Failure, Re-calibration, and Iteration – Noah Hillman

This week I didn’t run into any enormous problems but rather some smaller hurdles that I was able to solve relatively quickly. I cut and engraved all the acrylic sheets for the addressable LEDs to Illuminate. There was no easy way to tell what power/speed settings would make the designs come out as expected in the acrylic so I had to just start engraving and adjust accordingly. I ended up doing multiple passes for both the vector and raster toolpaths to get the depth of cut right. The rasters block light from the layers behind them so I used them only as background panels. They don’t have as sharp of edges as I was hoping but they work well for glowing/back-lighting. I regretfully didn’t take any pictures of the individual panels, but overall I am pleased with the results.

CAD of the individual panels

Next, I wired up all the electronics to power and control the LEDS. Each pane gets 64 LEDS with a paralleled 5V supply connectors so the voltage drop across any panel doesn’t effect the others. Each pane also has signal input and output connectors so that the panes can be easily disassembled and swapped if I ever want to change any of the designs (probable).

Once the electronics were done I started attaching the LEDs to the acrylic with hot glue. I found that lightly sanding the edges of the acrylic helped diffuse the LEDs and helped the hot glue stick much better. After all 256 LEDs were attached I assembled the entire structure with some new 3D prints to allow for easy panel swapping. Next, it was time to control the LEDs.

I had to slightly modify the syncstrip program because I was using so many LEDs (40hz instead of 100hz). It took a bit of trouble shooting because reading someone else’s undocumented code is not the easiest thing. Next, I started drawing the animations in photoshop, this time for 256 pixels. I am using four groups each with their own layer mask so it’s very easy to draw only on a single pane without disturbing the others. I am using guides to differentiate between panels and beats which makes it much easier to sync multiple layers with the beat. It is still a long process but I am slowly getting better at it.

Once I started playing the animations, I found that the LEDs have a wide enough emission angle that they were illuminating adjacent panels. To fix this I put a strip of black electrical tape around the edges of every panel on both sides. This fixed the issue for the vector panels however I am still not completely pleased with the raster layer independence. I may end up using only vectors in the final design, but for now I want to experiment more with drawing the animations.

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