Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Down to the Wire

Here we see the electronic components of a single pod. 576 LEDs, two 20 amp/100 watt 12 volt -> 5 volt converters, a bunch of wire and connectors, and a microcontroller...  In this case, an Arduino Uno. The finished work for Sculpturefest will include four pods for a total of 2,304 LEDs.  One microcontroller will direct all four pods.

In addition to the electronics, each pod will be comprised of metal mesh, four 3D-printed plastic spacers, and 640 square inches of clear woven diffusers repurposed from two-liter plastic bottles.
As you might notice, this portion of lights, those that are lit, are drawing less than an amp of 12v power but are overdriving my phone's camera. 

My prosumer bench power supply maxes out at 4.5 amps at which point the LEDs are incredibly bright. The LEDs and the DC converters (seen in the foreground) still have a lot of headroom as evidenced by flickering when I try for full white. Unfortunately, I can't coax more power from my bench supply so I can't fully drive these LED strips.

Yet. 

Once I have the final power supply in place, I'll be able to signal directly to extraterrestrial cultures.

These bright lights won't be used at Woodstock's Sculpturefest, opening next month. There, the lights should be constrained; not draw attention from other works but be apparent to viewers of the piece itself as part of the aspect of the work.  The electronics include a dimmer on the outside of the device to facilitate balance.

There are other venues where the ability to brighten things up might be more appropriate and I expect to take this work to those places.

At each venue the brightness will have an impact on the surroundings so it is possible that the dimmer will be placed in such a way that it will be operable by persons observing the piece, to allow the viewer to adjust the brightness to complement their experience.

I have about 20 days to get this piece installed in Woodstock. At this point, I've completed prototypes of all of the major physical, electronic, and software components. The overall design is done; almost all of the ingredients have been acquired or are on their way. Coming up is a period of frenzied art production and installation.

There are still a few mundane structural items that need to be thought through and designed... But those will come in time.

I still have two significant technical challenges that need to be successfully addressed to support the design-specified number of LEDs.  Tomorrow night I'll be working on moving the deployment platform for LED control from the Arduino Uno to the Teensy 3.2. The Teensy supposedly works in the Arduino ecosystem. After that, I'll be migrating the LED hardware from APA102C, DotStar, to WS2812, NeoPixel. Hopefully that will be nearly seamless, too.  Once those two tasks are completed I will be able to run all 2,304 lamps from a single microcontroller.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Everything I'm Mending


* (Work in progress, shown) Burlap sewn using wire, nails, thorns.

* I cut the ill-designed bodice off a dress and made an excellent skirt, just in time for it to be far too hot to wear it.

* Old boots, sliced open: Giving up the notion of someday repairing them, I look forward to stitching a Furiosa-esque harness or utility/garter belt from the scraps.

* Abrupt DC summertime: Bring out your electric fans; clean off the windowsills! Dust the ceiling fans. Try not to dust your nasal passages.

* An essay stalled, grinding gears: I cut it apart and taped it back together.

* Writing memoir or roman-a-clef: As if to mend the past, but not in a novelist's way of reinventing and fictionalizing it into something neater or more epic, something with an arc and closure. This is more like golden joinery: mending without hiding the breaks. More like how the body mends: a scar here, a lump of bone there. Altered but healed.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Everything is Broken

My art year runs on its own calendar; the year starts in April or so.  This year has been a little different in that my usual three-season physical art production - limited by the lack of heat in the work room (aka 'garage')- has gone to four seasons, year-round, with the addition of 3D printing.


A few things are in place for this year; I'll be showing at Sculpturefest (Woodstock, Vermont) again in July, and then something on the King Farm (also Woodstock) in early autumn.  There are vague rumors of potential other things - best not to talk about those yet.

This weekend was about broken things.

My work for last year's Sculpturefest, Argument, was placed into a private collection last autumn.  Here it is in its new home.


For some crazy reason I did not stake Argument when I installed it.  In November, I received a panicked email from the owners.  Argument had blown over in a storm.


Things looked grim.


Really grim.

In November, I spent a few hours on repairs.  I had to disassemble some of the sections, decrumple a number of the beams and joins, and put everything back together.  Repair work stopped when winter hit.

Earlier this spring, I finished the repair work.  Yesterday, I moved the piece a few feet to meet the aesthetic vision of the owners and replaced temporary stakes with permanent ones.  


This image does not have the best lighting but does show that Argument is now back on its feet.  The owners are very happy with the piece.  I'm very happy that they are very happy.

Some of my work this year incorporates 'second generation' mesh construction.  This entails an extruded aluminum armature with 3D printed standoffs supporting the wire mesh.  There's more to it, but that's all you need to know for now.


While I was working on Argument, my happy little printer was printing away, working on two supports for my prototype.  It had a little problem, and then it got worse.

Here's the technically-accurate version of what happened.  If you don't grok 3D printing, you can skip to the simple version below.

The third standoff prototype (shown above) had problems with the part failing to adhere to the raft.  I use a raft because I can't seem to get the part to print directly to the bed.  The part is printed in PLA, polylactic acid.  I recently bought some PVA, polyvinyl alcohol, a plastic filament that dissolves in water, with the idea that I would use the PVA for complex supports.  I decided to print the raft with PVA to take care of the adhesion problem.  The raft printed great but the PLA appears to have not stuck to it.  Two finished parts-worth of extruded PLA ended up stuck to one of my extruders.  While removing the plastic, I ripped the leads off the thermistor that controls that extruder.  

I broke the printer.  The new thermistor is on its way; hopefully I'll be up and running by the end of the week.

That's all for now...  Back to the art mines.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Life On Mars?

Most esteemed Friend of the Collective, Dan X. Herr (aka Mr. Darkness) has recorded this sweet cover song in homage to the Thin White Kook. Share and enjoy!



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Not All Progress Looks Like Progress.

I got a lovely rejection letter recently. My novel manuscript did not win a publishing contest, but it was a finalist. In addition to giving me invaluable specific feedback, the letter writer said, "Please persist. Your talent is evident."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Order Now for Valentimeliness

Contribute to my incipient-novelist fund and receive a unique art/photo-assemblage card with a brief handwritten novel excerpt inside. (For Valentine's Day orders, please specify Sweet, Steamy, or Cynical.)

PayPal $8 to trepan8 at yahoo dot com -- Include prose flavor preference and addressee's mailing address. (Also specify if you want to receive card[s] with the inside right panel blank, to add your own message.) $10 for rush orders.

Two for $13: choose a second recipient (card will be totally different) or receive a second unique card at the same address, months from now when you've forgotten all about it.

Ten for $60 (all rather different) -- Support the arts and send your own unique greetings throughout the year!

Deluxe, Limited Edition -- $14 buys you the Extra Postage Required version. Deluxe collage-assemblages may include tiny bones, rusted metal, fabric, or other found-object elements. Sent in padded envelope.

It is fun to get mail. < citation needed >

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