3-D Printing Comes to Eureka

3-D at Times Printing

3-D at Times Printing

    Just a few weeks ago, I would have thought that 3-D printing was just a crazy idea with no relevance to the Redwood Coast. I was wrong.  Right here, right now, right down on Third Street at Times Printing, they have a display of objects (see picture) created on their THREE printers. The future is definitely here, and for once it’s not bypassing Humboldt County.

     In point of fact, the Times-Standard online edition has carried three articles since May about online printing which I missed because I only read the print version.  Not any more! I’ve learned my lesson. I became intrigued with the concept from a couple of articles in The Economist and had been calling local fabricators who either didn’t know what I was talking about or didn’t return my calls. Then last week at the GO-Biz seminar, Councilperson Marian Brady brought up the subject and when I followed up with her, kindly referred me to

Lane Strope

Lane Strope

Times Printing, where Lane Strope interrupted his busy day to talk with me.

     There are several different methods now in use for accomplishing 3-D printing and I can’t explain it better than the Economist did. The process begins “with software that takes a series of digital slices through a computer model of an object. The shape of each slice is used selectively to harden a layer of light-sensitive liquid, usually with ultraviolet light, to form the required shape. After each layer had been made, the build tray lowers by a fraction, another layer of liquid is added and the process is repeated until the object is complete.”  It’s easier to show than to explain so here is a video  from the Times of London. ( There are several more on You Tube) but as long as you’re on You Tube you may want to look at some other examples.  “Eureka” is a manufacturer and the Times is THAT Times, not ours.

      The implications of this technology are immense and varied, although there are a few skeptics, including Terry Gou, the boss of Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of electronic goods, which makes many of Apple’s products in China, who is so convinced that 3-D is just a gimmick that he has promised to start spelling his name backward if he is wrong. He’s a brave man. While it is true that 3-D, or as it is sometimes called, additive manufacturing, cannot produce thousands of parts at low cost like conventional methods, when combined with conventional manufacturing  it can break new ground. RedEye, in Minnesota, is printing parts for the 3-D printers produced by RedEye’s parent, Stratasys , which along with 3D Systems in South Carolina are the market leaders in 3-D  printing. 

      How is it being used? Healthcare for one. 3D has printed millions of hearing-aid shells from scans of patients’ ear canals. Align Technology of San Jose has printed 17M sets of molds and clear plastic braces which are replacing metal braces for straightening teeth. Prostheses is another area with great promise.   Optomec, in Albuquerque, is developing ways to print electronics directly onto mobile handsets and printing LED lighting onto wallpaper. Soon you will no longer send away fro a replacement part but have a file emailed to you and do the fabrication yourself. Now that some of the early patents have expired, and manufacturers are developing methods which use a greater variety of materials the price of some printers has fallen to less than $1K. Or, you can send the work out.  Companies like Shapeways in New York, Sculpteo in France and and Materialise in Belgium can print objects on demand from digitalized plans.

     Recently, a large Chinese manufacturer was setting up a production line and realized they were missing some parts that should have been ordered from an injection-molding company. The Economist again: “Faced with weeks of delay it looked at 3-D printing the bits instead. Sculpteo had the first batch of 5,000 parts on their way to China within Days.  It is yet another example of how 3-D printing is not competing with conventional manufacturing techniques, but is instead complementing and hybridising with them to make new things possible. When 3-D printing can come to the rescue of mass manufacturing, its place in the factory of the future is assured.”  And Mr. Gou/Uog  will have to order some new monogrammed sheets. 

GO-Biz Forum Packs Wharfinger

        A crowd of 70 entrepreneurs, hopefuls and civic officials gathered yesterday at the ungodly hour of 8:30am to hear about Governor Jerry Brown’s GO-Biz program which was initiated in 2011 as ”a single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts”. Their excellent website sets forth some of the success GO-Biz has already had in retaining and/or luring back businesses who were planning to move out of state. GO-Biz administers the state Innovation Hub (iHub) program which includes 12 regional innovation clusters which bring together government, academia and businesses through innovation incubators. The North Coast, it would seem,  is a logical place for such an incubator.

       The  speakers included Louis Stewart, who spends his time on the road promoting the program, and  Professor Steve Karp, who heads HSU’s Sponsored Programs Foundation.  This foundation runs as many as 300 projects, grants and contracts concurrently ranging from studies on bats and bees, hydrogen -fueled cars, and the discovery of 100 new species of fungi in Guyana. They employ around 300 students and 500 staff and faculty in cutting-edge research.  Third was Sergio  Herrera from the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center, which we’ll be examining in detail in a future post.

      Then there were the entrepreneurs themselves, first Milia Lando and Rosa Dixon, the founders of Natural Decadence, a gluten, nut, and dairy-free bakery.  (They didn’t give samples but the pictures of the chocolate pies had people drooling). After only two years in business they have recently inked a deal with Whole Foods which will give them distribution in 130 stores on the West Coast and In Hawaii. They have been using the commercial kitchen at Redwood Acres but are on their way to the national Anaheim Food Show and a national launch. They have a great story too, the business having its roots in their struggle to cope with food allergies, theirs and their children’s. Their future is so bright they should have been wearing shades, but that would have detracted from their excellent and heartfelt presentation.

      Last on the program was Greg Dale, Southwest ops Manager for Coast Seafood, a frequent and enthusiastic advocate for our shellfish industry. They used to say of Maria Tallchief, the ballerina, that she could make you feel that there was nothing as worthwhile as being a dancer.  Greg can make you feel that there’s no higher calling than wrangling oysters. He reports that the permitting process- which involves seven agencies- is still onerous and efforts are being made to fashion a Model Permit Process involving  pre-permitting, in conjunction with Morro Bay and Tomales Bay. Much luck to them.  He reports that the demand for shellfish is so great that there is a $200M shortfall.  How great to have a product that is sold before you take it out of the Bay. We need more of those.

      GO-Biz is an important program and the civic leaders who attended included Eureka Mayor Frank Jager and the entire City Council, and Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who came by before the BOS meeting, as well as many others. You will doubtless be hearing more about an iHub for the North Coast. Pay attention. This could be a great step toward strengthening and diversifying our one-crop economy. 

Big Box, uh Bottle Store Hits Eureka

       This post would have been published Tuesday but technical problems intervened, so you’ve probably heard most of this already. As everyone not living in a cave knows, BevMo, the behemoth liquor successor to Beverages and More, is opening in Eureka this morning (Oct 18) at 9am, across from Eureka Natural Foods. Free BBQ lunch from 12-1.

       As a point of civic pride I hope there is NOT a long line waiting at 9am.

      The company was started in 1994, according to Wikipedia and has had a somewhat turbulent history of trademark disputes and false starts; they nearly went broke after over-ambitious expansions into Nevada and Florida before pulling back and concentrating on California, Arizona and Washington. The Eureka store will be their 149th and with each store employing an average of 17 workers, they have a workforce of over 2500 people, including Willard Wong, cellar master, who writes a wine blog on the company’s own website. They have a membership program and wine tastings.  This is a bigtime company entering a small market.  How will our small local stores be affected?

      One of their opening specials is Lagunitas IPA, sale price $12.99 for a 12-pack.  Murphy’s carries it right now for $14.99. This may be the pattern, prices low enough to catch your attention but not enough to make a special trip for. The government figures it costs you $.56 per mile to operate your car, so it may or may not pencil out in your case. They will have tastings and events to draw you in and this Wednesday’s Times-Standard has a coupon, $10 off your purchase of $50 or more. I don’t buy $50 worth of liquor in a year so I’m probably not the right person to write about this. l buy a bottle of Cherry Heering for about $30 once in a while and have only been able to find it at John’s Liquors on Myrtle. I’ll be curious to see if BevMo carries it. They probably do, and I’ll probably keep going to John’s.

      I don’t know for sure, but the arrival of BevMo may have impacted the future of the Henderson Center Marketplace that is/was planned for the old Robert’s site. Wine tasting was going to be featured there, also, but the site lays empty. Neighborhood gossip is that the partnership behind the HCM has unravelled and the proposed operator has left town. Realtor Mark Burtchett, whose name is first on the liquor license, did not return my call or my email, which is not a good sign. Mr. Burtchett, we’re all pulling for you. Henderson Center needs a bit of BevMo.


GPU Becoming GP Dismemberment; Federal Workers in Humboldt

GPU-I was only able to stay for half the Monday meeting of the Board of Supervisors to continue the review of the General Plan Update so my impressions may be faulty. Ryan Burns of the NCJ was also there, but no Times-Standard. The mysterious letter from the City of Arcata was being read by Supervisor Bass but had not been shared with the attendees. Here is what I took away.

1) At this 1:30 pm meeting, only about a third as many people were there. There were the usual realtors, developers and CPR people but there were very few environmentalist voices.

2) The eagerness, by the usual 4-1 margin, of the Supervisors to dismember the previously agreed -upon principles has been notable.  You could liken the whole process to a long, drawn-out slasher movie.

3) The tales of travail, of projects lost in space, during this long twelve years are truly tragic if you call wasted time tragic, as I do. At every meeting someone brings up some study or project that good effort went into  and that has long been forgotten.

4) Supervisors Fennell and Bohn let it be known that they are both allergic to the word “Sprawl” and they would prefer it not be used in the GPU. It was unclear to me whether they thought that simply giving sprawl another name would somehow change it, or whether they believe that sprawl is simply inconceivable in our fair county. I used that word a lot the week before.  Looks like I’ll be using it again.  I can’t think of a more important act for the  Supervisors to accomplish than the  GPU.  Business needs a stable legal environment and the GPU still being in process after 12 years is hardly a selling point to investors or a tribute to our collective common sense.

FEDERAL EMPLOYEE FURLOUGH- There are 1558 Federal employees in Humboldt County according to the OPM’s 2012 figures. Here’s a breakdown by departments:

Agriculture (mostly the Forest Service ) 218

Interior (parks, and I believe the BLM) 208

Post Office:  no they’re not Federal except kinda and they’re not on furlough, thank God, but I thought it would be fun to throw them in- 273

Defense/DHS- Those would be military recruiters and TSA baggage inspectors at ACV: 35

Veteran’s Affairs- 24   and Social Security- 18

And the rest: Commerce 53, Energy 2, Transportation 6, Treasury 1 and Other 11.

Even backing the Postal workers out of the total, that’s still 1285 well-paid people who won’t be spending  their paychecks until the impasse is resolved. This is a definite blow to our business community at a time when Holiday spending is about to get underway. Anyhow that’s how it looked at Costco today. Let’s hope for some Holiday cheer.  And if you know someone on furlough, show them some kindness.   It’s a traumatic situation and our Federal workers are not the high pay grades you have in the urban centers.

By the way, did you know there’s  an FBI office in Fortuna? I didn’t.


Standing Up While You Work Is Good, Facebook Is Depressing, Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton Thrive

In the first few hours of our Federal government shutdown, it would be nice if I could come up with some POSITIVE things to say about Our Current Situation but I really can’t think of any. The impact on Humboldt County, with our huge Federal holdings such as Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National Park, plus all that BLM land, will be huge. Anything that hurts tourism hurts us all.  Let’s hope for a quick resolution. Elsewhere in the news…

STAND AND DELIVER: Have you been getting a lot of online ads for treadmill desks? The ads I get are for models starting at about $1200 and I see one in my future. I had a couple of colleagues when I worked for the State who used standup desks because they had back problems but I’ve seen about five articles lately indicating that working on your feet is a healthy choice for everyone. Churchill, Hemingway and Leonardo da Vinci did it.  The evidence is mounting that, as the Economist puts it, “Prolonged periods of inactivity are bad regardless of how much time you also spend on officially approved high-impact stuff like jogging or pounding treadmills in the gym.”  Even just standing up instead of sitting is a low-level activity that uses a different set of muscles than does sitting.

The evidence is scary. A study from England found that the individuals who are least active at work or otherwise are twice as likely to develop diabetes as the most active, are twice as likely to die of a heart attack and are 250% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. These results seem to be independent of the amount of hardcore gym exercise that the study subjects did. A different study, on rats, indicated that immobilizing them led to a dramatic drop in their HDL levels, which is undesirable as low levels of HDL promote heart disease. The good news for humans is that breaking up long periods of sitting with two minutes of walking every 20 minutes can lower your blood glucose level by 30%.

So what does this mean to an employer?  You might want to speak to your workers’ comp carrier about a break in your rates if you install standup desks and walking paths. Anything you can do to encourage your employees’ low-level activity, like walking, may turn out to be a lifesaver.  Now I’m going to get up and walk around.

FACEBOOK IS DEPRESSING:  I never miss a chance to bash Facebook, so here’s this week’s news. Two recent studies studied Facebook users. The first was a joint venture by the University of Michigan and Leuven University in Belgium, which studied 82 teens and young adults over a two-week period by means of questionnaires.  They found that the more an individual used Facebook during the study period, the worse they reported feeling.  On the other hand, the more real-world interaction they had, the more positive they reported feeling. The  other study, by social scientists at Humboldt University (NOT Humboldt State) and Darmstadt Technical University, both in Germany, surveyed 584 Facebook users in their twenties and found that the most common emotion associated with Facebook use was: ENVY. I don’t doubt it, since looking at all those doctored photos and “status updates”  which consist mainly of bragging could well affect a person. So, employers, Facebook is not only stealing your employees’ time, it’s making  them feel inferior. Try to encourage something more positive. Like Angry Birds. 

JERRY BROWN: A new biography  by Chuck McFadden, Trailblazer, reminds us that when he was elected Governor he was the youngest Governor in the nation. Now he’s the oldest, at 75, and is apparently planning to run for another term. He’s still jogging three miles several times a week and his Prop 30 has apparently calmed the States’ budget crisis. His wife, Anne Gust, former CAO of the GAP, is a strong partner in his administration.  The “crazy” ideas he espoused in his first term that earned him the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” – communications satellites, space exploration, solar energy etc etc- have become mainstream.  The book makes the point that Brown’s three (or four) terms as Governor added to his father’s two terms back in the ‘fifties (he left to become Chief Justice) are a very long run. And he shows no signs of slowing down.

BILL CLINTON: I may have been the last to hear about it, but it has been brought to my attention that Bill Clinton- the Bill Clinton of the fried chicken and pork rinds – THAT Bill Clinton has, for the past three years, been a VEGAN. I’m still trying to process this, but if that’s the reason he looks so good lately, I may become a convert. Cheaper than a standup desk in the short run. Last October, on a road trip, we passed through Little Rock and  I insisted on visiting  his then-favorite lunch spot, Doe’s Eat Place, ( I’m not kidding) .  It was closed but I’m willing to bet they don’t serve vegan. All things change. Both Jerry and Bill are inspirations for those of us who are, shall, we say, getting on in years.  More power to both of them. 

Now if we could just resolve this darn shutdown…