Final project: "Thousand shades of crane"

 

Initial thoughts (week 1)

If it weren't for Fab Academy, in this period of my life (first half of 2016) I would be folding one thousand origami cranes. Instead, for my Final Project I plan to make "Thousand shades of crane", a zoetrope with 3d printed origami cranes, colour cycling through thousand shades of light: the digital equivalent of 1000 origami paper cranes for good luck and health. Whether or not this will work to be granted my wish by a crane depends on whether or not cranes have evolved since ancient Japanese times too.

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THOUSAND CRANES

Thousand Origami Cranes (千羽鶴) is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes (折鶴) held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish - such as a long life or recovery from illness or injury -by a crane.

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THOUSAND SHADES OF LEDs

This is where the shades will come from: 16 Fabduino controlled RGB LEDs to display 1024 different colours. The RGB LEDs will be built insides semi-transparent 3D printed origami cranes.

 

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THOUSAND SHADES OF CRANE

Twelve to sixteen 3D printed semi-transparant origami cranes, each in a slightly different flying position (like the frames of an animation), each containing a Fabduino controlled RGB LED, the cranes positioned on a classical zoetrope: when the turning speed of the zoetrope and the pulse width modulation of the LEDs are properly synchronized, will one really see a colour shifting flying crane?

 

Sketches (week 3-6)

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Spiral Design

First version of a Spiral Design for my final project. Minimal viable product: a zoetrope with "flying" 3D printed cranes. Wow version: a zoetrope with color shifting "flying" 3D printed cranes.

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Zoetropes

Various types of zoetropes and comparable devices exists, all making use of the latency in the human visual system to create the illusion of movement. By presenting a series of static images, alternated with a status "no visual information", the human visual system perceives motion. In a classical zoetrope this alternation was created by the slits in the black cylinder. The nowadays popular 3D printed versions (like the famous All Things Fall) use stroboscopic light to trick the visual system.

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Challenge

Pulse width modulation is used with RGB LEDs to get mixed colors. The big challenge for the Wow version: how to sync the components involved in creating the illusion of continious color change (Frequency 1) and the ones involved in creating the illusion of continious movement (Frequency 2) in order to create the illusion of a color shifting flying crane.

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Flying test

What needs to be tested is how many wing positions are needed for the illusion of a contious flying movement. This can be tested digitally in an animation program. A quick & dirty first draft might be to photograph a paper bird with (copper wired) bendable wings and use a flip book app or to just draw the bird on a zoetrope strip and watch it in a zoetrope toy.

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Color Changing test

What needs to be tested is how to program an RGB LED to create the illusion of a continious change of color. First test: program a static RGB LED with a microcontroller. Next step: test how it works in relation to a turning disk. Various test designs possible (see drawing).

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LED in Crane test

What has to be tested is whether or not it works to put an LED in a semi-transparent 3D printed crane. It might be that this is not a good idea at all and that the illusion of a color shifting origami crane bird can better be created by illuminating the bird form the outside or from the bottom. It might be needed to adapt the design of the bird then.

 

(Here all other parts of the design and fabrication process will be documented; not finished yet)

 

The 4 elements

My Thousand Shades of Crane zoetrope consists basically of 4 elements: a Rotating Zoetrope Base, Crane Birds, the Electronics, and Slits to create the animation effect. Although I had to work on all 4 elements in parallel because of some interdependencies, for clarity the documentation below is devided into those 4 separate subjects.

 

Rotating Zoetrope Base

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Zoetrope base 1

I wanted the experience of "making the birds fly" and "make them change colors" to be intimate and direct. With this in mind I decided my zoetrope should be rather small (about 30-40 cm in diameter) and should be turned by hand to make it spin. I looked at things I could use as a starting point and found this Snudda Lazy Susan at IKEA.

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Zoetrope base 2

Hacking this Snudda Lazy Susan I discovered something really important: because I would need to run wires from the bottom to the top side of the plate for power and data (see Electronics below), there should always be a hole in the middle to allow for this. IKEA's Snudda had a big bolt in the middle, so it did not meet this requirement.

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Zoetrope base 3

On the web I found these Lazy Suzan Swivel Rings I thought I could use to make a lasercut or CNC-ed Lazy Suzan with a hole in the middle. The swivels not being for sale in Iceland (where I live), I ordered 2 sizes online. Once they arrived, it appeared to be very hard to turn them by hand and even impossible to make them spin, hence indeed fit for use in rotating TV cabinets - as stated in the description - but not for a smooth spinning zoetrope.

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Zoetrope base 4

Living in Iceland means: never knowing if/ when orders from the mainland will be delivered. Because of this and while waiting for the swivels to arrive, in parallel I looked into DIY possibilities. I found this flat wood thrust bearing (similar to a lazy susan) using marbles and lasercut plates and spacers. It looked promising, until for this design to work properly the importance of using equal-sized marbles was emphasized.

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Zoetrope base 5

Unfortunately the only marbles on stock in Iceland were these ones from Toys 'R Us, not equal-sized at all! Since I couldn't find any other balls I could use (no steel balls found and 3D printing was not an option because the balls needed to be perfectly round and smooth), this solution was a dead end too.

Zoetrope base 6

Meanwhile I had contacted Quinten Zwagerman from The Netherlands who made this Pristitrope, asking him for advise. For the turning mechanism he initially used this type of lazy susan ball bearing, "for sale at any home improvement store". After half a day of driving through the country I know now: this might be true in The Netherlands, but certainly not in Iceland!

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Zoetrope base 7

In his second model Quinten used this construction and the commercially available ball bearing he is showing in the picture. Unfortunately and again: not for sale in Iceland. The ball bearings that were in stock in Iceland, were the ones used in industrial machinery, trucks and glacier-proof 4wheel drives. Far too heavy to be turned by hand, so no option for my zoetrope.

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Zoetrope base 8

By the time I was getting desperate, the Slip Ring with Flange I ordered from the UK (see Electronics below) arrived. The design inspired me to try this: would it be possible to pressfit the bottom ring in a box and the top ring in a light zoetrope base plate, hence using the slip ring itself as the turning mechanism for the zoetrope?

Zoetrope base 9

To test this I cut a hole in a carton board box and lasercut an MDF base plate that I designed in Fusion 360. (Fusion 360 - Inkscape - Acrobat workflow described week 4). It worked! It was possible to turn the base plate by hand and it keeped spinning smoothly (although wobbely) for quite a while after each turn.

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Zoetrope base 10

The design of the base plate itself evolved overtime to this final version, including small holes for magnets and engraved contour lines for the RGB LED printed circuit boards (see Electronics below).

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Zoetrope base 11

In the middle of the base plate's final design is a larger hole to fit in a skateboard ball bearing, as per the suggestion of our lab's instructor/ guru added to the construction to avoid damage to the plastic of the slip ring. After all "not available in Iceland" experiences I was really surprised these ball bearings were for sale and on stock in a skate store just around the corner. I was even more surprised when the ball bearings appeared to have exacly the right size to be pressfitted on top of the slip ring.

Zoetrope base 12

To top it off the ball bearing itself could be pressfitted so tightly in the MDF base plate that no further attachment was needed. I had a working zoetrope base plate!

 

Crane Birds

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Crane bird 1

First version of a Spiral Design for my final project. Minimal viable product: a zoetrope with "flying" 3D printed cranes. Wow version: a zoetrope with color shifting "flying" 3D printed cranes.

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Crane bird 2

Test with RGB LED in crane bird RGB LED in Crane Bird using the RGB LED board I made for the OUTPUT assignment in Week 13 (see Electronics below).

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Crane bird 3

Pulse width modulation is used with RGB LEDs to get mixed colors. The big challenge for the Wow version: how to sync the components involved in creating the illusion of continious color change (Frequency 1) and the ones involved in creating the illusion of continious movement (Frequency 2) in order to create the illusion of a color shifting flying crane.

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Crane bird 4

What needs to be tested is how many wing positions are needed for the illusion of a contious flying movement. This can be tested digitally in an animation program. A quick & dirty first draft might be to photograph a paper bird with (copper wired) bendable wings and use a flip book app or to just draw the bird on a zoetrope strip and watch it in a zoetrope toy.

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Crane bird 5

What needs to be tested is how to program an RGB LED to create the illusion of a continious change of color. First test: program a static RGB LED with a microcontroller. Next step: test how it works in relation to a turning disk. Various test designs possible (see drawing).

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Crane bird 6

What has to be tested is whether or not it works to put an LED in a semi-transparent 3D printed crane. It might be that this is not a good idea at all and that the illusion of a color shifting origami crane bird can better be created by illuminating the bird form the outside or from the bottom. It might be needed to adapt the design of the bird then.

 

Electronics (under construction)

 

"No Visual Information" (NVI) solution (under construction)

 

The result (week 20)

Twenty weeks and a full cycle of Fab Academy later this is how I presented my "Thousand Shades of Cranes" final project. In the sections above, separate parts of the design and fabrication process were described. Answering the question whether or not making this digital equivalent is a viable alternative to folding 1000 origami cranes, falls beyond the scope of this documentation and will be discussed at a different time and a different place in the cloud.

 

Update (week 22)

A few days after I presented my Final Project, this zoetrope by Akinoro Goto went viral. It is so innovative and beautiful I thought it really should be added to this page.

 
 

FILES: All files of my Final Project can be found here.

 
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© Inger Le Gué, Reykjavik 2016