After all, it signals to companies that you were good enough to be accepted by a decent business school (so must be good enough for them); it plugs you into a network of fellow MBAs; and, to a much lesser extent, there’s the actual classroom education. Why not just pay the bill, sign here and reap the rewards?

The problem is that these days it doesn’t work like that. Rather, more and more students are finding the promise of business schools to be hollow. The return on investment on an MBA has gone the way of Greek public debt. If you have a decent job in your mid- to late- 20s, unless you have the backing of a corporate sponsor, leaving it to get an MBA is a higher risk than ever. If you are getting good business experience already, the best strategy is to keep on getting it, thereby making yourself ever more useful rather than groping for the evanescent brass rings of business school.

Business schools argue that a recession is the best time to invest in oneself. What they won’t say is that they also need your money. There are business academics right now panting for your cheque. They need it to pad their sinecures and fund their threadbare research. There is surely no more oxymoronic profession than the tenured business-school professor, and yet these job-squatting apostles of the free market are rife and desperate. Potential students should take note: if taking a professional risk were as marvellous as they say, why do these role models so assiduously avoid it?

Harvard Business School recently chose a new dean, Nitin Nohria, an expert in ethics and leadership. He was asked by Bloomberg Businessweek if he had watched the Congressional hearings on Goldman Sachs. He replied: “The events in the financial sector are something that we have watched closely at Harvard Business School. We teach by the case method, and one of the things we’ll do through this experience is study these cases deeply as information is revealed over time so we can understand what happened at all these financial firms. I’m sure that at some point we’ll write cases about Goldman Sachs because that’s how we learn.” He could have stood up for Goldman or criticised it. Instead he punted on one of the singular business issues of our time. It is indicative of the cringing attitude of business schools before the business world they purport to study.

When you look at today’s most evolved business organisms, it is obvious that an MBA is not required for business success. Apple, which recently usurped Microsoft as the world’s largest technology firm (by market capitalisation), has hardly any MBAs among its top ranks. Most of the world’s top hedge funds prefer seasoned traders, engineers and mathematicians, people with insight and programming skills, to MBAs brandishing spreadsheets, the latest two-by-twos and the guilt induced by some watery ethics course.

In the BRIC economies, one sees fortunes being made in the robust manner of the 19th-century American robber barons, with scarcely a nod to the niceties of MBA programmes. The cute stratagems and frameworks taught at business schools become quickly redundant in the hurly-burly of economic change. I’ve often wondered what Li Ka-Shing of Hong Kong or Stanely Ho of Macao, or Rupert Murdoch, for that matter, would make of an MBA programme. They would probably see it for what it is: a business opportunity. And as such, they would focus on the value of investing in it.

They would look at the high cost, and note the tables which show that financial rewards are not evenly distributed among MBAs but tilt heavily to those from the very top programmes who tend to go into finance and consulting. Successful entrepreneurs are as rare among MBAs as they are in the general population.

They would think to themselves that business is fundamentally about two things, innovating and selling, and that most MBA programmes teach neither. They might wonder about the realities of the MBA network. There is no point acquiring a global network of randomly assembled business students if you just want to work in your home town. Also, they will recall that the most effective way to build a network is not to go to school, but to be successful. That way you will have all the MBA friends you could ever want.

They might even meet a few business academics and wonder. Then they would take their application and do with it what most potential applicants should: toss it away.