Danielle Aspitz

MAS.863 | How to Make (Almost) Anything

Final Project - Initial Studies

Water Lamp - creating caustic patterns or ripples with light and moving water


1. Idea
2. Experimentation
3. Design

1. Idea

This week we were asked to come up with early concepts for our final project and model them in a 3D modeling software.
I've always been very fascinated with the patterns you get at the bottom of a pool, the way light diffracts through moving water, caustic patterns. For this class I'd love to make a lamp that simulates these patterns, ideally with real water, and perhaps modulated by user input.

Figure 1. First concept utilizing the mechanism of a "whirligig"(see Figure 2) and a tube of spinning water
Figure 2. Render utilizing Vray with Rhino
Figure 3. Whirligig
Figure 4. Whirligig Schematic
2. Experimentation

While I do come from an architecture background with plenty of 3D modeling skills under my belt I legitimately wanted to try to learn some new 3D software programs to see what was out there. I tried Blender, which I felt was very unintuitive but had quite a wide variety of applications which seemed to be very exciting in generating atmospheric scenes. This can be a huge challenge in Rhino (my most familiar territory in terms of 3D modelling), and I typically do a lot of post processing in Photoshop, which can ineveitably look "Photoshopped". I will not say I dismissed this software but did feel it would be quite an undertaking to get to the same level of comfort I feel with Rhino. I did spend about a day watching Lynda.com tutorials and playing around, I feel this is one I will definitely come back to. I was curioius about Antimony which Neil spoke highly of for it's innovation in modeling via f-reps rather than b-reps. I was drawn to the austerity of the setup, all-black, no toolbars visible until you click, no telling what it is capable of. I played around in Antimony for a few hours, but ultimately was dissatisfied with the zoom, pan, rotate features. I think if you know what it is you are after it is an awesome tool, and would be very quick to create this preconceived idea, and even quicker to tweak and adjust this idea. However in my field of design where I am often using the tool to very broadly explore a concept and must quickly zoom in, and out and rotate through a space to really get a feel for what it is I am creating I felt it was more challenging here. I think again I am probably very biased due to my familiarity with Rhino, but ultimately I felt I still preferred it. Finally I gave Autodesk Fusion a try because our Harvard section gave a two hour tutorial on it. While I found the tool interesting, and the constraints to be very powerful I found myself wondering why everything had to be informed by a constraint. Perhaps this is the architect vs the engineer mindset. In the end I found myself feeling most comfortable with Rhino's capabilities. I just love that I can freely draw something, and if I want I can later go in to grasshopper and have a more strict system with constraints, but I do enjoy the free flow, and the robust viewing parameters (pan, zoom, rotate) to really get me a feeling that I am in the space.

3. Design

Ultimately I returned to the drawing board to think of a more exciting concept. In exploring processing via a weekend workshop at the GSD I discovered this amazing program. This inspired me to think about how my project could take this notion of user input to create physical ripples as this program is creating digital ones. I had a few different ideas along these lines where a bed of water is mounted underneath a framework of actuators and these actuators respond to user input to create ripples. I was thinking perhaps different layers could be activated by different users to create some sort of dialogue. In the final design I create a very thin, undulating bed of water where the bottom would be a hard casted resin, or vacuum molded plastic and the top would be a more pliable plastic that is actually sinched by a servo moter. More ideally would be two layers of an electric mesh where each node is operable and can communicate through the water with some physical spark capable of creating a ripple. I feel this is very exciting in that aeshtetically it could look very thin, and would require much fewer components capable of breaking. This idea will need further refinement, btu is greatly exciting!

Figure 5. Bed of water with actuator network above, three layers for three users
Figure 6. Thin frame with sinching mechanism to create ripple effect
Figure 7. Sinch detail
Figure 8. Thin frame (metal edge) with fully electric mesh (no physical movement) and two layers for multi-user interaction
Figure 9. 3D Model
Figure 10. Infinite Surface creating an Endless Flow
Figure 11. 3D printed Model
Figure 12. Final Form
Figure 13. Model View with Suspension
Figure 14. Technical Schematic
Figure 15. First tests with motor