Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Project Progression

I was just thinking about how much each project has progressed us as Smart Surfacers (it's a word now!). We started the semester with this, basically throwing sand around.

Then we progressed into heliotropism and easily tripled the complexity of our problems. We also made smartish objects. This could follow the sun (or a flashlight as it may be).

Our sun tracker.

After that we stayed at basically the same level and created a field of solar trackers that moved in unison.

Our solar tracker in action.

We then moved into a two week project and we created the light box, it was powered through solar panels and a side lit up when you walked by it. The idea was to create a field of them to walk through. This was the most frustrating two weeks I think I've ever had. (Team problems for a while)

Then of course, we moved on to the iWall (I still hate that name), which I'm really really proud of.

Basically, what I'm getting at is look how far we've come! From throwing sand to an aluminum and acrylic self adjusting passive lighting modular wall system. Not bad.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Over and Done With

It's sort of bittersweet, but Smart Surfaces is, for all intents and purposes, over. It's sort of anti-climatic actually. A semesters of some of the hardest work I've ever done and then it's over. Maybe for me it's just what I feel after any big project but heightened since I missed the final presentation because of a death in my family. Talk about climactic in all the wrong ways.

Anyways, our project is

The iWall Modular Light-Filtration System

The wall you see here is a modular, scalable, self-adjusting multi-aperture window, designed to optimize light flow into a room by manipulating the position of rotating wood panels. You could call it an 'automatic venetian blind', as that is the gist of the purpose. The system consists of 30 individual modules, with one panel per module, which allow a variable amount of light to pass through. The structural elements are built modularly, but circuitry elements - such as wiring - are set up in a non-modular fashion. Individual module apertures open and close in reaction to the intensity of the light that passes through the wall as detected by light-dependent resistors (LDRs), seen on the projection side, holding a relatively constant light level on the ‘interior’ of the wall at all times - this gives 'heliotropic' and 'smart' characteristics to the wall - 'surface', fitting it into the premise of the SmartSurfaces course. The actual actuation is by a grid of servos powered externally and controlled through inputs from an Arduino Mega and the LDRs. The materials used in the assembly of the individual modules were 3/16" cast acrylic cut by laser and 3/16" 6061 aluminum sheet cut by water jet.

My group presenting our passive lighting system.

The back of the modular wall.

The view through a module to the light patterns created behind the wall.

Each module had it's own servo turning the panels. Each panel was veneered with a curly maple veneer on the back and a thin layer of white polystyrene on the front. The modules are held to each other by 4 bolts per unit.

I am so incredibly happy and proud with how our project turned out. It's one of my favorite pieces I've ever been a part of. It was an incredible amount of work, and an incredible amount of time, and quite a bit of money (Grants are awesome!), and something that I can't wait to show off in my portfolio.

I really enjoyed working with my team. Neil (Engineering) basically coded and figured out how to make the arduino do what we wanted it to do. Big props to Neil. Michael (Engineering) did a little of everything really and was a big help assembling, but single handedly tackled our big final paper and kept the team on budget. Breanna (Architecture) handled the renderings, worked on the CAD design and was part of the assembly team. Taylor (Design) was Mr. Building and worked on CAD design and single handedly made the panels. Josiah (Architecture) worked primarily on assembly and the build team and made a big contribution on the laser cutting and water jet cutting of the raw acrylic and aluminum. I (Design) spent my time water jet cutting the aluminum, laser cutting as small fortune in acrylic, and assembling modules.
I really feel like we had a dream team and I would work with any person in my group again in a heart beat. I'll honestly miss seeing them almost everyday. Perhaps before next semester starts up my group would like to meet for a beer at Ashley's Pub?

I'd also like to thank the professors that ran this course, John Marshall (Art & Design), Max Shtein (Materials Science Engineering) and Karl Daubman (Architecture) all did a hell of job. Even though we sometimes felt like guinea pigs as students, the course was a great one and one that defines the Michigan difference. This was an opportunity that would never have been available to me at any other art & design school. A heartfelt thanks to all the professors.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1 day. No pressure. It's only 3 grand.

Yep, it's all due tomorrow baby! A few photos from module building over the past two nights.

Josiah, Breana, and I working Tuesday night glueing modules.

A module without the light controlling panel in the middle.

The army of half modules, all glued up and waiting for the plywood panels.

Best of luck to my group tomorrow night and Friday, I'll be gone because of a death in the family. They are going to kick ass.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 4, 2009


The planning has payed off! The aluminum and the acrylic fit together! If they didn't fit perfectly our Smart Surfaces group was out almost $1,000 in aluminum and acrylic. Luckily, we are not screwed!

They fit, friction fit even!

Water Jet Cutting

We started cutting our aluminum triangle faces out of our large (4'x8') sheet of 3/16th aluminum yesterday. I say started because the entire cut is going to take 3 hours and use 180 lbs of the abrasive material and we ran out of abrasive material. Sooo, we get to finish it up on Monday.

Either way, the water jet cutter is one of the most useful machines in the Digital Fab Lab in my opinion. The quality of the cuts are nearly finished quality and it does a beautiful job of intricate cuts. Also, the Fab Lab guys are great, they know what they are doing and are fun to work with. Highly recommended.

The aluminum sheet in the machine, pre cutting.

Cutting a piece out. It's quite a machine to watch, lots of high pressure water, bubbles, and noise!

A cut piece. Just a little sanding on the edges and it's ready to go into a wall module.

At this time we are also laser cutting out the acrylic sections of the module, we have 3 4'x8' sheets of acrylic, so lots and lots of laser cutting ahead of us!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Testing Testing...Is this thing on?

Just a little testing to see if the laser cutters could cut thin plywood. Answer: They can, but burn like hell.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hey Look Ma! A Module!

The prototype of our module, of which for the final there will be 36 of them, stacked.

We're working on small final revisions before our final order for materials (acrylic & aluminum). This upcoming week and weekend will be a whirlwind of water jet cutting aluminum, laser cutting acrylic, glueing, veneering and all manner of little problems that we are trying to anticipate but are sure to pop up.

11 days until the final project is due. Gulp.