KDF Mini House takes two days to install

Mini House is a functional prefabricated modular home that comes delivered flat-packed and can be constructed on-site in just two days. The first prototypes, which were designed and built by Swedish architect Jonas Wagell in 2010, are currently being used as summer houses in different parts of Sweden.

The flat-packed Mini House modules consist of prefabricated walls, framing, roofing and trim-less windows. The design includes an insulating polystyrene core clad with plywood or plastic laminate, a technique that is often used in the construction of caravans and floating homes…

Similar to the Finnish Micro House, the 161 ft2 Mini House module doesn’t require a building permit within Scandinavia and comes with an additional 161 ft2 outdoor terrace with pergola. This clever design gives occupants a larger living zone, with large sliding glass doors that open out onto the outdoor terrace.

With prototypes being trialled and tested, the Mini House concept is undergoing some design and function upgrades and new versions will soon be available in several sizes ranging from 161 to 753 ft2. The Mini House 2.0 is being designed in co-operation with the Swedish architectural studio Sommarnöjen and the first models are planned to be introduced on the market later this year.

Designed to withstand a diverse range of weather condition and climates, the Mini Houses can all be customized or adapted with the addition of extra modules.

“We are also developing customized solutions for bedrooms, bathroom, sauna, kitchen, living room and storage etc. which can be added as options,” said Wagell. “We will start delivering houses for the Scandinavian market early next year and will accept orders from the rest of Europe when we have established a good routine.”

Unfortunately, no mention of price.

Honda develops technology to weld steel and aluminum

A diagram of an Accord subframe made using the new welding process

Although some engineers have had success in spot welding steel and aluminum together, it has largely been considered impossible to achieve reliable, continuous welds directly between the two dissimilar metals. That changed last Thursday, however, when Honda Motor Company announced that it has devised a technique for doing that very thing. The results, which include lower vehicle weight and better performance, can be seen in the 2013 Accord.

The Honda team developed a variation on Friction Stir Welding, in which metals are joined via mechanical pressure – it’s the same technique that has been used for experimental steel/aluminum spot welds in the past. As Honda explains it, “This technology generates a new and stable metallic bonding between steel and aluminum by moving a rotating tool on the top of the aluminum which is lapped over the steel with high pressure.” The welds that result are reportedly as strong or stronger than those made using regular Metal Inert Gas welding.

Steel/aluminum subframes built with the new technique are said to be 25 percent lighter than those made entirely out of steel, which should translate into improved fuel economy. The process also made it possible to alter the structure of the subframe, so that the mounting point for the suspension could be relocated – this change has reportedly increased the rigidity of the mounting point by 20 percent, and thereby improved the car’s dynamic performance.

Additionally, the new process uses about half the amount of electricity as Metal Inert Gas welding, and the machinery it requires isn’t as large as that traditionally used for Friction Stir Welding – in fact, it can be attached to an industrial robot. The technique can also be used for aluminum-to-aluminum welding, without any hardware changes.

The is a serious achievement. I managed support systems for a number of facilities keyed on welding components. Including early days MIG-welding ship sub-sections. This would have offered real weight savings, structural advantages.

“Pink Slime” redux – Beef Products, Inc. sues ABC News

Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News for defamation Thursday over its coverage of a meat product that critics dub “pink slime,” claiming the network misled consumers into believing it is unhealthy and unsafe.

The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product officially known as “lean, finely textured beef”…

The lawsuit filed in a South Dakota state court also names several individuals as defendants, including ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and the Departure of Agriculture microbiologist who coined the term “pink slime”…

The reports cited in the lawsuit include 11 that aired on television and 14 that appeared online between March 7 and April 3.

Webb said the reports had “an enormous impact” on the company, forcing it to close three of its four U.S. plants and lay off more than 650 workers. Webb said the network also published a list of chain grocery stores that had stopped selling the product, and that this pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI.

Craig Letch, BPI’s director of food-quality assurance, said the company lost 80 percent of its business in 28 days.

Critics worried about the way the meat is processed. Bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria, a practice that has been used for decades and meets federal food safety standards. The phrase “pink slime” began to spread after The New York Times cited it in a 2009 article on the safety of meat processing methods.

Soon afterward, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began railing against it. McDonald’s and other fast food companies stopped using it, and major supermarket chains including Kroger and Stop & Shop vowed to stop selling beef with the low-cost product.

An online petition calling for the banning of the product from school menus drew hundreds of thousands of supporters.

I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for these creeps, right? Stalwarts of an industry that cut wages in half over the past couple of decades – mostly by replacing citizens with undocumentados.

Meatpacking is an industry that relies on lobbyists to purchase politicians and bureaucrats to validate smarmy and innocuous names created by marketing mavens to replace more accurate descriptions of foodstuffs I wouldn’t feed a goat. They have never lobbied against practices like pumping cows full of antibiotics to encourage weight gain. They deserve as little respect as they get.

China’s new warship affirms their Navy as a defensive force

Over recent weeks China defence bloggers have been excited by the emergence of pictures of what appears to be a new class of guided missile destroyer for the Chinese Navy…The hazy pictures on the blogs suggest that one of the vessels – dubbed the PLAN 052D – was launched at the end of last month. At least two others are already under construction.

Chinese warship design tends to evolve gradually. Here the PLAN 052D is no exception – it bears clear links to its predecessor, the 052C.

But it differs in important respects to the extent that many analysts believe what we are seeing is the first of what could be a series of new Chinese warships that could form the backbone of its fleet.

Prof James Holmes, a China-watcher at the US Naval War College, says the chief significance of the new vessel “is that China appears to have settled on a design for a top-of-the-line guided-missile destroyer after a lengthy period of ‘fleet experimentation’ – a gestation period, if you will”.

“One hopes it will finally settle the debate about the direction and permanence of Chinese naval power,” he adds…

James Holmes stresses that the modus operandi of the Chinese navy must also be taken into account when assessing the impact these new ships might have. The 052D may be an inferior vessel to its US counterparts, but it will not be operating alone.

“Let’s keep in mind that China operates its fleet almost entirely within range of shore-based anti-ship missiles, fighter aircraft, and ships like patrol craft and submarines.”

“These provide protective cover for the surface fleet and, Beijing believes (and I agree), that this is the great equaliser.”

“Why go to the effort and expense of building a mirror image of the US Navy if you can hammer away from shore? In short, China doesn’t need a fleet symmetrical to the US Navy to fight on ground of its own choosing, namely the China seas and Western Pacific.”

Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar and our Tory cousins in the UK continue to swear allegiance to the bellicose ideology of the Cold War rolling truckloads of time, money and manpower out onto the oceans of the world. Somehow, the idiots in command of our foreign policy still think that nothing succeeds like imperial might – and one of the best showplaces for that arrogance is afloat.

It’s stupid enough to spend 150% more per military body than needed for defense by stationing that person in one or another of our several hundred garrisons around the world. Spending even more in dollars measured by the ton to produce and sustain a floating edifice that says only one thing to the people of the world – “The United States is the cop of the world!”

Feel represented by the Democrats or Republicans — or would you rather have a 3rd Party?

Americans are divided as to whether a third major party is needed in U.S. politics today, after having given majority support to the concept in 2011 and 2010. Americans’ views today are remarkably similar to what they were in September 2008, before that year’s presidential election…

Support for a third party has varied substantially since Gallup first asked this question in 2003. It was highest in 2007 and 2010, at 58%. In between those peaks, however, support dropped to less than the majority level two months before the 2008 election, as it has in the current survey, conducted Sept. 6-9 — two months before this year’s election. Thus, it may be that in election years — particularly shortly after the parties’ conventions, as was the case for the 2008 and the 2012 surveys — Americans look more favorably upon the two dominant political parties.

As would be expected, Americans who have the weakest ties to either of the two major parties — independents — are consistently more likely to favor having a third party. The current 58% support level among independents, however, is the second lowest on record.

Republicans’ and Democrats’ support for a third party has fluctuated over the past nine years, but the two groups now have similar views, as they did a year ago. Now, 40% of Democrats support the concept of a third party, compared with 36% of Republicans…

The biggest problem – perfectly consistent with American politics – is that 3rd Party campaigns may represent a portion of grassroots identity; but, they pretty much always start at the top. It was essentially true of the Progressive Party and more recently, the Greens. It was even more so the case with Ross Perot and George Wallace.

Between impatience and self-importance, the idea of building in the style of the civil rights movement seems to require more patience than the not-so-oppressed minority of political independents can muster. In the United States that is.

DARPA releases video of new-and-improved Big Dog robots

If you haven’t seen the prototype in action, prepare to be startled

Fans of freaky-looking robots will already be familiar with DARPA’s quadruped Legged Squad Support System, or LS3 (although it’s also known as Big Dog by its builder, Boston Dynamics). Yesterday, two prototypes of an improved version of the LS3 were demonstrated, and DARPA has posted the video to show off what’s new.

The basic purpose of the LS3 is to serve as a sort of pack mule, carrying heavy gear for troops over rugged, varying terrain. It can follow them autonomously, and respond to verbal and visual commands…

According to DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, “…improvements include the ability to go from a 1- to 3-mph walk and trot over rough, rocky terrain, easily transition to a 5-mph jog and, eventually, a 7-mph run over flat surfaces, showing the versatility needed to accompany dismounted units in various terrains.” As can be seen in the video, the new robot’s ability to right itself after falling over was also showcased.

I do love this critter. Imagine 10 years from now when you’ll be able to buy one – used – in an army surplus sale. Replace a llama without needing to graze out on the trail.