20 November 2010

Autumn re-runs: A microscopic view of some counter materials

This was one of my favorite posts last year. It ran on 21 December 2009. As proud of it as I was at the time, it's a work of scholarship for crying out loud, I ran it last year during Christmas week and no one saw it. Now I ask you, what other design blog partners with a scanning electron microscope manufacturer to test a marketing claim? Who?

Me, that's who.

Dartmouth College

Another great contact I've made through Twitter in the last few months is the Aspex Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA. Aspex has been in business since the early '90s and they have embraced social media with a savvy and confidence that makes them stand out. The Aspex Corporation makes Scanning Electron Microscopes among other things and that a company in a very technical field and a kitchen designer could strike up a casual acquaintance is a great example of the expansion and simultaneous contraction of the world made possible by social media.

A scanning electron microscope (or SEM) is an instrument for visualizing the surfaces of objects and materials not possible through ordinary optical microscopes. Rather than using a lens to magnify reflected light (an optical microscope) SEMs use a focused beam of electrons to scan a surface.

Aspex Corporation

The electrons bounce back to a detector and the detector generates an image. SEMs can only "see" a small section of an object at a time. So the object being examined is placed on a Sample Stage in the SEM and the stage makes small, incremental movements called rasters. The rasters are then compiled into a complete image and displayed on a screen. It's pretty cool stuff. Most people have seen SEM images of ant's heads or snowflakes and that's a quick explanation of how those images were made.

Well Aspex is running an offer to scan and analyze any sample that can fit inside the chamber of one of their SEMs for free so I took them up on their offer.

I enjoy cutting through marketing speak to an almost unhealthy degree and counter materials are a product category rife with it. For as long as they've been around, I've heard the claims made by quartz composite manufacturers that their products were "perfectly smooth and non-porous." Since this claim is always made during a comparison with the surface irregularities of granite my BS meter goes off.

Quartz composites are a perfectly fine material and I specify their use all the time. In my mind, they are an alternative to natural stone counters but not a substitute for them. They have a very unique look and there are specific times when their use is called for. At the same time, sometimes the over all look of a room calls for granite or soapstone or marble. These materials are not interchangeable and each one has its strengths and weaknesses.

So when Aspex Corporation made its offer to scan any sample I could fit into the chamber of one of their SEMs, I decided to put to the test the quartz composite claims of perfect smoothness and non porosity.

I took two samples that had been sitting on the end of my desk for years and shipped them off to Aspex.

The samples I sent were a piece of Santa Cecelia granite and Sienna Ridge by Silestone. This is by no means an accurate sampling of an entire industry's products. Rather, this is a test of two very specific and very well handled samples. The evidence presented here is anecdotal at best but I still there's something valid to be learned.

photo from Aspex Corp.

Here are my samples upon arrival at Aspex.

photo from Aspex Corp.

Here they are relaxing in front of the PSEM eXpress, Aspex Corporation's bench top model.

The degree of magnification in the following examples is expressed with a scale in each image. The scale is in microns and a micron is another word for a micrometer. A micro meter is a millionth of a meter, put another way, a micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter. Microns are abbreviated as µm. To give you a little more perspective, a human air is 100µm wide and a red blood cell is 8µm in diameter. Salmonella bacteria are 2µm in length and 0.5µm wide.

So here's what my sample of Santa Cecilia looks like.

In this image, the scale at the top reads 200µm. So if you took two human hairs and set them side by side, they would be as wide as the scale.

In this image the scale reads 1000µm. So if you took ten human hairs and set they side by side, they would be as wide as the scale.

Here's another Santa Cecilia granite image at 1000µm.

Now it's quartz composite's turn.

Here's my quartz composite sample with a scale that reads 200µm.

Here is is at a higher magnification, 1000µm

And another shot of it at 1000µm.

Pretty cool, huh? Now, I will grant the quartz composite people an acknowledgement that this sample is smoother than this sample of granite, but I would hardly call it "perfectly smooth and non porous."

So what I take away from this is that I won't be swayed by claims that I should specify quartz composites over natural stone because they are smoother and non-porous (and more hygienic by implication) and I will continue to use composites where they would look best and natural stone where it would look best.

What do you think?

In the meantime, poke around on Aspex Corp's website. You can even send in something of your own with this form. They have a pretty cool contest every week where they invite people to guess what a scan is. Here's last week's:

Care to hazard a guess?

Why it's a Post-it note being pulled back from the pad of course.

Thanks Aspex!

19 November 2010

It's a seminar day today

In about an hour the first seminar of my social media series kicks off and I go on. It's a sold out session and I'm beyond psyched.

I know I'm not supposed to admit this in public, but I still can't get over the fact that people pay money to hear me speak.

18 November 2010

Delta Faucet wants to take a shower with you

Last week, I wrote a post about Delta Faucet's new TV spot that I think is so clever. Here it is again:

Well, that ad for the In2ition is part of a larger campaign and this week, Delta Faucet unveiled a new interactive game that's built around that TV spot.

The game is called Wash the Day Away and you can find it here. In Wash the Day Away, there are six characters and successive game play will unlock two more.

Once you pick a character, he or she proceeds over to the shower. Now it's game time. In this case, it's the Dad.

The game lasts for three rounds and in each round, the player's confronted with a clothed body part. The goal is to wash away as much of the character's clothing as possible in ten seconds.

Don't worry, it's all safe for prime time. Dad even clips his chest hair. Seriously! Look for yourself!

Once the player makes it through three rounds, the percentage of clothing washed away will determine how many chances the player gets for an instant win.

Players can play Wash the Day Away as many times as they'd like, but once a day a player will get the chance to go for an instant win. The instant win round is pretty cool and if you want to see it, then head on over to Delta Faucet's website.

The instant win prize is an In2ition combination shower head of course, and there will be one prize awarded for each of the 52 days that the contest is running.

So play early and play often. For the second time in a week I have this to say, well played Delta, well played.

Stop spamming my blog

Every day, I get a bogus comment from a creature that calls itself Alanna Gracia. Alanna Gracia is not a real person, Alanna Gracia is a leech, a parasite. It is the product of a sleazy website called Kitchen-Remodel-Ideas dot US.

Alanna Gracia leaves the same comment every day:

I found this article very up-to-date and informative as it provides excellent ideas for kitchen remodeling without breaking the bank. With this handy information, you are able to make your decisions more wisely and obtain the best kitchen re-modelling plan for yourself. I would like to add more information about kitchen re- modeling that can help you build your dream kitchen.

It doesn't matter what the topic of a post is, that's the comment it leaves.
I found this article very up-to-date and informative as it provides excellent ideas for kitchen remodeling without breaking the bank. With this handy information, you are able to make your decisions more wisely and obtain the best kitchen re-modelling plan for yourself. I would like to add more information about kitchen re- modeling that can help you build your dream kitchen.
Every day without fail, I delete it as soon as I see it and then I go to the parasitic website that spawned Alanna Gracia and I ask it to stop spamming me. It never does and every day I get a new comment from Alanna Gracia.

If you ever see a link for Kitchen-Remodel-Ideas dot US, don't follow it because it's a scam site. Unless of course, you'd like to leave a spammy comment for them. Leaving a spammy comment for a spammer would be pretty poetic, don't you think?

Now if I link to Kitchen-Remodel-Ideas dot US it will only help their SEO so I won't link to them. But remember to include the hyphens if you'd like to drop them a love note. And Alanna Garcia, I'm looking forward to deleting your comment after this post in particular.

17 November 2010

A little bit of autumn

Although I live in a tropical climate now, I remain a Yankee at heart and for as much as I enjoy the fact that it will be 80 degrees today, there are times when I miss a bright autumn day in Pennsylvania. Maple trees get all the praise for turning red but it was the gingkos that always got my heart racing. Gingkos turn the most joyous yellow I've ever seen and they are the perfect respite from the winter everybody knows is coming.


Gingkos hail from China originally but they've been naturalized in temperate climates the world over. They're a fascinating tree with a natural history that won't quit. So even though I never get a chance to see them anymore, I found something the other day that might bring a little of that gingko yellow into my otherwise tropical existence.

These brilliant leaves are printed so realistically I had to look twice to make sure weren't really gingko leaves.

These gingko post-its are from the South Korean design firm Apree and so far as I can tell they don't have  a US distributor. Hey US stationary and gift people, wanna make a whole lot of money? Get hold of Apree!

And for the rest of you, it doesn't stop with autumn gingko leaves, check out the rest of their stuff.