For Playful Communication of Serious Research I have been working with Brett, Hannah and Xuedi to build a kiosk where you can explore how the brain processes vision. The project has been an intense fabrication journey, combining traditional wood fabrication, CNC Routing, mold making, 3D Printing, laser cutting & etching. It’s still in the process of getting finished, but this is what I’m presenting today.
Frame – Traditional Fabrication, Vinyl Printing
Hannah and me worked together to build the initial framing. She is the master of fabrication, and I learned a lot about building things out of wood. We worked to cut the parts from 2x4s and plywood and then covered the plywood with masonite. The original design had a curve connecting the play area to the upright region. The masonite was unable to curve at the angle required, so we decided to make an angled piece instead.
I spent a significant amount of time hand planing the sides and front, matching the masonite with the existing wood. This was also my first time using a hand planer. It requires a lot of patience. I used the CNC router to cut out angled parts to make the front curve.
I was able to find a way to mitigate dust from the orbital sander with the magic of gaffers tape. I also learned that wood putty and me are not friends. At this point in the process, we determined that we couldn’t afford to use speed rail for the legs. Instead Xuedi and me built wooden legs from 2x4s.
All of this work is covered with a vinyl sticker.
Play Area – CNC Routing, Laser Cutting & Etching
Once the copy was approved, I cut each of the different brain area shapes were of acrylic with Xuedi. Hannah painted the etched text. I tested multiple hole sizes to make sure that the electronics fit properly.
The play area, where users will plug brain cables in is CNC routed to give a slight inlay where the acrylic parts will sit. There is also a hole cut so that the electronics can mount into the acrylic. I’m planning on using 3M VHB tape to secure the acrylic.
Brain – Mold
Initially we were planning to use resin to cast the brain. I took a trip to the Compleat Sculptor and learned that it was very possible the resin would melt the thermoplastic mold and the PLA Makerbot printed visual cortex areas. Instead, we used Smooth-On Encapso K. This is the material used to make ice or simulated water in artificial flower vases. It’s very clear, making the visual cortex areas look great!
Brain Cables – 3D Printing & Dying
Initially we were planning to use AMS to print the brain connectors, the part that you hold onto when you plug a cable in. But, the prices were too high and the materials may not have been as strong as we wanted. Instead we sent the model to Shapeways to be printed in White, Strong and Flexible, a laser sintered nylon. We colored the final print using a combination of fabric dye and sharpie.
To be continued…