On making stuff, by someone who knows his stuff
April 17, 2016 12:00 AM   Subscribe

 
Dan Gelbart! He has (semi?)regularly taught at UBC for the past few years: a crash course on sensors and motors for engineering grad students (and interested undergrads in the know). Everyone who has gone through that course, myself included, has walked out at least a little bit in awe -- each day he walks in, delivers a semi-structured lecture on the topic of the day, throws in a few amusing anecdotes from the history of science and, if we're lucky, pulls out a couple interesting artifacts or physical demos from his briefcase for show and tell. (IIRC the lectures were filmed and put online for students' use, but I'm not sure if they were ever distributed to the general public). I think the world could use more people like Dan Gelbart: not only highly knowledgeable and successful by any measure, but also motivated to share what he knows with the world at large.

Anyway, thanks for this post! I have one of these videos (the one on flexures) playing in the background and aaah, that cadence really brings me back.
posted by btfreek at 12:44 AM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Beginner's Luck
An entrepreneur's adventures in not seeing the light.
By Dan Gelbart

I was born in 1947 and grew up in Israel, graduating as an electrical engineer without suspecting I would spend many years in optics. In 1973, after completing my mandatory army service (Even the Israeli Army makes mistakes.), I moved to Vancouver, Canada.
...

posted by sebastienbailard at 2:00 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


btfreek: He has (semi?)regularly taught at UBC for the past few years: a crash course on sensors and motors for engineering grad students . . . IIRC the lectures were filmed and put online for students' use, but I'm not sure if they were ever distributed to the general public

A quick google suggests this is course "MECH 520 Control Sensors and Actuators", but fails to find any publicly-accessibly recordings.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 3:05 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


if we're lucky, pulls out a couple interesting artifacts or physical demos from his briefcase for show and tell

Just noticed a nice example of that in the comments to one of his videos:

Commenter: Thank you for posting this video of a superb old machine. I have taken the liberty of reblogging your post on /.../
Dan Gelbart: Thanks for the kind words. I see from your website that you like steam engines. Here is a video of one I built: Dan's Uniflow Steam Engine
posted by effbot at 4:45 AM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Creo was sold to Kodak in 2005 for about $1 billion, and I retired from optics a happy man"

What a modest genius!
posted by lungtaworld at 4:58 AM on April 17, 2016


That's one nice workshop he has there.
posted by scruss at 7:26 AM on April 17, 2016


This is awesome. I'm continually amazed at the resources available via places like youtube.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:49 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh god. My people. I'll be drinking my morning coffee and watching these repeatedly for the rest of the day. My coworkers are going to love this as well.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:01 AM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like the bit where he points out that if you spend your life in R&D, you'll spend about one year of your life taking screws out of covers, so by using slots/keyholes instead of holes, you'll extend your life with about the same amount as health food and exercise, but in a much simpler way.
posted by effbot at 8:29 AM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Great post! This man is amazing.
posted by sety at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2016


Cool, so, who wants in on a metafilter group buy for a waterjet? We can, uh, keep it at my place.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:08 AM on April 17, 2016


A quick google suggests this is course "MECH 520 Control Sensors and Actuators", but fails to find any publicly-accessibly recordings.

That's the one: if there aren't any recordings available I suspect it's either because some sort of rights issue with the university or the video/sound quality wasn't up to standard.
posted by btfreek at 9:31 AM on April 17, 2016


A left-hander? Big shock.

The density of information in the water jet segment, so casually imparted, is just incredible.
posted by jamjam at 10:07 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cool, so, who wants in on a metafilter group buy for a waterjet? We can, uh, keep it at my place.

OMAX 2652, excellent condition, $19,500. I'm in.
posted by effbot at 10:16 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you want a water jet you can always get a TechShop membership. I think all the locations have them.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on April 17, 2016


Wow - I thanks for the TechShop tip. For US-based people there are quite a few locations, and they offer a lot of really awesome classes for reasonable prices. There is one near where my family live - I'll have to schedule a trip around a class!
posted by ianhattwick at 11:07 AM on April 17, 2016


There's one near me, although I've never been to it. In the Austin area there is also ATX Hackerspace which I think is probably not so well outfitted, but pretty inexpensive also. Every now and then I think about trying to set up a cooperative. I have a lot of WW and metal working tools, not much space, and I'd like to acquire more stuff. I'd loooove to have a CNC plasma cutter or a 4x8 wood CNC machine, but I have no space for that.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:18 PM on April 17, 2016


I have set up and run midsize prototyping shops and now work in a very large one, and I will repeat what I've said to many people before: Wanting a waterjet cutter is exactly like wanting a boat. You don't want a boat, you want a friend with a boat. Owning, maintaining, and supplying a waterjet is much much less fun than using a waterjet.
posted by range at 12:55 PM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


My last job had a huge Omax waterjet, and when it was working it was awesome. It takes a lot of power to run, though. A laser cutter is much more efficient, but you're limited on what it can cut. I was pushing to get a 5'x10' laser cutter to supplement the 6'x10' waterjet we had, but the boss had no interest in investing in the future of his company or employees.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:47 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does a water jet pulsate or shoot a continuous stream?

I can imagine a few possible advantages for pulsation, but I didn't hear it.
posted by jamjam at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2016


All the ones I've seen use a continuous stream. Previous waterjet comments.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:33 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


And for those who haven't seen it already, don't miss the short video about his home-built high precision CNC lathe and grinder with 1 ┬Ám (0.00004") accuracy ("it's actually not that difficult to build a machine like this").
posted by effbot at 5:00 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man these videos are just incredible. They're so information dense and the whole time he has this sly smile, he's telling you all the secrets. I love this man to death.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:15 PM on April 18, 2016


And this CNC video is something else. I've been building my own CNC machines for a few years now and I've never even heard of many of these techniques. Air bearings, this crazy chuck, the tail stock, it's all incredible.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:22 PM on April 18, 2016


God my mind is just blown. I've never felt more unworthy in my whole life.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:29 PM on April 18, 2016


One of the best prototyping freelancers I've ever had the privilege to meet introduced me to this video series when we were working a gig together last summer. So much wisdom in here.

Unfortunately waterjets still cost the better part of six figures and take up more space than I could possibly get access to in LA if I wasn't running a fab business full-time. Sad, because this stuff is so cool.
posted by Alterscape at 7:51 PM on April 18, 2016


I've had this thread on my mind for the past couple days and it's made me think of one tiny, totally unrelated detail from his class: how, in every place where a 3rd person singular pronoun was called for, he very neatly excised the word "he" and replaced it with the singular "they". In an ideal world this would be totally unremarkable, but IME it's definitely not something guaranteed from the crotchety old engineer set, and, as one of exactly two women out of ~30 students who took that class that year, it was something I took note of and appreciated.

(more on the crotchety old engineer side, he also spent quite a bit of class time getting on our case for relying on google et al, instead of reading a goddamn book once in a while. he also gave us his list of "100 numbers every engineer should know" to memorize, which I am trying to track down in my old files...)
posted by btfreek at 7:57 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hah my crotchety old engineer professor got on our case for wearing hiking boots. "Is a mountain going to spring up in front of you unexpectedly??" He thought we should wear short sleeve shirts and ties, naturally.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:14 AM on April 19, 2016


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