Every so often you come across a cool tech device that blows your mind, and makes you rethink what you thought about a gadget. In this case, it’s an everyday object that’s been re-imagined: the light bulb.
Since Edison’s day, light bulbs have been largely the same shape and structure: glass chambers with tiny wire filament inside, heated to glowing by an electrical current. While in modern days we’ve seen the introduction of compact fluorescents, and LED lights, the lowly light bulb has been largely the same, until now.
Enter Nanoleaf. The small startup, with a University of Toronto grad at its helm, began life on Kickstarter. Hoping to raise $30,000 the Nanoleaf team shot past their fundraising goal in 24 hours (2 hours, to be exact!), going on to get over $192,000 pledged to their goal of reinventing the light bulb. These can-do inventors are coming to Beakerhead, the art science and engineering festival in Calgary (September 16-20, 2015).
A whole new look: no rounded edges, no glass
So what did Nanoleaf do? For starters, they changed the shape of their light bulb from rounded, to dodecahedron — a sphere-like shape made from 12 flat plains.
“Our patented Laser-scoring process allows us to fold PCB just like a piece of origami, giving us the freedom to ‘think outside the bulb’ when designing Nanoleaf One,” explains Nanoleaf’s website.
Then they imbedded the Nanoleaf One with dozens of tiny LEDs, so much the better for being able to throw out of a ton of strong, clear and long lasting light.
“Heat robs LEDs of efficiency and longevity,” the website foes on to explain, “that’s why we use individual, tiny, pure copper heat sinks for each LED instead of the less efficient aluminum of competing bulbs. It costs more, but it’s just one of the many ways we achieve such high efficiency and long life.”
Then they decided to eschew glass altogether, and cut those flat plains from computer circuit board, aka Printed Circuit Board, or PCB. PCBs are made from something called “FR-4”. It’s a woven glass fabric with epoxy resin and other materials like plastic and copper sheets.
So why reinvent the light bulb? Nanoleaf’s Sunny Han says, “In the beginning, the three co-founders Gimmy, Christian and Tom got together to create a solar product as a solution to relieving the global energy crisis. They wanted to add an energy efficient light bulb to go with the device. However, after searching the market, they couldn’t find any LED bulbs that were as energy efficient as they had hoped for. The more they looked into it, the more they realized just how big of an impact greener lighting could have on global energy consumption, so they decided to challenge the industry and create something better.”
“The world’s most energy efficient” bulbs, and they can back that up
Nanoleaf calls its bulbs “the world’s most energy efficient” and declares their bulbs will save you about $300 over its lifetime in energy cost alone.
So how do they back that up? Nanoleaf’s Han says “Lighting Facts – a program run by the U.S. Department of Energy to regulate industry standards – has certified our light bulbs as the most energy efficient in the world. With the Bloom’s efficacy levels reaching 120 lumens per watt, our bulbs are the most energy efficient out of over 33,000 other LED lights listed in their database.”
Nanoleaf says its bulbs are 87% more energy efficient than a regular incandescent, and will last 27 years, meaning you may never need to change the bulbs in your home, for as long as you live there! At about $30 a pop, they’re right in line with the price point of other high-efficiency bulbs.
Dimmable bulbs without the dimmer switch
With the invention of the Nanoleaf Bloom, the company set another benchmark: creating a dimmable light bulb that doesn’t need a dimmer switch. Instead by clicking the switch on whatever fixture you have it in on and off, you gain the control to dim the bulb to whatever level you choose. That’s a lot of versatility in your home.
Nanoleaf is brighter than bright: but why?
The bulbs themselves are super bright, almost too bright, but thankfully they can be easily dimmed from any switch. They’d be great in a workplace, workshop, garage or basement, because they’ll give you what feels like twice as much light as any other bulb. Why is that? Han tells me, “the Nanoleaf Bloom is indeed a 75W equivalent. It appears to be brighter because there is no diffuser being used. Most bulbs are made with frosted white glass, which ends up causing the light to appear less bright. Since we place the LED chips right on the exterior of the bulb, the result is a very bright light. The shape of the bulb also gives it true omni-directional lighting, something that the LED industry has struggled to achieve.”
The Nanoleaf bulbs are simple to use; if you can screw in a light bulb, you can up the efficiency in your home. Getting the hang of the dimming function might take a bit; you need to start with the bulb on, then do a quick on/off cycle and wait until the bulb has lowered to the level you like, then you turn it off and on again to set that level.
Nanoleaf has big news to share
The Nanoleaf folks shared with me that they have a new connected product coming out – a starter pack that will come with a smart bulb and hub, similar to bulbs you’ve read about here, like Philips Hue, LIFX, and WeMo/Osram. Want more general info on what a smart bulb can do for you? Check out my blog post.
“The smart home space is growing every day, but most of the new products out there only focus on the ability to control your lights wirelessly. Nanoleaf’s introduction into the connected space will keep in line with our focus on energy efficiency and offer convenient connectivity, but is one-of-a-kind with its unique dodecahedron design. We want to make products that will create meaningful experiences for people – something that they will remember and take with them wherever they go.”
Advice for inventors?
It’s no small feat, inventing something truly new, but plenty of people with amazing ideas never get past having a doodle and a dream. What advice does the Nanoleaf team have for other inventors out there who may have an idea for something great?
“The best advice would be to just go out there and do it!” says Han. “The longer you wait, the more you stall and the less likely it will happen. Our CEO, Gimmy Chu, says that he’s glad he didn’t know everything he knows now. Otherwise he would’ve been more hesitant to take that initial plunge. Having a great idea is a good starting point but you need to be ready for a lot of hard work, late nights and bumps in the road.”
See NanoLeaf at Beakerhead
You can see Nanoleaf in action.. for free, as part of Beakerhead’s Temporary Gallery of Lasting Impressions. Check Beakerhead’s website for info.
Its doors were locked for years, but thanks to Strategic Group, Calgary’s historic Barron Building is coming back to life as an engineering backdrop for contemporary art. During Beakerhead, it will be a sublime stage for SoleNoid, a western Canadian premiere by German artist, Peter William Holden, and Nanoleaf, an illuminated installation by internationally renowned Calgary-based artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett, made of Nanoleaf light bulbs that can last up to 40 years. Nanoleaf is a Beakerhead for a Better World project, presented in partnership with Trico Charitable Foundation.
Get more info or order a Nanoleaf bulb from their website.
Erin is a Calgary-based tech writer, TV producer, gadget ninja and wanna-be geek. Follow her on Twitter @ErinLYYCor check out and Like her Facebook news page.
You can usually find me testing out the latest gadgets and high tech gear. But this time, some of the new gear I got that I’m most excited about isn’t as high-tech as I’m used to. I love it nonetheless and want to share.
First up, this awesome Stanley French Press Coffee KitI got at Campers Village. This versatile set up allows you to boil water in the compact narrow kettle pot, add your coffee (grounds are conveniently stored in the lid!) then use the French press plunger grid to press fresh quality coffee, and transfer it to the thermos where it’ll stay hot for 24 hours. It also keeps drinks cold or iced if that’s your thing. I also thought it was really clever that the lid unscrews into two coffee mugs.
I also got a lot of use out of this kit by pairing it with a Biolite CampStove. Check out my video of how it all worked together!
Next, I tested out a handy flashlight charger. The Black Diamond Ember Power light gives you light when you need it, which you always do when you’re camping, plus its USB port will also charge any gadget you have with a USB plug. Dead camera? No problem. Phone out of juice? Easy to fix. I kept this gadget in my purse and also found it really versatile when we were short-cutting home through a park after visiting a neighbour after dark. My husband’s also been stealing it for everything from finding some papers in his truck after sunset, to recharging his phone on the golf course.
Speaking of light, I also love these new 10″ LED Light Tent Pegs from Coghlans. They secure your tent, tarp or lines, and have a simple twist on/off bright LED light which will keep you from tripping in the dark. I found myself using these to mark hazards around the campsite too, like big rocks and roots. Now, if only we could build LED lighting fibers into the tent strings….
I also picked up a couple other low tech options that I find I’m using constantly while camping and on the road.
The Nemo Helio Pressure Showeris super handy if you like to camp away from crowds and off the beaten path. It comes in a tiny zip pack about the size of a mixing bowl. The 11L capacity means plenty of water, and because it rests on the ground, you don’t need to worry about hefting it overhead, or trying to fill it while it’s dangling from a tree. So how does it work then? You pressurize the “tank” with a foot pump then use the sprayer to enjoy 5-7 minutes of shower time.
Curious how it works? Watch the short video!
Lastly, I snagged one of these versatile hooks, thinking it would come in handy and it did. The Nite Ize Gear Line is a handy line with rigid twist-tie-like tabs on each end. It’s got several different carabiner-type S-clips along its length, meaning you can string up whatever you want and keep it there with ease. You can use it on a tree like I did to keep a garbage bag within easy reach, or use it in a tent to keep gear, towels, water bottles, or keys off the floor and within grabbing distance.
That’s just some of the new gear I’m loving this season. You can find everything I mentioned at Campers Village in Calgary and Edmonton, or online at Campers-Village.com
I’ll also be showing off these gadgets and some other cool camping gear later in July on CTV’s Tech Talk!
This is where the rubber meets the road in the jewelry-making process. Finishing can make or break a piece.
With casting, if care is taken with the wax (ie. making sure the wax if very smooth, free of nicks and scratches, and nice and even) then your finished piece will be that much easier to clean up.
I’m going to be very meticulous with the finishing here, because I really want these rings to be beautiful and shiny. They are, after all, wedding rings, and need to be extra special anyway!
Check out our starting point:
First step in finishing; filing off the remnants of the sprues. We’re left with hearty balls on the band after the casting; and its no easy task to file that down with hand tools to make the bands smooth and even again. The goal is to make sure one would never know it was there. That takes some time, and some elbow grease.
I save my gold filings for use in future projects. It may seem like overkill to keep gold powder/dust, but it adds up for future use.
Once the band is even again it gets a nice light sanding. I used a Foredom tool with a coarse then a fine sanding drum to make the work easier. It cleaned up it very nicely.
Once the sanding is complete; it’s over to the polishing wheel for a liberal coating of Tripoli compound; a waxy paste that is mildly abrasive. It can quickly and easily remove the fine marks the sanding has left, and is the first of the polishing steps to ensure a mirror finish.
After the tripoli does its work, the rings get a quick scrub in soap and water, and then on to the second phase of polishing compound; Red Rouge. This is where the rings buff up like a dream. A few minutes under the rouge wheel and they shine.
Another quick scrub up, and….. they’re done.
It’s been months of slow work (I had the privilege of being able to take my time with these) but I’m VERY happy with how they turned out. This work could be done in just a couple of days, but it was also a learning process for me I had no desire to rush. It also helped that my brother asked me to do these last fall.
The wedding is July 27th. I hope you’ll join me in wishing the newlyweds-to-be a lifetime of happiness … and great looking jewelry.
So last night we made the moulds (see Part one of the casting blog for that). Tonight we’re liquefying gold and turning it into rings.
If we’ve done a good job at the spruing, investment, and kiln drying; this is the fun and easy part.
First steps; prep the equipment.
We’re using a centrifugal casting set up, which consists of a large drum (to protect you if your flask explodes with hot metal inside), a crucible (where the metal gets melted down), a cradle for your casting flask or your mould, and a spinning arm which gets wound up like a top, and has a brake put on until you’re ready to go.
We heat the crucible first, to help lower the time it will take the melt the metal. Once it’s piping hot, the flask is removed from the kiln, wired into the cradle, and the crucible and flask are pushed together.
More heat is applied to make sure everything is warm, and the metal will flow freely.
Then it’s time to add the gold (good bye old unworn gold, hello new, shiny wedding rings!).
It’s all piled in and heated until it’s 100% liquid; Teacher Trevor checks the molten goodness for lumps of unmelted metal, which could not only wreck your pour, but could also cause the flask to explode. (Thank goodness for that drum!).
Once Trevor is satisfied everything is a go, he releases the brake and centrifugal force takes over; sucking the gold deep into the flask so it fills everything.
The arm spins for a couple minutes, then the flask is left to cool off a bit before quenching it in water.
The water begins dissolving the investment almost immediately and it crumbles out of the flask. We hear a soft ‘plunk’ as the gold rings fall out and hit the bottom of the quench bucket. Trevor fishes them out and…. Boy, do they look rough still!
So what’s a sister to do? Part 6 (and final part): Finishing.
Casting is a 2-day process and it starts with prepping the wax rings by attaching sprues; essentially little hoses, which will attach to a wee wax funnel where the molten metal will flow in.
The sprues are attached using a drop of hot wax.
Once that’s done, they’re fitted into the base of the casting flask, and its measured to see how much investment is needed.
Investment is an almost plaster-like substance, which fills up the flask and covers the wax rings. It’s then baked in a high heat kiln overnight. The wax rings dissolve, leaving perfect little hollows, shaped exactly like your rings, and with any and all detail.
Making and mixing your investment is a specialty all to itself. Trevor, my jewelry instructor of a few years is an expert, and he’s doing the bulk of the work here, and humouring me by letting me “help”. It’s a great learning experience for me; but I’d definitely be in over my head if I had to try this myself.
The investment power can be toxic, so wearing proper protection is a must.
Meaasuring the investment powder and using distilled water are also essentials. Trevor is also adamant that the mixing technique is precise; using gloved hands to feel for any lumps (just one could cause your new plaster cast to explode in the kiln, or when pouring the gold), and timing the mixing exactly (we have 9 minutes to mix and pour and vibrate the flasks.
Vibrating removes any air bubbles inside which could cause similar unhappy endings to a casting flask, and thus all your hard work.
Once the mixture is just right, it’s carefully poured into the flasks and left to dry for a few hours. After that it’s straight to the kiln.
Once the flasks have been fired for the appropriate time, they’re ready for the next step; melting down the gold and pouring!
One post-script on this: this is by no means an exact step-by-step of the casting process. Casting is a very specialized, very delicate and sometimes dangerous process that should only be done by the experienced, or under proper supervision. This is my journal of the process of making my brother’s rings, so please, don’t read this and try it at home!