blog

This is a blog that I will be updating from time to time for projects that i'm working on and the design processes involved in finishing them. 

Look Ma! No Hands! Pt. 2

Last time I discussed the processes I did to start this project called Cash Rules Everything Around Me. I've always been fascinated with mechanical and electrical things and as a kid got into a lot of trouble taking things apart, trying to figure out how they worked, and then trying to put them back together again; some times unsuccessfully. Just recently i've gotten back into this and created pieces that used a simple motor system to make it move in a crude way just for fun. I think they call these things kinetic sculptures. So for this project I wanted to create something that played music that was either 3D printed or milled in a CNC machine. I wanted to focus on music because music is intangible technically, and technically not visual either unless you count sheet music. I saw this image online of a speech President Obama gave of the State of the Union. But me being impatient as I am I read the caption and thought that this was a machine that used a laser to read the ridges of the speech and played the sound from that. So I brought this into my class as my inspiration for my project. However, when I went back that night I read the post more thoroughly (Obama Speech) and realized that the laser only tracks the 3D print and there is a player with speakers that actually plays the speech. Oh greeeeat... 

early inspiration for this project from http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/3d-print-obama

early inspiration for this project from http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/3d-print-obama

So I took it upon myself to create something that did play music that was 3D printed/CNC milled. The last post I explained what it took to get ready to design the project... a lot of research into things i've never done before. What this project turned into was something that played the kalimba without you ever touching it beyond pushing a button. This would be done with the use of a Kalimba with a set of notes already tuned into it, a plucker that was milled out of wood and a linear actuator that was controlled with an arduino. 

After I got the prototype Kalimba made I could start on the 3D design of the project using Rhinoceros. I needed the prototype of the Kalimba so that I could get the profile of the tines because if I didn't have the profile of the tines then I wouldn't be able to figure out the shape of the plucker. After I completed the prototype of the Kalimba I took pictures of it in elevation to place into Rhino to design over the shape. Here's the results.

3D design of the pieces of the Project in Rhinoceros

3D design of the pieces of the Project in Rhinoceros

it's like Christmas in Spring! Linear Actuator from Firgelli Automations

it's like Christmas in Spring! Linear Actuator from Firgelli Automations

I bought a linear actuator for Firgelli Automations online along with some heavy duty drawer sliders and the mounts to go with the actuator. I took them to my professors studio to solder the wires together to get the actuator working for when I mock up the final project. The thing about this project is that there is no manual on how to make something like this, so figuring out the plucker is kind of a on the spot decision. According to Mark Holdaway of KalimbaMagic.com, the plucking motion isn't just a straight up and down motion and in fact that if I just designed the plucker with little rectangles that stood up it probably would sound just like a thud. The sound comes from the vibrations of the spring steel. So there needs to be something that pulls the tines back and plucks at the end when it lets go. It actually made for a more elegant solution to the design. I also realized there needs to be a steep drop off at the end so that the tines don't flick back and stop the vibrations. 

Also, in figuring things out I had to take into account the speed of the linear actuator. On the specifications page of the linear actuator on Firgelli Automations I found that the one that I bought moves at 2 inches a second. The music is set at 100 bpm (beats per minute) and takes about 5 seconds to complete. Which means that in order for it to play at the correct speed the little pluckers need to be in range of 10 inches to play at that speed. With arduino I would be able to control that speed to make it move slower, but the limitations of the linear actuator means that I can't make it move any quicker than it's motor will allow. I know this all sounds technical; and it is, but i'm learning this as I go. Like in Jazz, improvisation is key. I guess you can call me the Mcguyver of art?

Again there is no manual on how to make something like this, so this is all just trial and error. If something doesn't work well I guess it's back to the drawing board... But i've sent this to my Professor to get milled out so hopefully this is a one shot deal. 

NEXT TIME: Assembly

Hey Look Ma! No Hands! Pt. 1

This is my first post of this website, so bear with me. I've never been someone who likes to write, so blogging is kind of unnatural for me. But I owe it to Mark Holdaway @kalimbamagic to start one, since he was a big help in figuring this instrument out. I included the song El Michel's Affair - C.R.E.A.M. from the Jon Favreau movie Chef on this post because it's the song that this "thing" will play. It's a family friendly version of the song C.R.E.A.M. from The Wu Tang Clan. This started out a final project for my 3D printing class, but I don't think I'm gonna finish on time, but who cares! This thing is out of control. 

I started off with the idea of visually representing a sound wave in 3D that could possibly play a tune, but that was just ridiculous for someone who is just an artist, maybe not, but at the time it seemed impossible. So I looked for other ways to do this. The idea hit when remembering those old music box players that played when you cranked them. I looked those up and found that a custom comb would be an outrageous to buy. So I looked for other ways to make something that would be customizable, but more reasonable for a college student, living on financial aid. 

music box mechanism inspiration

music box mechanism inspiration

Transposed song into MIDI

Transposed song into MIDI

So, the final idea is based on a Kalimba, If you don't know what a Kalimba is, well neither did I when I set off. I googled something like "handmade african instrument" to find it and found a picture with a caption that said Kalimba and was from a website called Kalimbamagic.com. I furiously researched the site, there were articles and newsletters, and instructions on how to make your own handmade Kalimba. The first part of this process was to make a Kalimba to figure out the profile of the tines. In order to do this I had to figure out the music and how it would look visually and what notes I needed. I downloaded the sheet music, transposed the notes and learned how to use a MIDI program to play this. 

left: 1st failed attempt right: final prototype 

left: 1st failed attempt right: final prototype 

 

Now that I had the music to see visually I needed to make a Kalimba to test out and tune the tines. I looked to kalimbamagic.com for plans and tips. I started out by figuring out the vibration length I needed per each frequency of each note I needed, so I could figure out the tine length for each note. I cut out the tines with some wire cutters, shaped them with my grinder and finished them off with files to make them smooth. I made the first try out of a bamboo pencil case which proved to be too weak and didn't provide enough tension for the middle tines and got some really weird notes when playing it. I tried a cigar box I bought at a Goodwill store, but the same problem happened even when I added an extra tension bolt to the middle. So I went really low tech and just got a scrap piece of wood out of the scrap bin at CSULB's workshop and voila! magic!!! IT'S ALIVE!!! IT'S ALIVE!!!. 

Stay with me here, because it gets deeper. To tune the Kalimba that I made I attached an acoustic guitar transducer to it so that I could plug it into a chromatic tuner to tune each individual note. Most of the notes especially in the lower register worked fine, but the higher the note the less vibration and that's where I ran into some problems with E, F, and F#. But I'm hypothesizing that with a shorter bridge I can get more length for the vibration and better adjustability, so I designed that into the 3D Model. Hopefully that fixes my woes...

NEXT TIME: Designing the milled piece