Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Final Product: The iWall

Well, it's over, and it's been fun, so I guess it is time to do a quick rundown of what our SmartSurface was. The nice part is, I produced the blurb for our group, so I can kick off with that!
The iWall Modular Light-Filtration System

The wall you see here is a modular, scalable, self-adjusting multi-aperture window, designed to optimize light flow into a room by manipulating the position of rotating wood panels. You could call it an 'automatic venetian blind', as that is the gist of the purpose. The system consists of 30 individual modules, with one panel per module, which allow a variable amount of light to pass through. The structural elements are built modularly, but circuitry elements - such as wiring - are set up in a non-modular fashion. Individual module apertures open and close in reaction to the intensity of the light that passes through the wall as detected by light-dependent resistors (LDRs), seen on the projection side, holding a relatively constant light level on the ‘interior’ of the wall at all times - this gives 'heliotropic' and 'smart' characteristics to the wall - 'surface', fitting it into the premise of the SmartSurfaces course. The actual actuation is by a grid of servos powered externally and controlled through inputs from an Arduino Mega and the LDRs. The materials used in the assembly of the individual modules were 3/16" cast acrylic cut by laser and 3/16" 6061 aluminum sheet cut by water jet.
The design for the iWall was described in a previous post, so here I will mostly detail the construction. Fortunately, Pete was kind enough to provide us with a large number of photos taken while we were assembling the system in order to do just that!

I will not cover the electronics, as you can likely check out Neil's blog for the information on those. Suffice it to say, they worked, if not necessarily perfectly - no fault of Neil's, it was just 'quantum weirdness', as John put it.

First, our final product:

A Module Rendered:

Module rendering, with panel rotation shown.

Exploded to Show Pieces:

Fairly simple, each module only has 13 pieces:
8 Acrylic Rectangles
4 Aluminum triangles
1 Servo for operation

Step 1: Produce Module Pieces

All acrylic is laser cut.

All aluminum is cut with the water jet.

Step 2: Lineup

All of the pieces lined up pre-assembly.

Step 3: Assembly

Connect aluminum to acrylic cross-bars. Tight fit!

Put sides on triangles and glue sides together.
Took a little brute force, the fit wasn't exact.

Place in rack, attach third side to each half.

After this step, panel is placed in center and two halves are glued together, producing a full module. The glue had to set for several hours before it was structurally ready.

Step 4: Build a Wall

The modules simply bolt together, and wiring is laced down the sides. The setup process for the wall built from individual modules was a couple of hours, which was impressive but not altogether surprising. We did expect something to go wrong, but nothing really did until everything was built and wired - there was a circuitry issue (see Quantum Weirdness in introduction).

Step 5: Complete!

The reason the iWall worked so well was the attention to detail put into perfecting the design of each of the individual pieces, and into optimizing the production process of the modules. From final design to gallery piece was about three weeks, which shows how quickly our group could work once we had a concrete idea to unite around. Everyone put in a ton of hours over the last couple of weeks of the project in order to ensure that we got results, and our wall was a resounding success! It can be seen in the Architecture Gallery in the Taubman School of Art and Architecture for the next few days, and then will be moving somewhere in the Duderstadt Library after that point.

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