Note up front: this has some Amazon stuff that’s talked about, but none of this is secret — it’s known that Amazon has a team, Merch, that prints t-shirts. This isn’t going into anything that’s a trade secret either. It’s not a secret at all that Amazon doesn’t build our own t-shirt printers. Our supplier has multiple press releases about exactly this point. It’s also a well-known business practice to know your costs, so that’s nothing new either.
Here’s where I start to have fun! This is the mix of hardware and software and electronics that completely gets my juices flowing. One of the things I love to watch is Formula 1 racing. The racing itself is only so exciting on-track, but the engineering is completely fascinating to me. Three years ago, if memory serves, there was a new rule introduced to the formula — in addition to adding turbochargers to the mix, there was also a fuel-flow limit that was established.
This was made quite clear during the start of the season when there were some technical irregularities with people trying to bend the rules to suit their own ends. In the end it was made known that they were using ultrasonic liquid flow sensors that were specced to be Omega’s sensors. It’s only through this that I even knew about this technology.
Of course in F1 the limit is 100l/hr and the liquid is unleaded gasoline. In the case of a printer it’s ink and the flow rate is more on the order of (I’m guessing, I still don’t know) ml/min. But the underlying tech is the same and has exactly the same usage. Ink is a liquid… ergo measuring it can be done the same way. Exciting stuff I have to say! (Ok, I have a very strange idea of exciting!) Then when looking at specific sensors they mention that they export the data using a 4-20mA current loop. Ah-ha! I was just reading in the Art of Electronics about exactly that!
All of these things are just coming together to make my job just plain old fun! :-D