What Is It With You & Aluminum Anodizing, Man?

I’ll tell you what it is with me and aluminum anodizing (man): this process slightly blows my mind. Not my whole mind, but part of it; about a third, maybe. So slightly, but not completely.

‘Cause think about it: you put aluminum stuff in a pool of the gods only know what kind of chemicals, add enough electricity to wipe out a herd of goats, and a little extra coloring sauce of some kind, and BAM! Not only is your aluminum stronger and harder than it was before, now it’s blue. Or red, or purple, or orange or yellow or green or whatever. And it’s not like you just painted it—any jerk can paint metal to make it a different color. With aluminum anodizing, you actually make the metal be a different color. With science. And electricity.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how much electricity this process requires. It probably varies by how much aluminum you’re anodizing, or how thick it is, or something like that. But it’s probably not actually enough to kill a bunch of goats. Maybe one goat, two tops. But that would be mean. Leave the poor goats alone, dang it. All they ever wanted was to chew on stuff and have their milk be made into delicious cheese. Is that so awful? Is it?!?

Okay. Rant ended. Hooray goats.

Faster Than You Can Type III Anodizing

So, I keep going back to this anodizing well, for some reason. I can’t quite pinpoint why, exactly, but the whole “electricity and special sauce makes metal better” thing is fascinating to me. And, if electricity and special sauce weren’t enough, it turns out there are multiple variations of the anodizing process.

Regular anodizing uses chromic acid. At least, I’m going to assume it’s considered “regular anodizing,” because it’s referred to as Type I, and I can’t imagine why you’d call anything that wasn’t essentially the default setting “Type I.” I don’t really know what chromic acid does, but I’m going to guess that it’s probably the dangerous kind of acid that could actually melt your face off, rather than the fun kind of acid that only makes it seem like your face is melting off.

Bump that deadly danger juice up a few notches to sulfuric acid, and you’ve got yourself Type II and Type III anodizing. From what I can tell, Types II and III result in thicker coatings than Type I. Type III is commonly called “hardcoat anodizing,” which leads me to believe that the resulting coating is harder than what you get with other Types. (I’d look it up to find out for sure, but Google is all the way over there.)

One can also replace the chromic or sulfuric acids with other acid flavors, including phosphoric acid and organic acids. If organic acids are anything like the organic vegetables at the green grocer’s, they’re really just the same thing as the non-organic kind, but with more dirt on them. Also, processes using these other types of acid don’t get their own number, so there’s no Type IV or Type V or Type XXXVIII or whatever. Somebody really dropped the ball on that one, like when Mission: Impossible IV lost the numbering and was called Ghost Protocol instead. Dumb.

Well, Color Me Anodized

This one ties in my last post, if you care to read that one. I actually wrote this one first, but then “misplaced” it on my laptop for a while, somehow. Anyway…

So, you know those little carabiner clips? Like the one you probably have on your key chain? The ones that rock climbers use to clip to their rope and such? You know how you can find them in all kinds of crazy colors? Have you ever wondered, “Gosh, how do they make this metal pink?” (Or green or blue or whatever.) I always assumed is was just something that was added after the fact, like some kind of fancy paint or something. Well, we all know what assumption does*.

Turns out that “fancy paint or something” is actually infused into the metal itself. (Also, just for the record, those colorful carabiners are made of aluminum, for the most part.) How does the coloring get inside the aluminum, you ask? Through a process called “anodizing”. I don’t 100% understand how it works, but it’s something to do with putting the completed aluminum object is a special solution and adding electricity.

How that does what it does, I have no idea—everything I know about it, which admittedly is not much, I learned from a website offering aluminum anodizing services that I randomly came upon a few weeks ago. Hooray for the rare occasion when I happen upon information that can actually answer a legit question I previously had in my noodle.

And hooray for anodizing, I guess…

* It makes an @$$ out of you and umption.

If Anodizing Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

So, “hard anodizing” is a thing, apparently. I came across a company’s site that touts their hard anodizing capabilities, and I naturally assumed they meant it was a difficult process. Maybe it is, I suppose, but it turns out what they meant by “hard” was that it’s physically harder than regular anodizing, like how a diamond is harder than a cheeseburger. It’s probably not that extreme a difference; just how hard regular anodizing is, I haven’t the foggiest, but it’s clearly not as hard as hard anodizing.

Despite being punch-drunk from lack of sleep, and regular drunk from copious rum, I did manage to retain some information from this site. Anodizing, you see, is the process of adding a protective coating to things made of aluminum. Color can also be added in anodizing. You know those little red or blue or green or yellow or whatever color carabiners, the little spring-loaded clippy things people use to keep their keys or other stuff on? Those are made of anodized aluminum.

You know, one of these thingamabobs.

You know, one of these thingamabobs.

Still, as usual, I prefer willful ignorance, as life is generally more amusing that way. So I’m gonna go with “hard anodizing” being the more difficult version of regular anodizing. What makes it more difficult? For one, there are rabid badgers everywhere in the facility. Two, the instructions for the anodizing machine are written in Sanskrit. Three, all workers must wear pants that are either two sizes too small or five sizes too big (their choice). Also, the anodizing plant is inside an active volcano and run by a tribe of cannibals. And the soda machine in the break room charges 85¢ a can and the only option is room-temperature Mello Yello.

THAT, my friends, is hard anodizing.

Sorcery vs. Science?

So, I’m no engineer. That much is obvious. But I do know a little bit about how physics and mechanical devices work, so I was more than a little perplexed by my latest Weirdohead discovery.

Right angle gear boxes do not seem like they’re physically possible. Gears just don’t work that way, do they? I mean, obviously they do, because such a thing exists, but it seems to contradict everything I know about gears. Although, admittedly, that’s not a heck of a lot.

But still, how do these abominations of science and logic work? Clearly, there’s some sort of sorcery going on here, yes? Or, you know some sort of really well thought-out design. One of the two. I, preferring amused ignorance over scientific understanding (because it’s much, much easier), choose to believe it’s sorcery.

And, until somebody brings me one of these fancy right angle gear box thingers, cuts it open, and shows me exactly how it works, I am going to stick with sorcery. Because you know what you can do with your stinkin’ logic and book learnin’?!?

Go to college. Get an engineering degree. Build yourself a homemade right angle gear box as a thesis project. Then bring it here and explain how it works. THAT’S what you can do with your stinkin’ logic and book learnin’.

Electrical Equipment, or Evil Robot Ding Dongs?

One of the (many) problems of nigh constant insomnia is the astonishing level of punch drunkenness one reaches after a certain number of hours. When you’re as loopy as I often am after two or three straight sleepless nights, things start to look, shall we say, a bit askew.

Recently, my incessant internet inquisitions lead me to a site that sells toroidal power transformers. I really have no clue how these things work—the webpage said something about “lowest radiated magnetic fields” and “1,000 volts hipot,” but that doesn’t really clear things up. I have some inkling of what power transformers do, but what the H-E-double-stuff-Oreo “toroidal” means, I haven’t a clue (I’d look it up, but Google is all the way over there).

Anyway, the function of these devices isn’t what got my goose in a gander, it’s the form. Take a look:

The stuff of nightmares, this.

The stuff of nightmares, this.

And that’s one of the more mild-looking ones. These suckers look like someone took a good old, all ‘Merican Hostess Ding Dong and crossed it with one of those little robots that crawled into Keanu Reeves’ belly-button in The Matrix.

At this point, not only could I not sleep, I was also feeling goofy and borderline hallucinatory enough to be terrified of just such a thing as I described above. And, since the only thing that keeps me from falling over when I’m battling the arch nemesis that is my insomnia is sugary baked goods not unlike those peddled by the Hostess folks, I was nearly starved out by the time I actually did get some sleep.

So, thanks a lot, guy who designs toroidal power transformers. You’ve ruined snack cakes for me, possibly forever. How do you live with yourself? HOW???

The Molten Metal Mafia?

If you’re like me, you enjoy a nice, steaming hot stack of flapjacks of a Sunday morning. And, if you’re like me in a completely different way, and one that’s actually relevant to the matter at hand, when you hear the term “forging,” you automatically think of the bad guys in a Die Hard– or Lethal Weapon-type movie. When I discovered a website touting the services of a business calling themselves a “forging company,” I briefly assumed that it was a rather brazen (or stupid) display by some criminal organization. Unsurprisingly, this initial assumption was incorrect—as they say, “Assumption makes an @$$ out of you and umption.”

Turns out, this forging company manufactures metal forgings, the type you see in industrial videos that are glowing red hot and getting formed into shape by ginormous hydraulic presses. Specifically, these guys do “open die forging,” which is kind of like freehand forging, as there are no pre-made dies for the molten metal to be pressed into. (Dies are basically the metal forging equivalent of an ice cube tray—whatever shape the of the tray, that’s the shape the ice or metal will come out in when cooled.)

No doubt any type of molten metal forging is quite difficult, but open die style seems like it would be especially hard, and would be much more of an art that closed die forging (using dies to help shape the metal). Perhaps a strange medium to create art in, but hey, some hack dumped out a bag of garbage, called it art, and got that lazy, sorry excuse for art into a real, big time museum*. So pressing multi-ton pieces of glowing hot steel into shape freestyle can certainly count as real art.

* I’d look it up to find out what museum, but Google is all the way over there…

Plus Machinis Ad Infinitum?

The human capacity for brilliance never ceases to amaze. Consider, for example, the engineering genius or geniuses who developed vertical machining centers—huge industrial machines that can create essentially any three dimensional item based on a computer-diagrammed design.

Once their task has begun, these technological marvels can work completely independently of operator involvement, and can run for lengthy periods (overnight or longer) without supervision of any kind. Some models have the ability to feed themselves more material to continue making whatever it is their making, and will continue to do so until the supply is exhausted. Theoretically, another automated machine could be employed to replenish the raw materials as needed. Because some vertical machining centers can work with wood, metal, or even stone, materials that are not necessarily all that hard to procure, this could conceivably go on for days, weeks, or months on end.

These capabilities alone are pretty impressive. But it got me thinking: With the proper programming and available materials, could one of these vertical machining centers make the parts to create another vertical machining center? And could that second-generation vertical machining center then be programmed to make a third-generation vertical machining center which could be programmed to make a fourth-generation vertical machining center which could be programmed to make a fifth-generation vertical machining center etc. ad infinitum?

It’s kind of a “grey goo” scenario, which could lead to the complete destruction of our planet. After all, a good portion of Earth is made up of wood, metal, and stone. It’s unlikely, yes, but not completely impossible.

So way to go, engineering genius or geniuses, you’ve destroyed the entire world. Thanks a lot.

Thanks A Lot, Technology. You’ve Killed Us All.

If you’re like me, you’ve long feared a time in the near future when the world’s robots rise up and conquer humanity. (It might take a while, but follow me on this one.) Scoff if you like, but it seems its becoming more and more of an inevitability as technology continues to advance. But, that’s a whole different tangent for another time.

In preparation for the day when this does happen (if you don’t believe me, just fake it for now), I’ve been thinking of battle plans to help we humans defeat the robots. The only thing I thought of that seemed plausible was this: One does not have to completely destroy one of these automatons to render it ineffective. Instead, one only needs to shoot out its “eyes,” the camera lenses though which it sees, and the crystal lenses that would no doubt be at the end of its weapon’s or weapons’ barrel(s).

With those lenses shattered, shot out, or otherwise destroyed, the robot in question would no longer be able to see or shoot. It would essentially be a sitting duck.

Unfortunately, my dreams of making like John Connor circa 2029 were dashed when I discovered these: glass cutting machines. And, not only are these machines that can cut glass, polish it, round off the edges and such, it can do it 100% automatically! There doesn’t even need to be an operator there—they can run all day and all night, cranking out more lenses for evil robot eyes and laser cannons. As long as there’s material available for the glass cutting machine to handle and manipulate with its bizarro, state-of-the-art robot tool arms, it will continue to work.

Good luck falling asleep tonight. Dun dun DUNNH!

Like Underpants, It Seems Potentially Hazardous

Some of the internet’s biggest empires were built on selling used stuff. (Amazon, for example. Remember when those guys just sold used books?) On certain internet sites, one man’s used stuff can truly become another man’s treasure. (i.e. eBay. Did you get that one already? Figured.) And, in some of those same places, you can find literally anything used. (That time I meant Amazon and eBay. You got that, too, huh?)

But, dear reader, just because you can buy something used, doesn’t necessarily mean you should, no matter how less expensive it may be. Underpants, for example. Would you, under any circumstances, or for any price, buy a pair of used underpants over the internet? Or from any source, really? Didn’t think so. Why? Well, among dozens of other reasons, it seems potentially hazardous.

“Okay, get to it already,” you might be saying. “What randomly discovered internet item are you rambling on about this time?” Well, Wisenheimer Jackson, Jr., this time, I’m talking about used welding equipment. It seems potentially hazardous. But then again, all welding equipment seems potentially hazardous to me. If I knew how to weld, it would probably seem totally legit. From the outside looking in, however, it seems like more than a bit of a safety hazard.