Innovative Products
By Rita Catinella
Tough resin and spongelike aluminum
One of the innovative products on display at the Robin Reigi Art & Objects material showroom is a soft resin gel from Charles Hickok Industrial Design that is incapsulated in a flexible urethane resin, making it more resistant to breaking down. Another showroom highlight, Aero Foam Metals’ Aluminum Foam, is created when pretreated aluminum rods are placed in a mold with a foaming agent and heat. At the correct temperature, the aluminum breaks down and puffs up with air to become a lightweight, yet highly structural cast object with a consistent skin on the outer surface and a spongelike inner surface. Robin Reigi Art & Objects, New York City.

Structural glass cylinders
Highly transparent and resistant to chemical and thermal stresses, Schott’s structural glass cylinders provide an alternative to steel or concrete weight-bearing elements in building construction. In order to make the cylinders shatter-resistant and able to withstand high-compression loads, an outer glass shell is laminated around an inner-core glass pipe. For the Tower Place project in London (shown), Norman Foster & Partners stabilized the building’s membrane-type stressed glass façade by using 4-meter-long, laminated, prestressed glass cylinders with internal steel wire ropes. Schott Corp., Yonkers, N.Y.


Woven fiber optic lamps
Merging industrial technology with fiber art, textile designer Suzanne Tick, in collaboration with industrial and interior designer Harry Allen, has created a series of lamps constructed of handwoven fiber optic yarns. Once Tick designed the lamps and wove the fabrics, with the help of Hiroko Maemura, Allen sculpted the shapes and illuminated them. The team designed two lamps: a vertical hanging wall lamp with a spray of yarn ends, and a standing lamp on a wood base, encircling a pole like an illuminated shade. The lamps are currently available on a custom basis. 212/598-0611. Suzanne Tick Design+Consulting, New York City.



Pass through a masterpiece
On display in the U.S for the first time at Siggraph 2003, a computer graphic conference held in San Diego, FogScreen is a new method for forming a high-quality walk-through dry-fog display. The new technology projects images onto a laminar, nonturbulent airflow, creating a thin and swiftly flowing fog wall. The fog, made of chemical-free water, dissolves in seconds by itself, leaving no trace behind when switched off. Among its many potential uses, the Finnish inventors anticipate architects will integrate the screen into new buildings. FogScreen, Seinäjoki, Finland.



Make the perfect cup of Joe
At Toto’s “Water Technology for Tomorrow” center at this year’s K/BIS, the company tested U.S. customer receptivity to some of their water technologies currently available in Japan. The Alkaline 7 Water Filtration System (shown) allows users to control the pH balance of the water in their residential spaces, so they can vary its acid/base balance to brew the perfect cup of coffee or wash bacteria and toxins from their fruits and vegetables. Toto USA, Morrow, Ga.



Cable-and machine room-free elevator
Gen2 is the first elevator to use flat, coated-steel belts (similar to steel-belted radial tires) to lift the elevator car. The belts are one-to-two inches wide, and only 1ž10'' thick, yet they are stronger, more durable, and more flexible than the heavy woven steel cables that have been the industry standard since the 1800s. The Gen2 system requires a machine that is only one quarter the size of conventional systems, eliminating the need for a separate machine room. Also eliminated is the need for lubrication, making the product more environmentally friendly. Otis Elevator Company, Farmington, Conn.



Antidirt structural membrane
For over 10 years, composite membranes with Fluotop PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride) surface treatments have been used in major textile projects all over the world. The next generation, Ferrari’s Fluotop T2 membrane, couples PVDF and hardening agents to provide an optimal “graft” of the flouropolymer treatment onto the surface of the vinyl coating. This Fluotop T2 surfacing is an antidirt and antiaging shield that also allows for better quality of light transmission. Ferrari, Cedex, France.



Magnetic induction wok
When a pan is placed on top of the concaved black-glass ceramic surface of the Induction Wok by Küppersbusch, electromagnetic energy heats the surface of the wok until the pan is removed, and the surface instantly becomes cool to the touch. When the unit is turned on, coils produce a high frequency alternating magnetic field, which flows through the cookware quickly to stimulate the molecules to move back and forth rapidly, thus creating friction and heat. Küppersbusch USA, Tampa.



Automated theater rigging
According to the rigging experts at Hoffend—their projects include Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show in Vegas—the antiquated counterweight rigging system requires stagehands to manipulate rigging at dangerous heights and in unsafe situations. Vortek is an ADA-compliant floor-to-ceiling system that uses intuitive touch-screens and menus to allow a professional or student crew to control the entire technical operation of a show from a single position. Hoffend & Sons, Victor, N.Y.



Call the oven if you’re late
The Internet Home Alliance’s Mealtime Pilot is a real-world test that allows customers to use network-enabled appliances to simplify meal preparation. In the pilot, conducted for six months in 20 homes in the Boston area, consumers will manage meal-making from an oven (Whirlpool’s Polara range, shown), a Web-enabled fridge tablet and entertainment/command center, and cell phone. Internet Home Alliance, Monterey, Calif.



Download some dinner
Although not yet as mainstream in today’s kitchens as the toaster, the “Internet fridge” is now available from several manufacturers, includinG Samsung, Electrolux, and LG Electronics. The 26-cubic foot LG Internet Refrigerator features a high-quality LCD screenand its own LAN port to enable Internet surfing and shopping. The touch screen display allows users to access the InterNet, check e-mail, or watch TV. The standard fridge comes with a remote control for easy operation from any location in The kitchen. LG Electronics U.S.A., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.



Electric plaid
Created by International Fashion Machines, a company that researches and develops interactive electronic textiles for design, industry, and the military, Electric Plaid is a soft, flexible, handwoven display technology used to create sensuous individual artwork, interior design, and architectural surfaces with colors that can change to give you information or change the decor of the room. IFM, Cambridge, Mass.