Archive for June, 2010

A Relentless Breeding Ground of Innovation: Shanzhai (山寨)

Posted in Made in China, Miscellaneous on June 28, 2010 by themidnightengineer

Imagine the original founders of companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, or Cisco back when they were bright-eyed tinkerers and fledgling entrepreneurs working out of their home garages. Now multiply this by a thousand. Then you would have the Shanzhai hacker-entrepreneurs operating in Shenzhen, PRC.

From bunnie : studios, Tech Trend: Shanzhai.

The contemporary shanzhai are rebellious, individualistic, underground, and self-empowered innovators. They are rebellious in the sense that the shanzhai are celebrated for their copycat products; they are the producers of the notorious knock-offs of the iPhone and so forth. They individualistic in the sense that they have a visceral dislike for the large companies; many of the shanzhai themselves used to be employees of large companies (both US and Asian) who departed because they were frustrated at the inefficiency of their former employers. They are underground in the sense that once a shanzhai “goes legit” and starts doing business through traditional retail channels, they are no longer considered to be in the fraternity of the shanzai. They are self-empowered in the sense that they are universally tiny operations, bootstrapped on minimal capital, and they run with the attitude of “if you can do it, then I can as well”.

In a sense, I feel like the shanzhai are brethren of the classic western notion of hacker-entrepreneurs, but with a distinctly Chinese twist to them. My personal favorite shanzhai story is of the chap who owns a house that I’m extraordinarily envious of. His house has three floors: on the top, is his bedroom; on the middle floor is a complete SMT manufacturing line; on the bottom floor is a retail outlet, selling the products produced a floor above and designed two floors above. How cool would it be to have your very own SMT line right in your home! It would certainly be a disruptive change to the way I innovate to own infrastructure like that — not only would I save on production costs, reduce my prototyping time, and turn inventory aggressively (thereby reducing inventory capital requirements), I would be able to cut out the 20-50% minimum retail margin typically required by US retailers, assuming my retail store is in a high-traffic urban location.


Music Visualization using 3 Dimensional LED Array

Posted in Other People's Work on June 28, 2010 by themidnightengineer

Bottle Cutter V2 Completed

Posted in Bottle Cutting, Redneck Technology on June 28, 2010 by themidnightengineer

There are two significant changes from version 1:

1. Width adjustable to accomodate wine bottles of various diameter.

2. Rubber bands on wheels for gripping bottles to prevent slipping.

One of the most hexing things about using this device, especially for bottles of larger diameters, is ensuring that everything is aligned and calibrated properly so that the start of the score line meets the end. If there is an offset, it will have a negative impact on the cutting. This device needs a few more modifications before it can be considered production worthy.

Beginner’s Luck

Posted in Miscellaneous on June 28, 2010 by themidnightengineer

In the Myungdong district of Seoul, there is a firearm shooting range. You walk in and there is a lounge area where you sit down and peruse a menu of their gun selection. I chose a 9mm Walther P38, standard issue pistol of  German Wehrmacht officers during World War II, and 10 rounds.

One man’s trash is another’s treasure

Posted in Bottle Cutting on June 27, 2010 by themidnightengineer

Awaiting decapitation

Bottles, bottles everywhere…but not a drop to drink.

I work in DUMBO. Next to my building there is a swanky new condo apartment building. Every Friday, maintenance puts out blue recycle bags filled with such bottles. I go through them and pick out the ones that I like.

I could have salvaged a few more but I didn’t want to seem greedy or anything.

Blueprint for Bottle Cutter V 2.0

Posted in Bottle Cutting, Redneck Technology on June 24, 2010 by themidnightengineer

Bottle cutter version 1.0 is described here.

This bottle cutter has been specifically designed and calibrated to handle 12 fluid ounce beer bottles. Unfortunately, it is not big enough to handle the girth of larger wine bottles. At the time, I didn’t know whether my device would be able to fulfill what I had intended it to do. I was more concerned about “proof of concept” than anything else.

Last week, I drew up some diagrams for a new and improved version. The key new feature of this second generation device is that it would be width-adjustable.

click to view pdf

First item in my product portfolio: Rainwater Candle

Posted in Candle Making on June 23, 2010 by themidnightengineer