Posts Tagged ‘Projects’

Laser Collage: An art form for and from the hacker/maker community

Art-Sharks-Shellie-Lewis-2014-WEB

Art Sharks by Shellie Lewis, paper collage and laser technology, 6×8 inches, 2014.

Every artist hopes to come up with an original idea, to be on the forefront of the next big idea or movement. This is hoping against the odds as the past two centuries have seen an explosion of movements, styles and schools of thought that rained down in Western art like a meteor shower.  Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and many other modern movements would originate, peak and dissipate rapidly, lasting a few decades or less. World Wars arose and crushed other movements like Romanticism or Der Blaue Reiter. There are many forms of art that we can reach into the past and mine: appropriate and carry on with. In fact, schools of American Impressionists are still working in different lineages since the 19th century from William Merrit Chase, John Singer Sargent and other painters. Waves of more recent artists have imitated Picasso and Warhol. For the contemporary artist hoping to create something unique, there is very little chance of inventing something new.

Current technologies are opening the door for innovation. Many times, I am seeing where maker technologies are being used to vary production of traditional physical media arts and crafts. Laser cutters are being used to etch intaglio printmaking plates, textiles are incorporating electronics and lights, robotics are animating sculpture, and digital media is widely available. Video, animation and interactive arts are now accessible to most of the general public. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the hacker/maker culture.

Laser-collage-01-Shellie-Lewis-2014-WEB

 

I may have come upon an idea that can become an art style uniquely ours: Laser Collage. I have always enjoyed collage for drawing on images and materials readily available around people. At its most basic level, the only thing needed to create collage art is some form of glue or paste. Good scissors, a razor blade or hobby knife are helpful. Throughout art history, most fine art collage works have followed their siblings in painting and drawing, largely staying within the bounds of a rectangle or square. Contemporary painters such as Elizabeth Murray, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly set their abstract works free from the tyranny of the rectangular border. Now artists in the hacker/maker community can liberate the collage from the rectangle.

Laser Collage innovates through using two things well loved in the hacker/maker community: digital vector art and laser cutters. By using a vector design, the exterior borders of a collage art can take any form. Art works can have further elements by using raster etching as well as the vector cutting abilities of the laser. Artists can utilize recycled materials. I am excited by the possibilities for this medium. Functional and three dimensional designs are possible beyond flat two dimensional art works. Laser Collage is an art style that frees the collage art to be any size and shape. This is an art form that can be uniquely ours.

Laser-collage-02-Shellie-Lewis-2014-WEB

 

My experiments with these samples were basic in materials. I used recycled chipboard (i.e. common food packaging like cereal boxes) and a simple glue stick. I avoided PVA [polyvinyl acetate] “white” glue since it is similar enough to PVC to be a possible problem with dangerous fumes from a laser. Any glycerine and wheat-based adhesive like glue sticks, YES! Paste or acrylic-based adhesive like gel medium should be safe for laser cutting.

Using the Epilog Mini 30W laser, I got an excellent cut through the variable thickness layers of paper and chipboard using a vector setting of speed 15 / power 100 / hz 2500. The edges have a little scorch, so you may want to adjust your cutting power or increase the speed. Raster etches were at speed 40 / power 100. Etching has interesting potential for etching your collage in a fashion that lower layers reveal different colors in the design. My approach was to cover the chipboard surface first in collage elements with my glue stick and then place it in the laser cutter for cutting and etching. The artist controls the materials used, color palette, range of colors, form of the collage pieces, flow of the collage design, number of layers cut by the laser, laser etching elements and the ultimate size and shape of the border.

Creators without access to a laser cutter could use vector designs using an electronic cutter like a software hacked Cricut, a Silhouette cutter or similar machine. I have often seen owners of these tools cut elements to incorporate into collages, artist books and paper arts, yet still retain the linear borders of a square or rectangle. Shaped collages would be restricted by the width of the cutting machine which is usually around 12 – 15 inches, whereas laser cutters tend to have larger cutting dimensions. I am most excited by the potential for the medium through laser cutting technology because a laser cuts details a lot finer than a metal blade can and etching adds more depth to the design.

 

Inspired by Shark Week 2014!

Inspired by Shark Week 2014!

 

Laser Collage is my humble offering to the continuum of Western art history. Maybe I will be the only one interested in this form but I am putting the concept online hoping other people will want to try it. Mixed media elements including paints, markers, pens and pencils can also be easily incorporated. Feel free to experiment with the process on your own and please respond if you want to show your work in this medium, if you have any discoveries or develop a variation of the technique.

22

08 2014

Liquid Nitrogen – Part 1

LN2 withdrawal systemLiquid nitrogen (LN2) rocks. Yes, officially speaking, I need to get liquid nitrogen at PS:One so that we can do serious sciencey stuff, like, say, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy on the scanning electron microscope. But, unofficially? Driving nails into wood with a frozen banana, or making ice cream, is just plain awesome. And the clouds of chilled water vapor billowing out of flasks like something from a mad scientist’s lab… what can I say, I’m easily amused.

First, we need a source to buy LN2. Fortunately, a very generous individual, who happens to own a really cool company that has helped us in the past with CO2 tanks and refills, and provided free LN2 to test the EDX detector on the scanning electron microscope, offered us a great deal for purchasing it. But transporting -321F liquid to PS:One and storing it presents unique challenges.

LN2 boring the plugSo we need to start with a large storage dewar. These can be ridiculously expensive. I scoured eBay, found one, posted a crowdfunding request to the PS:One mailing list, and, thanks to the generosity of a bunch of donors, I made the purchase.

Read the rest of this entry →

26

06 2014

First Hackaday Prize Session

We just ended out first meeting which consisted of an overview of the contest, introductions, individual skill sets and brainstorming project ideas. So far, we are going to do something involving plants. Whether that is hacking a plant directly or using sensors around a plant is yet to be determined. Feel free to attend our second meeting which is tentatively to be held next Wednesday at 7:00 PM.

11

06 2014

Bike Night – Fixing bikes in February

Hello everyone!  It’s been cold.  It’s been snowy.  But some of you people are still riding your bicycles.  Being cold and snowy doesn’t stop the need for maintenance.  Every other week is Bike Night at PS:1, and we’ve got our doors open for you.

Sometimes we bring in things to show off.  Sometimes we teach.  Usually we work on interesting bike projects.  (Learning how to wrap bars, building a bike from the frame up, etc) Last night was playing bike doctor more than “here’s fun stuff to work on.”  We had two patients last night.

Bike maintenance at PumpingStation

Bike maintenance at PumpingStation: One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patient #1 received a new chain and sprockets to replace a stretched set.  And, the rider discovered the magic of clipless pedals last year, so replaced his platforms with some SPD pedals.

Patient #2 had some cheesy short term replacement pedals replaced with some very nice platforms, and had it’s headset rebuilt.

Does your bike need a tuneup?  Do you have questions about picking a new bike this spring?  Do you want to learn a new bicycle related skill?  Come visit us, we’ll be gathering in the shop March 5 at 7PM.

-Nerobro

20

02 2014

CNC Steampunk Harp – Part 1

 

Side view of harp with pockets routed

Side view of harp with pockets routed

For the past year, Elizabeth and I have been collaborating on a project using the amazingly cool CNC tools at Pumping Station: One. The goal: to build a harp. Not just any harp, mind you. A steampunk harp! The idea was to start with a kit (the Voyageur harp from Music Makers, 33 strings, cherry) but heavily customize it as follows:

  •  CNC cut brass panel inserts, inlaid in pockets routed in the sides of the harp
  • The brass panels would be etched using a galvanic etching process, similar to the one used by the Steampunk Workshop to create their clockwork guitar. Elizabeth would design the shape and custom artwork (gears, of course!) for this.
  • The sound board would be laser engraved with some type of steampunk design. The design is in progress, and we are searching for a laser engraver large enough to handle the sound board.
  • Although not strictly steampunk, I’d considered adding RGB addressable LED lighting under the neck of the harp, which could illuminate the strings, as well as respond to the pitch of the strings being played.
CNC routing brass

CNC routing brass

First, we had to start by routing the brass, using PS:One’s CNC 3020 router. Elizabeth drew the design, including the brass outline and the pattern we will use when we etch the brass. We did this last spring at PS:One, and we ran into massive problems with the brass vibrating and breaking end mills. The project remained dormant for many months until a breakthrough: What if we glued the brass to a scrap board? That would at least keep it immobile so it couldn’t chatter and bind on the end mill. The good news: This worked! Success! The bad news…. The Go To Home button on Mach3 does not, by default, raise the spindle before moving it. And a clamp was in the way. The result: A badly bent spindle. Well, all was not lost….
Read the rest of this entry →

23

01 2014

Lock Picking and SEM

spoolpinBack in October, Pumping Station: One hosted an event called Locktoberfest, an annual event run by the Chicago chapter of TOOOL (The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers.) It features, well, lockpicking, beer, and brats. (The beer is necessary to relax one’s hands. Really. I mean it.) A number of nationally known people came out to Chicago for this, including Deviant Ollam and Babak Javadi.

Lock picking involves manipulating small components. Small metal components, which are conductive, and would image well in a scanning electron microscope. And it just so happens that we’re probably the only hackerspace with a working SEM.

Read the rest of this entry →

15

12 2013

ShapeOko!

For the past few months, my CNC Build Club project has been building a <a href=”http://www.shapeoko.com/”>ShapeOko CNC mill</a> from a kit Jeff donated to PS:One to replace the machine hacked into a pick-and-place. The ShapeOko belongs to PS:One and will (hopefully) be a permanent part of the space.

On July 21st, I moved the machine to its home in the shop, finished wiring it up, and tested the motion of the stepper motors. It moved like it was supposed to on the x, y, and z axes, so I moved on to drawing the Hello World job (the ShapeOko logo) in the air. That worked perfectly, too. So now it was the moment of truth – time to find a drawing implement, tape it to the gantry, and send the GCode to draw the logo on paper.

After several attempts at finding the right pen or marker, and figuring out how to tape it securely, this was the result:

helloworldsmall1 helloworldsmall2

A very happy me, and a successful Hello World.

I started this project to learn more about CNC projects from the ground up. Along the way, I learned a bit about tapping, soldering, and Arduinos too. Here’s a look back at it:

This was the beginning:

shapeoko1small   Then I tapped more Makerslide and added the frame and rails:

shapeoko2small

Then I added the Z-axis:

shapeoko3small

Edward Ford, the Shapeoko’s inventor, happened to be at the space the night I finished the mechanical build of the Shapeoko:

shapeoko4small

After tweaking and tightening up the mechanical build, I assembled all the electronics I would need, mostly from donations to the project. (Thank you!)  Edward came back for ShapeOko night as part of CNC Build Club, and we got the machine wired up. Unfortunately, the x-axis didn’t move properly, probably because the GRBLshield controller got damaged during rework. So Bart donated another GRBLshield, and Ryan did some heroic rework on its connectors, and this one worked!

Colin donated a Dewalt spindle to the project, and the next step is to get some end mills, test the machine’s milling, and certify some people. I’m also looking at installing some limit switches on the machine. Of course, there are also options like a different spindle, a dual-driven y-axis, or a more robust z-axis. Those will be things for the CNC Build Club and other interested members to decide on.

I got this far with more than “a little help from my friends”. Thank you to the people who offered help, parts, or advice (in no particular order): Jeff, Jay, Steve, Colin, Ryan, Edward, Cat, Bart, Jeremy, Fernando, Jesse, and Everett. If I accidentally left you out, I’m sorry!

04

08 2013

SEM, EDX and fun with liquid nitrogen

Our scanning electron microscope came with an Oxford Isis EDX detector that we were told was non-functional. After a little poking around, I discovered that the replacement power supply which supposedly didn’t work was shipped from London, where the default power is 240V. After changing the voltage, the computer suddenly recognized the electronics, and it passed all the self tests. That looked like a good sign, so the next step was to acquire liquid nitrogen, which is needed to cool the detector.

Fortunately, one of our members owns NFC, a company that, among other things, sells liquid nitrogen. He loaned us a dewar of LN2 so we could test it out. After transporting it back to the space, I asked Everett to watch from a safe distance and let me know if anything was spilling while I filled the dewar attached to the SEM. He took some video of the process. The plastic funnel I used was cracking as I was pouring, which in hindsight wasn’t that great of an idea, so maybe we need to find another solution here….

YouTube Preview Image

The detector took over an hour to cool down, but ultimately it worked beautifully! I kicked up the energy of the electron beam to 20 keV which excited the atoms in the sample to give off characteristic X-rays. The EDX unit measured the energy spectrum of the X-rays given off, and was able to suggest possible elements that have those peaks, which I could then label. The next day Susan Young, the microscopist who used this SEM when it was at its former home, came to the space to give me some advice on the EDX and the sputter coater.

At center is an aluminum sample stub, with a square of copper tape and a strip of carbon tape. The SEM is imaging an area showing all three surfaces.

At center is an aluminum sample stub, with a square of copper tape and a strip of carbon tape. The SEM is imaging an area showing all three surfaces.

After calibrating the detector on a copper target, I then tried imaging a sample that consists of an aluminum sample stub, copper foil, and carbon tape, that has some of each of these exposed. I’ve labeled three peaks for copper, one for aluminum, one for carbon, and one for oxygen. The peak at 0 is just an artifact of the detector. Here is a movie of the X-ray peaks building as the detector collects data:

YouTube Preview Image

Here is the complete spectrum:

EDXSpectrum

The EDX detector has the ability to determine not just what is in a sample, but where it occurs in the sample. I did this by defining energy windows, above. One for carbon, one for one of the copper peaks, and one for aluminum. Each time the EDX detects an X-ray whose energy falls within one of the bands, the EDX sends a pulse on one of several channels to the SEM. The SEM operates in X-ray mapping mode and, because it knows the beam’s position when the pulse is received, it makes a dot on a color coded map showing where that element occurs. This map is an overlay on the secondary electron image of the sample.

EDXMap

The aluminum peak is colored cyan, which dominates the upper left part of the sample. Magenta corresponds to the copper peak, which appears primarily on the lower left. Orange represents carbon. The detector didn’t detect that much of the carbon peak (seeing as it’s the smallest of the three), but orange dots are clearly visible on the right hand side. The surface in the middle is the edge of the copper tape, but it is almost vertical relative to the electron beam, so it doesn’t seem to be giving off many X-rays.

All in all, this is seriously cool technology.

21

07 2013

Last Night’s CNC Build Club

DSC00514

We had a great meeting last night.  We had over a dozen people working together to wire up a CNC control box.  At one point we had three soldering irons going at the same time.  Here is the pile of parts we started with.

Starting Pile Of CNC Parts

 

Here are some people wiring the box.  A really nice job was done using wire ferruls wherever we could.  How many hands can fit in that little box?

CNC Team Work

Here is the nearly completed box.

Box Almost Done

 

Thanks to Chris, Matt, Aeva, Patrick, Donald, Steve, Jason & Alex, Cat, John, Will, Gabe, Norm, Allen and Colin.  Next week we will be testing the motors, adding limit switches and configuring the software.

We will start with Mach3, then switch to EMC2 when we find a dedicated PC for that.  Chris and John I think mentioned they do time at Free Geek.  I am sure they could find a little PC.

Special thanks to Automation Technologies Inc for giving/lending all the parts.

- Bart

 

 

26

04 2013

Pictures from the Scanning Electron Microscope

A few nights back, Brian and I took some images from the SEM. We exported them into TIF format, and then copied them via Sneakernet, a.k.a. using 3.5″ floppy disks and a portable USB floppy reader. I converted them into .png files. Click them for full 1024×768 resolution, the limit of the Leica image capture board. I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Pin Top

Read the rest of this entry →

09

04 2013