Friday 3 November 2017

Victorian 3D Printer

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A computer controlled additive manufacturing machine was apparently invented in Victorian times, if this letter to the great scientist Michael Faraday is to be believed. The correspondence is from Ernest Glitch, the psychopathic English industrialist.

Other early inventions & discoveries mentioned are plastics, the Klein bottle, formaldehyde, arc-welding precursor, the largest living species of lizard, a photographic process, and a working punched-tape Babbage analytical engine.

Whether Faraday's mind was capable of making head or tail of this rambling letter is doubtful, as by 1857 his mental faculties were in decline through mercury poisoning.

2nd October 1857

Dear Faraday,

I hope this letter finds you in good spirits, and enjoying your pursuits into natural philosophy. I have news of some interest, regarding recent developments here in Weardale. My assistant Hodges has been experimenting with what he calls a Making Machine. Suitably "instructed," the machine slowly produces objects by squirting a paste from a heated nozzle. The nozzle moves in three dimensions, via a complex of screw threads, pantographic coupling and steam power. This machinery is precisely controlled by an analytical engine. As the paste extrudes, a curing fluid is sprayed upon it, and immediate hardening occurs. An object is built up, in layers, much as a potter produces a vase from a string of clay.

The cured material has the physical properties of red deer horn, and is surprisingly durable. However, to be honest Faraday, the objects are as rough as a badger's rear-end, the layers showing as ridge-lines. And the creations could only be of interest to perhaps craft workers, or for models to prove function and fit, toys, or to use to make a mould. Upon pointing out these reservations to Hodges, he assured me that he planned a reduction in nozzle & therefore layer size, and had in mind a future development for the machine, which I found of interest (in an engineering context with very positive overtones of financial gain). He would like the next version of his Making Machine to dispense with the extrusion of paste, and to build objects directly in metal. The metal parts would be created using an electric arc erupting from a steel wire, continuously fed and melted by the arc, onto the object being made. To prevent oxidising problems he proposes using carbonic acid gas flowing around the arc. These are possibly grand ideas Faraday, but ones we will not see to practical fruition, at least here at Glitch Manor! More on this later in this missive.

The stench which emanates from the Making Machine will deter those of a delicate nature from its vicinity. Not only is the production of the raw making paste odious to the extreme, but the machine in operation stinks more than a back street Newcastle abattoir. The last time my nasal sense was similarly assaulted, I barely held the contents of my stomach. You will hopefully remember Faraday, my recounting of the horrific explosion at my experimental industrial-scale embalming workshops at Elswick? When that disturbingly infernal apparatus, the Rigor Mortis Relaxator, blew its injectors in an alarming manner, no doubt because of slipshod operation by a worker. Hodges' wood alcohol derived embalming fluid and burning days-old body parts veritably rained upon us!

The screams from the injured and harsh complaints about "dangerous work" I had to be rather brusque about Faraday! Particularly as the smell had me feeling rather nauseous. These folk need to realise that most work, here in the North East, carries with it a certain element of risk! One has only to consider the appalling loss of brave lives down the region's collieries, yet these whingeing power-embalmers complain about their completely non-lethal serious injuries as though I was, in some way, at fault or in any way responsible. And I would like to reassure you Faraday that, contrary to speculation, I was not storing (inordinately large) quantities of high-explosives in the coffins at the Works.

The Glitch Experimental Power-Embalming Works
at Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne

Those workmen who were maimed or suffered surface-embalming were, however, receiving a passable wage before I dismissed them on medical grounds. One would hope that they had had the foresight to save somewhat, as self-inflicted industrial accidents can lead to hardship and destitution. I've closed down the Elswick workshops, having reasoned that power-embalming could become a cycle of workers becoming subjects of the process, such is the extreme danger associated with it.

The odious miasma from Hodges' machine has undertones of the same charred animal protein as witnessed at the Elswick conflagration, but in this case the stench is that of burned cheese, rather than smouldering week-dead human flesh. The overwhelming odour is that of the same fluid which almost inundated me at Elswick. Yes Faraday, Hodges uses his embalming fluid in the Making Machine! The noxious liquid is used to cure the casein and urea mixture, upon it's extrusion from his machine's nozzle.

The production of Hodges' embalming fluid is a rather hazardous process. He now batch produces the chemical in the old pitchblende boiling shed, along with the extrusion paste. The paste is a filthy mixture of urea and casein. Urea, the salt of urine, Hodges prepares by boiling down scores of gallons of the putrid fluid he collects daily from our staff here at Glitch manor and outlying habitudes of peasants productive of copious (if of inferior quality) volumes. The casein is furnished by processing similar volumes of fresh cow and goat milk. He refused the use of excess milk from my latest wet-nurse, Molly (XIII), as milk from the fairer sex contains little casein as compared to that of completely mindless mammals. My son Rupert was of obviously weaned many years ago, but since then I've retained a nurse, after having become partial to a creamy morning cup of Assam tea. Of course the Bishop of Durham, when visiting, prefers it off the teat, particularly after a brace of nitrous bladders.

But it is the synthesis of the embalming fluid that should interest you, my dear Faraday. It is a chemical unknown to industry or the natural philosophers! The aldehyde of the methyl-series! Under the influence of silver metal, the very air we breathe and wood alcohol are transformed by intense heat and pressure into a noxious gas which dissolves in water, therein providing the fluid which proves efficacious during my high-speed embalming process, and also allows the Making Machine to produce objects of rigidity.

I think the  Royal College of Chemistry may have got wind of the substance however. I have dim memories of telling the director, that Teuton Hofmann, some scant details of Hodges' process. The man caught me whilst inebriated and my wits were not with me. The occasion was my last visit to London, I was celebrating my victory with Hodges in a series of pugilistic events. During his final bare-knuckle prize fight, at a particularly less than salubrious public house in Covent Garden, The Lamb & Flag, Hodges won me several hundred guineas!

What a result Faraday! I'd wagered (rather heavily) upon the exact second, in the first round, my fighter would knock senseless his opponent. Gypsy Jem Mace was rendered inert at that instant! Hodges' uppercut stump was delivered with its usual high accuracy & velocity Faraday! Mace collapsed like a loose hessian sack of sewage.

Jem Mace vs Bob Brettle 1860

With the winnings in hand, my assistant and I took a handsome cab to a snug near the Royal Institution, where I proceeded to power drink a crate of 1811 Château d'Yquem. Hodges drank the half a gill of diethyl ether he had secreted about his scruffy attire. It was at this, or perhaps some ill-defined following establishment, that Willy Hofmann met us.

Lederhosen clad August Wilhelm von Hofmann,
circa 1846. 

I do hold the chemical work of the German in high esteem, but the man himself I dislike. I think it may be the abrupt foreign accent, the tight leather abbreviated britches (with unfortunate integral suspenders and embroidered front flap), the thigh slapping, or his utter lack of humour. Or all of those. He knows nothing about the fine English sports of pugilism, ratting or cock-fighting, and received my enthusiastic description of Hodges' performances with disdain and outward, blatant disinterest! I countered this blunt rudeness with a good measure of idle boasting concerning our advances in the chemical realms of organic Natural Philosophy, and so Hodges' discovery of Methylic Aldehyde (and the nature of its solution) could now be known or suspected by Hofmann.

Forgive me, my friend. I stray from this letter's raison d'être; the Making Machine. It is a fascinating machine to watch in action Faraday. Almost mesmerising. Because of the smell and noise, I observe it wearing my bespoke diving helmet, the machined phosphor-bronze beauty Augustus Siebe made for me, incorporating a five inch diameter alpine quartz window. It is sumptuously lined with the fur of several litters of pine marten pups. The fresh air supply to the helmet is taken from outside the pitchblende boiling shed, the intake nestling amongst a bed of exceedingly fragrant English roses. My roses, whose cultivation by our family goes back many generations, a strain called The Birth of Venus (from the Botticelli painting), are the most pleasantly odoriferous pink blooms God has enabled man to create.

Pink Roses
Detail from Nascita di Venere, by Sandro Botticelli c. 1486

Siebe plumbed in a nitrous oxide cock to the helmet, under my instruction, which enables me to easily attach a bladder, should I require to inhale the gas for refreshment.

Phosphor-bronze Siebe helmet
with quartz window & nitrous cock

Whilst wearing the helmet, I can recline on my otter-skin upholstered Chippendale divan in perfect comfort, knowing that bottles of Newcastle brown ale can be poured, via funnel, into the nitrous cock, to provide a power drink should the effects of the gas need tempering. The cacophonous racket the Making Machine produces, from the whirring clattering of the analytical engine, to the clanking of the pantographs, I render virtually inaudible through the use of ermine-tail earplugs within the Seibe's comfortable fur interior. Thus disposed, I have found observing the machine in operation to be a pleasurable way to idle away the many hours of my sparse free time. Hodges, on the other hand, having no spare time, uses only minimal earplugs of raw pig-fat. These enable him to hear the machinations of his Making Machine to ensure its smooth operation, and to follow my shouted orders for refreshment, whilst offering the wretch a modicum of auditory comfort.

The machine is controlled by a large analytical engine Hodges has been fiddling with since his heated argument with Babbage in 1852. He assures me that the calculating machine is superior in every respect to that of Babbage.

Charles Babbage
at his most affable

I admit to having little knowledge of the engine, but its advantages over Babbage's appear to be that it's finished, works, and that it uses no decks of perforated cards. As even your illustrious mentor Mr. Davy has enthused upon the possibilities of such machines, I had allowed Hodges to create it. This was in case of future utility to Glitch Industries, something I recently had hope of occurring, with his Making Machine.

The Mill (or central processing unit, CPU) of the Analytical Engine
Detail from Plan 28, the most complete of Charles Babbage's plans for the analytical engine. 1840

Having spent several afternoons watching Hodges produce objects of increasing complexity, I became quite enthused to its potential for use within Glitch Industries. Asking Hodges casually on this, He became a little reticent, and enthusiasm visibly drained from his scarred and stained face.

Well Faraday, as you well know, I am so used to Hodges' mood swings as to know immediately that he was withholding some vital information from me. Not wanting to observe his grimaces and pain-rictus, I ordered him to don his sackcloth hood before readying my Gutenberg Dislocator for his torture.

Knowing that he would eventually have the information pressed from him (especially as he had recently increased the mechanical advantage of the Gutenberg's hip-dislocation trellis, and the machine was fully lubricated with quality sperm whale oil), he admitted that there could be problems. I was a little disappointed with this immediate verification of my doubts about the Making Machine. The Gutenberg hasn't been used for some time.

Hodges told me that the creation of objects I had been witnessing, from Platonic Solids through passable rose blooms, to a very unusual self inserting flask (which Hodges whimsically calls a one surface bottle), were produced through his method of introducing sequential instructions to the analytical engine. This "codifying", as he terms it, I took to be a simple operation, suitable for any workmen of my employ. How wrong I was!

The codifying apparatus is simple Faraday, unlike the actual Making Machine & analytical engine. Consisting of little more than a row of eight hole-punches to which Hodges has attached Siberian mammoth-ivory organ keys. A couple of brass cog-wheels, beneath the punches, feed a woven silk ribbon past them. The operator simply presses the organ keys required to punch out a pattern of holes across the ribbon. Then, via a foot pedal, the cog-wheels rotate and the silk ribbon advances for the next pattern of holes to be punched.

The analytical engine continuously ingests a codified silk ribbon, which is joined to form a loop. A secondary ribbon, codified with instructions relevant to the object being created, similarly feeds in fits and starts into the engine until the ribbon runs out and the object is finished.

Hodges meekly announced that the codifying of the ribbon was a process of some complexity, and certainly not one an uneducated Newcastle worker could perform. I decided to make a ribbon myself, and instructed Hodges to shew me how one selected the patterns and sequence to be punched out. I had in mind the creation of a simple cube. There followed such an utterly incomprehensible explanation from Hodges that I was almost doubtful about my own intellect. However, seeing my non-cognisance, Hodges revealed that without an intimate knowledge of the workings of the analytical engine, codifying is impossible.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, 1840
Originator of the algorithm for computing

He even said that only the late Ada Lovelace, Babbage and himself knew enough to instruct the Making Machine. As such, it is absolutely and totally without worth! How I wish, Faraday, that Hodges had the nature of your faithful assistant Charlie Anderson. Dependable, trustworthy and hard working, but without the impediment of an inventive, intelligent, inquiring mind behind his sloping forehead!

Sergeant Charles Anderson
Lecture and Laboratory Assistant to Faraday 1832-1866

I gave him a meagre thrashing with my new cat o' nine tails for his reluctance in disseminating such vital information to his master. Fifteen lashes from a Royal Navy cat would normally have little effect upon my assistant. My latest cat was distinctly more uncomfortable for him, to the point of bringing on his distinctive strangled whimper. It is plaited from the hide of a monstrous poisonous lizard my father brought back from some God-forsaken island in the Dutch East Indies archipelago.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria's Royal Navy
employed the cat o' nine tails for discipline 

Many years ago my Pater, Judge Glitch, in need of a long break from the toil of sentencing criminals, sailed to the antipodes, to see for himself the world into which he transported those miscreants not deserving of hanging. During this sabbatical he partook in sporting activities, endeavouring to collect examples of any unusual and rare beasts, including bagging a brace of spectacularly tattooed native savages. The results of this harmless pastime fill one of the outhouses here at Glitch Manor. Some specimens are stuffed, and some cured or residing immersed in preservative fluids. Not one of the samples has been examined by those so called learned men, the taxonomists, so hated by my father. As such, a good proportion of them are unknown to scientific gentlemen at large, including the man-eating lizard. The indigenous wild men call the huge beast boeaja darat

This detail from Pinkerton's 1818 map of the Dutch East Indies shows Glitch's "God-forsaken island."
Bali is on the left of the map, Flores on the right. The island is just west of the 120° longitude.

The skin has never been taxidermised and the quality of rawhide is superb. From the first lash across my assistant's back, I knew the cat to be capable of bone-deep flaying, and would be an asset to Her Majesty's Navy, should a shipment of these poisonous reptiles' hides be procured. I know that my dear father did have plans to ship over a breeding pair, having hopes of rearing a mess of attack lizards to deal with trespassers and rabbit poachers from Stanhope orphanage. Unfortunately he returned to England with only the one full skin. The lizards escaped onto the deck of the clipper en voyage to England, there to create havoc, and fought to the death over what was left of the bosun's left leg.

My dear father made a lens image of one of the beast whilst still on the island, using his actinically-sensitised vellum process. I've enclosed it as a gift to you Faraday, it's rather like a flexible daguerreotype! Much superior to calotype. The vellum is of primate skin, hopefully that of a monkey, although the animals rarely have tattoos...

Boeaja Darat (Varanus komodoensis)
Photograph taken on the "God-forsaken island.".
Ruthenium sensitised cured primate skin.
Note the Indonesian tattoo top left.

In these enlightened times Faraday, one has to shew some measure of restraint regarding corporal punishment. Particularly with a valued asset. I used a minimal and measured response to Hodges' devious use of my magnanimous and philanthropic nature. When he had approached me concerning the subject of his Making Machine, some nine months ago, he had assured me that the cost of his prototype would be "as slight as the whisper of a barn owl's wing...." as compared to the potential profits to Glitch Industries, "the veritable roar of a waterfall of gold sovereigns!"

Utter fantasy. I should have realised at that point that Hodges was entering one of his lunatic phases. The signs were there. Extreme enthusiasm, instead of the usual sullen acceptance of his daily toil. These past months my assistant has been almost affable, his usual mortician-like demeanour having brightened somewhat, almost to he point of acceptance by the general public.

I was actually thinking of allowing the wretch to leave Glitch Manor on his monthly day off. It has been a couple of years since I last allowed Hodges to roam free. The disastrous events with the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers at Stanhope fair may have been forgotten by now. Obviously deranged, these Oxford guests of Lord Barnard should never have invited my assistant to join in the dancing, as Hodges' use of any sort of stick, sword, shillelagh, club or cudgel is as impressive as his skill at garroting with a twisted kerchief!

Morris dancing before it developed into the
extreme martial art  Full-Contact Morris

I do hope the troupe retain their optimistic hope of entertaining the common folk, now their injuries have had time to heal. But their entertainment is of a rudimentary kind Faraday! Musical accompaniment by way of small bells sewn to their hideous clothes. One suspects that the bells are there to enable blind people to dislike them. But hardly to the degree of those with visual acuity. I noticed that the Stanhope fair spectators, predominantly lead-miners or sheep-farmers, were shaken from the collective lassitude engendered by the Morris dancers, into enthusiastic cheering once Hodges joined the group. The uplifting sound of breaking ankles, screaming and choking soon brought the unintelligible chanting (and frankly ridiculous dance) to a close. Lord Barnard was far from amused however, and I did undertake a promise to control my assistant more thoroughly, should he ever again be at large in Weardale.

I have digressed somewhat badly. One sometimes wonders Faraday, that my ease of wandering off topic has hindered your appreciation of my technical developments transmitted to you via Penny Red, within this and previous communications.

Printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co,
the Red replaced the Black so that
cancellation stamping was visible

I apologise, my dear friend, and I will endeavour to use the rest of this missive to fully describe the essential mechanism of Hodges' Making Machine. The way the machine can construct any object, by way of perforated silk ribbons, via the brass mill and barrels of the analytical engine, through the gross movement of three hydraulic rams and screws, the pantographic reduction of scale and thus the fine movement of the paste nozzle, is an engineering pièce de résistance! Although fatally flawed, in as much as the damned machine cannot be operated by plebeians, the design and fine craftsmanship Hodges has shewn deserve a modicum of recognition! It is a pity that, shortly after his revelation of it's unusability, I sold the whole apparatus to our local rag-and-bone man as scrap, but my assistant has to learn that Glitch Industries rely upon profit!

The man has withdrawn into his normal sullen manner, now that he is never to manufacture another non-machined object, excepting that made by hand. This idea of Hodges, the creation of parts by means of synthesis, in particular using a continuously melting arc electrode to directly make a complex metal component, has potential Faraday! I have had Hodges draw, from memory, the Making Machine, codifying apparatus and his favourite made object (before I stamped it to oblivion). I enclose the drawings with this missive, should you be inclined to apply your not inconsiderable intellect to the subject.

Hodges' one surface bottle with hexagonal openings to show the convolution

My best wishes to you, my friend, and to your gracious wife Sarah,
I remain your,
Most obedient servant,

Ernest Glitch.

P.S. Whilst readying Hodges' illustrations for enclosure with my letter, I gave his drawing of the Making Machine a cursory and very thin coat of looking at. At first glance, the equipment appears as I remember. However I feel more than a modicum of unease... I would hope that my assistant has not thought to be less than accurate, as he tends towards regarding the products of his mind as his own property! If you find any attempts at diagrammatic befuddlement, or efforts to maintain secrecy through obvious vagueness or obfuscation, please let me know. I will then endeavour to ensure Hodges' skeletal integrity becomes somewhat compromised. The Gutenberg Dislocator will have its day, and press clarification from him Faraday!

Hodges' Making Machine.
Drawn post-scrappage, the diagram shows the steel frame and internal print stage, with partially made Kleine bottle. Power source at left, with the programming desk to the foreground. Right foreground, the I/O mechanisms for the analytical engine; two silk tape rolls instruct , three rods transfer coordinate information to the powered print head. Feedstock siphoned from the top, fixing spray from the carbuoy on the analytical engine. There appear to be what Glitch warns could be present in the diagram - attempts at diagrammatic befuddlement and obfuscation. The safety valve on the boiler being an indication that all is not well, the Escher like incomprehensible stage manipulation levers proof of Hodges secretive nature. Whether Faraday's micromercuriaism allowed him to spot the lack of print head heating, or the non-looping of the operating system silk tape, will never be known. Hodges may have gotten away with it!

Copyright © 2017 Roger Curry
All Rights Reserved

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"Hodges emitted a scream the like of which
I hadn't heard since his scrotum was burned off
during my experiment with fluorine gas last year."

The Exotic Experimentation of Ernest Glitch,
Victorian Science with a Smile

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By Étienne Léopold Trouvelot

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