Kari Love and I gave a talk at Maker Faire last year detailing how the maker mindset (tinkering to get an intuitive sense of the rules governing the system, hands-on learning, fast frugal iteration, and sharing) can be transformative for research into fundamental technologies and chronically intractable problems.
The key factor is going from zero to a working understanding of the ground truths underlying the problem you’re trying to solve as quickly as possible. From historical surveys of how transformative technologies have been developed in the past (like TRIZ), deeply focused research is no match for playful learning and interdisciplinary exploration.
Many of you will be familiar with the tall, elegant Sapporo steel Sapporo can pictured on the right. It’s a lovely tapered pint glass shape, with subtle creases every half inch along its surface. You might be curious as to why cans are almost never this shape, how the standard beer can is made, and what sets this one apart from a manufacturing perspective. In this post, I’m going to hunt through the clues left on the can itself to diagnose how this thing was made, and how the manufacturing process elegantly dictates the product’s final form.
The story of the standard aluminum can is fascinating. It goes from a simple disc of aluminum metal to a fully formed can in a scant few steps. How It’s Made has done a very complete diagnosis of the process, and The Engineer Guy has a brilliant video describing the function of the pull tab. However, the process for making one of them has almost nothing to do with the construction of one of Sapporo’s steel cans.