DIY Menstrual Cups & Hack4Fem

Background on Menstrual Cups

I’ve been throwing around the idea of customized or instrumented menstrual cups for a while.

Menstrual cups, typically made of medical-grade silicone, are cups that catch the blood flowing out of the cervix and typically only need to be emptied twice a day. They are flexible so you fold them and they open on insertion. They exist in collapsible, ball-valve, and other forms.

For why I love them (well, I actually switched to tampons first):

so recently I started regularly using tampons, they are amazinnnnggg

seriously
every month my sleep schedule would get massively disrupted, because I slept uneasily, sometimes even in an upright sitting position, ready to jump awake when blood inevitably started to go everywhere, and also I’d have to wash my sheets and multiple sets of underwear / pants each month, often by hand
or i’d store pads in my bookbag and a month later when I needed them again, they’d be full of resistors and other bookbag filth, since the pad packaging isn’t really watertight

Some of my friends like the concept of menstrual cups, but have various problems with removal and leakage. I speculate that custom cups could help, although more analysis is needed to determine the cause and the variation. Hence this project.

I also really like the idea of an citizen science project measuring variation in periods. Other people claim a Diva cup is supposed to hold half your period’s worth of blood — I definitely bleed at least four cup-fulls during my period, so I wonder if my bleeding is heavy. If lots of people contributed data, we could see whether it varied by ethnicity, age, body weight, etc. It would be a ton of fun!

I was beaten to the punch on instrumented cups, but I think there is still room for improvement (or at least an open-hardware version).

This past Saturday I ran a hackathon for feminism (website here).

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It went really well, and I’ll blog about it in another post shortly — this one’s focused on menstrual cups 🙂

hackathon

pre-hackathon

Before the hackathon, John and I made menstrual cup molds and cast menstrual cups. We modeled it in Solidworks, then intersected it with a rectangular prism and split the prism in half. This created a two-part mold with a cavity in-between the size and shape of the menstrual cup. The Solidworks 2015 files are available here and are CC-BY-SA (c) John Aleman.

model

We then printed these out on a Stratasys printer, melted the wax support material off in the toaster oven, cleaned off with isoproprly alcohol, and had our molds.

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I first tested it at home with John’s help. We used Smooth-On’s SORTA-Clear Translucent Silicone Rubber, shore 37, since it cures in 4 hours instead of 24 hours. This is food safe and I think body-safe — I would call Reynold’s Advanced Materials to double-check before actually using one of these cups.

Turns out this material was really difficult to work with… it was the consistency of viscous snot.  No pictures pre-hackathon since the silicone is messy. I sure had a difficult time separating the molds. And it turned out we hadn’t even filled the molds for two of them!

incomplete-molds

Eventually some careful prying by my friend Nadya, we opened the final mold to find a menstrual cup inside!

mcup-mold

mcup

It had a lot of bubbles — would have benefited from 2-3 minutes in a vacuum. Unfortunate, since there doesn’t seem to be a cheap hobbyist vacuum solution. It was also slightly tacky, so either something in the 3d print is inhibiting cure or we didn’t mix well enough.

hackathon hands-on workshop

hackathon-molds

At the hackathon, we used syringes to eject into the molds until it came out the sides, and also just poured it into the bottom half of the mold and squeezed the top half on top to guarantee the mold was filled. We also all got pretty excited about the idea of glittery menstrual cups! 🙂 Sadly I didn’t have glitter on hand.

twocups

 

At the end of the hackathon we managed to demold one. This one  also had a giant bubble and many little bubbles, and was also tacky after the full four hours of cure time. We mixed this one much better, so I’m starting to think something is inhibiting cure, or perhaps the place we left them was too chilly.

next up

I definitely need a better mold design, and I need to figure out why the silicone is not curing properly. I also need to figure out a way around the bubble issue.

I also wonder how to analyze and determine why menstrual cups are failing (when they are hard to retrieve or leak). I also wonder, if fit is part of the problem, how you could easily take a measurement(s) to customize menstrual cups to each person.

And of course, I want to build the open science project! 🙂 Maybe instead of having each person build their own cup, I could at least start a form going and collect data…

Organizing an solid modelling CAD reading group (toward FOSS CAD)

I’m starting a new reading group!

The idea is to get a good background on parametric solid modelling CAD (think solidworks, proE, openSCAD).

(to be clear, NOT how to use the tools, but how to write new ones or contribute to FOSS implementations).

I think the first group meeting would simply be an overview of existing approaches and the pros/cons of existing FOSS CAD software (as well as introductions to each other).

Proposed time is 6pm EST Sundays over google hangouts (and possibly simultaneously in person in Camberville, MA), totally open to other times.

Sign up here: FORM

on strange battlebots mind-allergies

watching battlebots just makes me sad.

i don’t how to express it–

as one of my friends put it, he got into battlebots and decided to become an engineer because he watched battlebots 10 years ago.  now battlebots is on the TV again, inspiring more young boys to become engineers.

people participating in battles are overwhelmingly male-dominated. it’s all about competition and destruction.

robotics to me is something that brings me joy, and happiness, and a feeling that i am competent and skillful, a medium for me to express my creative muse.

i want everyone to enjoy building robots. but where’s the TV show that exposes the funny robots, the creative robots, the helping robots and wondrous robots that people build?

where’s the show that will get more girls interested in robotics than boys?

i am sad because i see a future ahead of me where i am always abnormal.

sure, i can be dedicated to my craft and ignore all this and just be badass and build robots so amazing that i inspire all the girls to be roboticists without even having to pay attention to these issues. that’s probably the only way to do it, to have a single-minded dedications and hone my skills in robotics until i’m near or at the top of the field. that’s how all the people interviewed on MAKERS Women in Space seem to have done it. but some part me is just —

watching battlebots — i should enjoy it, because my friends participate in it and find a lot of joy in it. but where are the grassroots competitions and friends for me to enjoy making dancing and drawing robots and educational robots with?

for whatever reason;

watching battlebots just makes me incredibly sad.

Waterjet pastries? Edelweiss Patisserie Plant Visit (April 2015)

Did you know your trader joe’s brownies in Boston are cut with a waterjet?brownies

first, youtube

On the internet, I watched a video about waterjets containing a shot of a waterjet cutting pastries.
A few more (well, a lot) youtube links later,
Inline image 1
Inline image 1
turns out that right in Medford, MA there is a waterjet being used in production at a bakery called “Edelweiss Patisserie”.
Inline image 1
Based on their website, they are essentially a contract manufacturer for baked goods. So cool!

        We produce more than products that fit your business needs—we create pastries that enhance your product line.

Our customers are category leaders in the food industry, including supermarket and club store chains, restaurants and cafes. They demand innovative, unique products to meet the needs of their sophisticated consumers and their own margin and turn standards.

We invest in product development and have the manufacturing flexibility to create almost any dessert our customers could imagine. Our business is driven by what our customers want, and we deliver! When we say we offer only the highest quality products, we mean it.

I emailed the contact email, and lo and behold, a few weeks later, the very kind owner of the place replied! He was held up by the Easter holidays.

plant visit

Thus, one spring day we drove over to Edelweiss.
edelweiss_outside
We got a sweet tour of the place by the owner himself. The place is gigantic (the pictures don’t do it justice). Here, the owner talks a little about the supply chain and inventory management needed to run the place.
tour
There was a recycling machine that crushed boxes
recyclemachine
into neat cubes, WALL-E style 🙂
recycle
Industrial quantities of strawberries
strawberries
and trash bins full of tapioca starch put the batch ingredients we use for putz’s (where I lived during undergrad) liquid nitrogen ice cream event (cryofac) to shame.
tapiocastarch
Vat of oil half as tall as me.
oil
There were horizontal bandsaws used to plane pastries
planars
horizontal_bandsaws
Here’s just a few croissants
croissants
croissants_closeup
The ovens were pretty cool because
oven
they had this mechanism inside that would lift an entire rack of pastries up so that they could be rotated and evenly heated while baking. Sort of like an industrial version of the toy vending machines with the claw you use to try to grab plushies.
ovenmechanism
 Giant chocolate machine, chocoma (I think the name is funny)
chocoma

waterjet machine for baked goods

Note: This waterjet uses water only (at 60kpsi), no garnet (it’d get all over your cake! :P)

Finally we came to the highlight, a waterjet from ?Spain? that cuts baked goods (and is in use all the time when the plant is running).

waterjet

machine_side

Here’s a closeup of the interface.
bats
The designs are pre-programmed, there’s a simple shape editor, and then other designs are emailed in to the manufacturer to be converted into DXF or whatever

video of it cutting

in more detail

what was cut:

hearts

filters

filters

right side (pump?)machine_rightside

left side (intensifier?)machine_leftside

They told this awesome story of the seal on one of the components breaking, and then they cut it themselves on the machine. Secretly, they are engineers now too 🙂
Here’s the part they fixed (maybe a water trap??), which is to the rear of the machine on the left side:
watertrap
chiller
chiller

 

The mechanism

waterjet_mechanism

mechanism

The grille
grille
The grille was a little worn!
worn_grille

misc. technology

 face detector for a high-tech version of punching in and out
 face_detector
labelmaker
labelmaker
wrapping
wrapping
all ready to be shipped!
croissants_shipready

and our going away present

brownies

The end.

edelweiss_box

gallery

same pictures in more modern webdesign look (idk what is google doing with all their photo services):
https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipP4l6DjOm33q_sNXtFdvoF0heVceXYI27uKR_BQ

DIY henna paste, designs, and thoughts on culture

Lately I’ve been on a fashion-y bent. I want to gain the basic skills needed to express my feelings about myself and the world (namely feminism, and often a lot of anger at the status quo).

I ordered from http://artisticadornment.com supplies to make enough henna to last me probably years.20150718_221031

1 x Cajeput Oil 1 ounce (30 ml) $6.60
1 x Jamila Henna Powder – 2014 crop – 100g body art quality henna $8.00
1 x Pros Aide Cream Refill – Small 1/2 ounce $5.00
1 x 10 Gram Glitter Poof Bottle – Prismatic Gold $3.95
1 x Mica powder – Pixie Purple $4.00
1 x Lemon Sugar Aftercare Spray – 1oz $1.99
———
Sub-Total: $29.54
United States Postal Service (Priority Mail™): $6.69
Total: $36.23

I also explored a bit of the “medical grade adhesive” (Pros Aide Cream) for sticking glittery powder on myself.

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I made the paste with help from Marcela. It was straightforward, although there are long waiting times so it’s not an instant-gratification thing.

We followed the instructions here, or as below:

Marcela helped me with this. We dumped all the powder (100g) from the Jamila bag into a bowl.

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added a cup of lemon juice

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and mixed it

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and then covered and waited 12 hours.

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The next day (after the 12 hour wait) I added in 1oz (the whole bottle) of cajeput essential oil

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and mixed.

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After another 24 hours, I poured the mixture into an ice cube tray.

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Then I stuck it all in the freezer in a plastic bag inside aluminum foil (to keep the light out).

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designs

I offered henna at one of my parties. Ankur drew a narwhal

IMG_20150727_244640801

and Julian drew electrical engineering symbols / circuits. It’s shiny because we used a spray bottle filled with lemon juice and sugar (to make the lemon juice sticky)

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This is what it looked like after a day (the darkest is day 2).

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On my other hand Marcela drew a tree and I doodled a robot.

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I felt a little awkward about it (someone asked me if I’d gotten these at a wedding… which was not the case).

applicators

I chose to apply it with a cake decorating bag and some reallly realllllly fine cake tips from karenscookies.net. The idea is that with the coupler, changing out tips would be very fast. The Ateco coupler worked with with the wilton tips and the ateco tips I got.

  • Ateco Tip 00 $1.39
  • Ateco Tip 000 $1.39
  • Ateco Coupler $.079
  • Wilton Decorating Tip #1 $1.39
  • Shipping $4.95

However, in practice, I think in the future I would go with rolling my own cones to have more control over the tip. I’m told you can cut at a slant and that way, by controlling the angle and pressure of application, vary the line width a lot.

http://www.hennapage.com/henna/how/applymylar.html

appropriation?

I also gave some thought as to the cultural appropriateness of doing this. In the end, I think I concluded that henna was used in enough different cultures that as long as I stayed away from traditional / religious designs that I didn’t understand / wasn’t a part of, it was ethically okay.

Wearing everyday clothing from another culture as daily wear (i.e. appropriately) is not necessarily appropriative, though it is privileged in the sense that you will not be treated as “fresh off the boat” when you do so. (http://freethoughtblogs.com/heinous/2014/08/19/cultural-appropriation/)

I agreed with the sentiment

Nonetheless what I really want to convey is that the meaning behind cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is being inappropriately used and instead of holding an angry, vindictive attitude towards others, we should be the wiser person and teach them and show them the beauty of culture.

(http://endgaem.tumblr.com/post/84862047527/do-i-have-the-duty-to-educate-white-ppl-on-why)

and want to strive to be more in accordance with it. For a while I was offended at the idea of adding cheese to dumplings, until I talked to my dad who thought it was a great idea (just like easy tacos!) and realized perhaps my sentiment derived out of an insecurity about how Chinese I was.

Overall, I really liked the xojane article below.The basic idea here is that our parents had everything to gain by their culture being accepted, while as 1st generation (for me, “ABC” or “american-born chinese”) we may overcompensate for being “between cultures” (and others, not me,  have had the experience of being mocked for their culture) and be hostile towards other people adopting our culture.

http://www.xojane.com/issues/my-indian-parents-are-fans-of-cultural-appropriation

I think mostly, China and Chinese culture is doing pretty well right now, so I don’t feel particularly defensive about it.