The Nautilus Aperture Door

Well, I finally got around to processing most of the photos and video of a great project I worked on over the summer. I created a portfolio page for it here, but since I never really blogged about this piece as I was building it I figured no one really knew anything about it so I’m writing this massive post with everything in it.

When Five Ton Crane was commissioned to build an art car version of The Nautilus, the classic submarine from 2000 Leagues Under The Sea, I knew there were going to apertures involved, I could have never guessed it would be this big. As we started talking about the project a few things started to become clear.

First, this was a great opportunity to wholly revise my original aperture designs to make them more durable and more precise. I’d learned a few nifty techniques since I built my first set of apertures in 2007. Second, not only were we going to use apertures in the windows, but we also wanted to incorporate a big one into the door, which we were estimating would need to be about 4′ in diameter. Third, since incorporating a huge aperture into the door was going to be a major challenge all the other elements if the door would need to be designed around it, so it only made sense that I would build the entire door. Fourth, I would need to add some new elements to the project to keep it interesting for myself so I decided that I’d not only custom machine the hinges, but I’d also motorise the aperture in the door, and use a RFID system to control the locking mechanism. Oh, and I’d need to build two of these doors, one for each side of the sub (only one aperture though).

The four small aperture windows went together easily, and as gorgeous and cool as they are, honestly, they are so deep in the shadow of the 4′ door aperture that they are hardly noticed.

I was really amazed at how well the 4′ aperture worked, in fact, this large one is mechanical smoother then the small ones. See each of the blades needs to overlap several other blades. If you image the blades being very thin and flexible then you can see that when they are all stacked up atop each-other the stack is very thin and there is not a lot of torsion on the blades. Now since these are made of brass, the material can only get so thin before it lacks the strength to be constantly twisted without deforming. Usually I use a brass in the 0.03″ range. This thickness works well when they are small but works even better when it’s large, because the important metric is not the material thickness but the ratio between the thickness and size of the blade. I also found a new much stronger method to attach the pins to the blades (this is the hardest part of the design).

The motorization of the large aperture was surprisingly easy. I used two small DC motors with spur gears and nice torque mounted on either side of the cam ring. I then welded chain around the cam ring turning it into a giant gear. It worked the first time I tried it. I controlled the two motors with an Arduino and a motor shield, two limit switches and a few lines of code. I then modified an old positioner and inserted a set of buttons, so that when you pull the handle of the positioner it trips the buttons and turns the motors.

The RFID was super easy. I got a D12 RFID reader, hooked it up to another Arduino, and used it to flip a 40A relay attached to a 30 lbs pull automotive solenoid. The solenoid was coupled to a super beefy industrial latch. The latch keeps the door closed until is sprung by the solenoid, when to door is closed it pushes the spring latch back into its locking position. Just like the trunk on your car. I love the result. The door is rock solid closed with no visible way to open it. Then you wave your fob by the reader and the door literally pops open. When you close the door there is solid, satisfying snap as it latches in place.

The hinges are one of my favorite parts. Not only did they come out really nicely but they are so smooth and stable, and add just enough friction to give opening the door some nice tactile feedback. I modeled them on old harpoon heads and went to great lengths to hide all the welds. I love when I catch people staring at them and wondering out loud how they are put together.

It’s Alive! Mini-Mover 5 resurrected with Arduino!

When I saw this 5DOF robotic I fell in love with it, that was in the 80s when I was just a little kid. I aways wanted one. So the other day when I saw it collecting dust and longing for the days when it was cutting edge I knew I had to resurrect it. It’s really just controlled by 6 stepper motors so I stripped out all the electronics and hooked it up to two EasyDrivers under Arduino control and wrote a simple Processing program to interface with it. I only had two drivers sitting around but I’ve got more coming, so soon I’ll have full control of this 80s wonder. Not sure what I’m going to do with it yet. But I’m toying with the idea of having it play with a mouse … a real mouse.

Almost Scientific and The Uira Engine on Make

You know at events like Maker Faire I’m constantly being interviewed and videoed, and then I totally forget about them. Well this afternoon during a quick lunch break I checked in on Make and while I’m scrolling along eating a chicken drum stick I suddenly relise that I’m looking at a video of myself. Yep, although it was months ago Make has just posted an interview the did with me about The Uira Engine. Thanks Make!

The RGR and The Rocket Stop featured in the San Francisco Chronicle

Below is scanned clipping from the San Francisco Chronicle featuring the RGR and The Rocket Stop.

Yeah, it was also posted on-line, but its still cool to see your work printed on real paper.

The Simple Act of Making a Mark on the Arduino blog

Hey look!  The Simple Act of Making a Mark is featured on the official Arduino blog!

Sweet!  We love the Ardunio!

Pe Lang

The work of Pe Lang

(via Triangulation)

The Hourglass

The Simple Act of Making a Mark on Creative Applications Network Blog

Check it … The Simple Act of Making a Mark was featured on the Creative Applications blog! If you are into contemporary digital art (aka new media), especially post-screen stuff you should be sure to check out CA often, they post tons of great projects.

Android ADK up and running!

Well it took more tinkering then I anticipated but I got the Android ADK board running.  The main problem I had was getting the DemoKit Android app to build. Turns out I needed to use the Google API level 10, not the Android API level 10, as the build target. I’m certainly learning a bunch about Android programing and Eclipse with this thing. It may also be a good time to start using eclipse for Processing as well. I also want to see if I can build Processing apps that can talk directly to the ADK board. It should be possible, it’s all just Java. Hopefully someone will write a processing library that can deal with all the USB issues.

Now comes the fun part ……

Maker Faire 2011!

Whew! Maker Faire. My favorite event of the year, but it is exhausting. So much stuff to see, so many awesome people (new and old) to chat with. It was so fantastic meeting so many of you that follow my work on the blog.

Thanks so much to all those who came and saw the Applied Kinetic Arts group. AKA got much love from Make this year with a two page spread in the program featuring my essay “Now go make something that moves.” We also held a panel discussion on kinetic art that was packed. We got a fantastic response from all the visitors and the editors of Make who awarded an Editors Choice award to: The Uira Engine, Colleen Paz’s Bug Jars, and the AKA group in general.

It was also great to show off my new drawing machine now officially named The Simple Act of Making a Mark. Sadly, its first big day out was plagued by computer issues from the laptop I borrowed for the show, so it was only working in fits. I’ll be posing more photos and video of it in the coming weeks but you can get a peek at it in the photos below.