Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bridging the Gaps 7

From reality to digital and back

As stated in the first blog, the aim of my Dirty Digital project has been to explore the sculptural interface between the digital and analogue, and to ascertain the consequences of repeatedly passing geometry from one realm to another. Access to equipment in Design school has enabled the digital scanning of real sculptures. 

Depending on line of sight vision, the scanner is unable to discern geometry where overhangs or undercuts obscures clear viewing. The result is a certain unpredictability in the form of the geometry the scanner can identify. In the case of the donught like form built up with expanding foam, it resulted in a hollow shelled out rendition, that resembles a stylised brain. To date, an attempt to print on a Z-corp failed, with a SLS nylon version to come. 

 A second attempt centred on a layered plywood form loosely based on a trefoil. The resulting scan again had surface deviation from the original, but not as much as in the previous example and in that sense was far less significant in terms of generating or affecting form generation. The resulting digital file was then manipulated with bend and twist deformers, resized and then outputted as an RP model on a Z-corp printer. This particular scanning process suggests that the most deviance in geometry occurs when the starting form has more complexity in its geometry; meaning the potential for more geometry to be lost or misread is greater.  

Wood Ply Original
3D Scan
Z-corp print

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Inflatable INF17

INF17 is the second of my sculptures to premiere at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and bears unintentional passing resemblance to the flowers of the 'bleeding heart' or Dicentra Spectabilis.


Inflatable INF16

The 10th of July sees the premiere of two new inflatables INF16 and INF17 at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London as part of the exhibition Pertaining To Things Natural. The show runs until the end of October at a truly amazing venue. Given the botanical excellence of the specimens present it seemed fitting in some way to refer to them, if only generically.


The sculptures’ geometry and movement is partially defined by the elements, in particular the wind. Itself the result of differing air pressures due to the earth’s movement and the thermal consequences of the sun’s energy. INF16 and INF17’s otherworldly qualities are driven by these cosmic occurrences, whereas their underlying form is indicative of grow and growths; with buds of unknown origin or outcome seemingly coming to fruition. A struggle mirrored by the protrusions kinetic fighting and pulmonary inflation and deflation. Lurking in-between is a sexual dynamic, and a somewhat ambiguous male/female physiology; possibly tempered by the more erotic sensibility of their floral aspects. Yet, all flowers are sexual; and more to the point, most flowers are better than most sculptures!

Birdging the Gaps 6

Digital form into ceramics

The intention was to develop a base form in CAD with precise, yet elemental geometry that would be difficult to achieve consistently through handcraft due to subtle deflections affected to its geometry. It was then rapid-manufactured using a Z-corp printer. A three part mould was taken from the resulting object, and a number of porcelain casts were subsequently produced using liquid porcelain slip. After biscuit firing, the ceramic forms were glazed in a mix of colours ranging yellow through orange to red. Rutile was added to variegate the final finish and in particular, the tips of the forms were dipped in glaze tinged with silicone carbide. The intention was to combine the control of rapid manufacturing in with the ‘unpredictability’ of the firing process, such that one part of each form was ordered and another subject to chance and the chemical consequences of the cooling process.

X-corp RP model

The finished sculptures exhibit a diverse range of colours, and through their length shift from a smooth continuous surface to a more textured one. Whilst clearly at a rudimentary stage of development in terms of surface glaze and treatment, the sculptures demonstrate a potential means of upsetting and destabilising the apparent ‘perfection’ of the rapid manufacturing.

Bridging the Gaps 5

Translating human motion into sculptural form

This element of the project entailed capturing the kinesis of a human body using a motion capture suite. In this case, an athlete replicated the hammer throw, during which the linear motion of 42 body parts were recorded. Once the capture data was cleaned in Vicon X software, it was imported to Motion Builder for conversion into an FBX file. This was imported into Maya, where a particle was attached to each locator (matching the original motion capture marker). Thereafter, a plugin was used to generate a trace curve based on the motion of each marker moving in space over time.

This resulted in a series of dynamic curves that describe the complete motion of the athlete through the throw, from start to finish. These, it may be observed, are not necessarily likely to be curves that one would design from scratch. Naturally, there was considerable difference between the linear motion of the heal and toe when compared to that of each hand. The resulting curves were then used to produce a series of sculptural forms. These included: Finally, a lofted surface was developed from the exterior silhouette of all the curves by Matt Price.

Lofts across adjacent curves – left hand to right hand etc

Simple extrusions along all the curves

Piped extrusions of expanding diameter along a selection of curves

An animated snapshot of a discus form moving along a single curve – the latter also gives an indication of the rhythm and timing of the motion, whereby the more spaced out the discuses are the faster the motion and vice versa.

Video showing the 'sculptures' from multiple viewpoints

Several of the extruded forms were rapid manufactured in nylon and then dyed with dispersive pigments. All of the resulting sculptural forms demonstrate a vitality of movement that evidently stems from the direct capture of human motion. In so doing, the method provides a viable pathway for translating the energy, orientation and speed of motion into form. One, that in due course could include other sporting activities, or for that matter, dance or any kind of motion be it human or mechanical.

Bridging the Gaps 4

Crystallising Sculpture

The intention was to ascertain whether rapid-prototyped nylon plastic could act as a suitable seed for the crystallisation of various chemically saturated aqueous solutions. If possible, and with good adherence of the crystals it would provide a means to contrast the precision of rapid-prototyped form, with the seemingly random arrangement of crystal and in turn, the ‘ordered perfection’ of crystalline structures.

With the collaboration of Dr Paul Kelly of the chemistry department, rapid manufactured nylon did indeed prove a suitable substrate for seeding crystals. Thus a series of studies were produced where the crystallisation was set up to occur either on the interior of a vessel like form, or covering the entirety of other cylindrical forms. The chemicals used included copper sulphate (blue), potassium cyanide (orange/red) and alum (clear). The more interesting aspect of the final results was the integration of the texture and colour of the crystals with the complexity of the rapid-prototyped geometries. The consequence of this was a softening of the RP surface along with an heightening of its aesthetic qualities.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Bridging the Gaps 3

Following a meeting with Dr Paul Kelly of the chemistry department at Loughborough University, some possible avenues of exploration have emerged with the potential to help enrich the ‘samey’ visual appearance of RP objects by applying a more dynamic surface to them. These include thermochromic paint, with a view to further developing my interest in chameleonic sculptures. Having the visual conduit in liquid form would make it applicable to any surface, thereby liberating me from the planar nature of the radiant Perspex used in the colour changing thermoformed sculptures completed to date. (see below)

A second project could entail populating the surface of rapid prototyped SLS sculptures with crystals. The idea being to counterbalance the ordered geometry of the RP form with the random arrangement of crystals, which in turn will be ‘perfect’. If the forms are capable of seeding crystals, then a coherent, stable and strong surface may form. However, who knows, a bit of a suck it and see experiment. The best kind really. A aqueous solution heavily saturated with copper sulphate may provide the first test.

Abby Patterson a doctoral student in the Design School, also kindly showed me the 3D scanner and some of her intriguing work with Grasshopper in Rhino. Hopefully, in due course I’ll be able to scan some of the foam and plaster studies; no doubt the foam squiggles will give it headache!