The Explosive Art Of Detonographs

The visual arts are a broad field, encompassing everything from the chiselling of marble sculptures to the creation of delicate landscapes in charcoal on paper. However, [Evelyn Rosenberg] has experimented with some altogether more radical techniques over the years, creating her explosively-formed detonographs.

The process of creating a detonograph starts with sketching out a design, and using it to create a plaster mold. The mold exists as a bas relief, upon which metal sheets are laid on top. Various different metals may be layered up to create varying effects, and other objects like leaves, branches, or lace may also be included in the stack up.

Rosenberg’s piece titled “Enchanted New Mexico.”

Then, the metal plate sitting atop the mold is covered with explosive powder. When this is detonated, it smashes everything together with great force. The metal sheet takes on the negative form of the bas relief mold, while also picking up imprints from any leaves or other objects included in the various layers. Dissimilar metals included in the stack-up may also weld together during this process.

With some post-processing like polishing and chemical treatments, the result is a beautiful metal artwork full of dimension and detail. It’s somewhat like an artistic take on the industrial process of explosive welding. Video after the break.

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This Spherical Lamp’s Pieces Ship Flat, Thanks To Math

[Nervous System] sells a variety of unique products, and we really appreciate the effort they put into sharing elements of their design and manufacturing processes. This time, it’s details of the work that went into designing a luxury lamp shade that caught our eye.

Top: Finished lamp. Bottom: Partially-assembled.

The finished lamp shade is spherical, but is made entirely from flat-packed pieces of laser-cut wood that have been specifically designed to minimize distortion when assembled into a curved shape. The pieces themselves are reminiscent of puzzle cells; complex, interlocking cellular shapes found in many plants.

As usual, [Nervous System] applied a hefty dose of math and computational design to arrive at a solution. Each unique panel of the lamp is the result of a process that in part implements a technique called variation surface cutting for the shape of the pieces. They also provide a couple of nifty animations that illustrate generating both the piece boundaries as well as the hole patterns in each of the 18 unique pieces that make up each lamp.

As for making the pieces themselves, they are laser-cut from wood veneer, and assembly by the end user takes an hour or two. Watch a video overview, embedded just below under the page break.

We’re glad [Nervous System] takes the time to share details like this, just like the time they figured out the very best type of wood for laser-cutting their unique puzzles and didn’t keep it to themselves.

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ElectriPop Turns Cut Mylar Into Custom 3D Structures

Mylar has a lot of useful properties, and as such as see it pop up pretty often, not just in DIY projects but in our day-to-day lives. But until today, we’ve never seen a piece of Mylar jump up and try to get our attention. But that’s precisely the promise offered by ElectriPop, a fascinating project from Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group.

The core principle at work here is fairly simple. When electrostatically charged, a strip of Mylar can be made to lift up vertically into the air. Cut that strip down the center, and the two sides will repel each other and produce a “Y” shape. By expanding on that concept with enough carefully placed cuts, it’s possible to create surprisingly complex three dimensional shapes that pop up once a charge is applied. A certain degree of motion can even be introduced by adjusting the input power. The video after the break offers several examples of this principle in action: such as a 3D flower that either stands up tall or wilts in relation to an external source of data, or an avatar that flails its arms wildly to get the user’s attention.

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The LED tree itself , filmed in the dark - a myriad of small orbs glowing mictures of green, blue and warm white

Kaleidoscope – Feelings Turned Into LED Tree

In 2020, [Eddie] found himself with a few hundred RGB LEDs left after a pandemic-interrupted project, and a slew of emotions he wanted to express – so he turned to the language of hardware, and started sculpting his feelings into an art project. He set out to build an LED tree around a piece of wood he picked for its cool shape, and trying out a long-shelved idea of his, while at it – using different resistors to mix colors of the RGB LEDs. The end result, pictured above, has earned “The Most Important Device” spot in our recent Sci-Fi contest, fair and square.

Initially, he wanted to use ATTiny microcontrollers and PWM all the lights in parallel. Having built an intermediate prototype, a small LED flower, he scrapped the idea due to technical problems, and then simplified it by hard-wiring RGB LEDs with randomly selected colors instead. As for the glowing orbs themselves, he made these just by pouring hot glue into silicon orb molds, a simple technique any of us could repeat. After 90 hours of work between him and an assistant he hired, the LEDs were wired up, each with random resistors connected to green and blue LED colors, and some warm white LEDs added into the mix.

He wanted to mostly use blue and green colors, as symbols of a world revived and revitalized – something we can’t help but keep our fingers crossed for. Before putting it all together, they wouldn’t know which colors each of the LEDs would power up in – part of the charm for this art piece, and no doubt a pleasant surprise. In the end, it turned out to be a futuristic decoration that we’re glad a camera could capture properly! If you like what you see, the build logs linked above have a bit more insights into how it all came together.

LED-adorned plants are fun projects that bring joy for a long time after you’ve finished them. You can easily¬†make a LED tree out of what you have on hand, and if you get real fancy, you can create an intricate bonsai, too. And, if you’re ever interested to experiment with castellations, you can design yourself some PCB cube flowers!

This project was an entry into the 2022 Sci-Fi Contest. Check out all of the winning entries here.

Moon moving from inside a large glass sphere into screens of two vintage television sets

Blending Pepper’s Ghost, Synths, And Vintage TVs

We were recently tipped off to the work of [Joshua Ellingson], and digging in, we found an extensive collection of art and ongoing experiments, with synthesizers deforming and driving old black-and-white clips played on vintage television sets, objects jumping from screens into the real world and back, and cathode ray tube oscilloscopes drawing graphics in the air (loud sound!) (nitter). It’s recommended that you check out the short showcase videos we embedded below before you continue reading, because transcribing these visuals into words won’t do them justice.

In case you’re not up for a video, however, we shall try transcribing them anyway. Animals, shapes and figures appear in the real world, bound by glass spheres and containers, using the technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. A variety of screens used for creating that illusion – sometimes it’s a tablet, and sometimes it’s an old television set rested upside down on top of a glass aquarium. Vintage television sets are involved quite often in [Ellingson]’s experiments, typically found playing movie scenes and clips from their appropriate eras, or even used as one of the locations that a Pepper’s Ghost-enchanted object could move into — firmly a part of the same imaginary world turned real.

It’s not always that things move from a TV screen into their glass boundary, gaining an extra dimension in the process, but when it happens, the synchronization is impeccable. All of that is backed by — and usually controlled by — Moog synthesizer sounds, knob turns driving video distortions or aspects of an object movement. Not all of his clips have synthesizers, old TVs, or Pepper’s Ghost illusion in them, but every experiment of his contains at least two out of these three, working in unison to create impressions. And as much as the art value is undeniable, [Ellingson] also adds a whole lot of hacker value for us to take away!

[Ellingson] understands what goes into building optical illusions like Pepper’s Ghost — using a variety of different glassware, from Erlenmeyer flasks to teapots, producing a consistent and ongoing stream of new ideas with unique spins on them. His aim is to share and create beyond what his art can achieve, which is why he encourages us to try it out ourselves — with this one minute video of a quick Pepper’s Ghost build, using nothing but a generic tablet, an emptied-out plastic snow globe and a piece of cheap transparency film used for school projectors. If you want to go beyond, he’s made an extensive tutorial on illusions of the kind he does, their simplicities and complexities, and all the different ways you can build one.

We all benefit when an artist finds a technology and starts playing with it, closing the divide between technology and art – and by extension, the divide between technology and nature. Sometimes, it’s flowing light art installations where you are a boulder in route of plankton’s movement, other times, it’s through-hole component-packed printed circuit birds that sing not unlike the non-printed-circuit ones, or manipulation of CRT displays with function generator-driven coils to offset the beam and turn the image into a pattern of lines.

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The Deadliest Project On The Internet?

Before deciding whether the headline of this article is clickbait, please take a moment to watch the excellent video by [BigClive] below the break. And then, go to your local search engine and search the phrase “fractal burning death”. We’ll wait.

With that out of the way, we have to admit that when we saw the subject “The most deadly project on the Internet” on [bigclivedotcom]’s YouTube channel, we were a bit skeptical. It’s a big claim. But then we watched the video and did some googling. Sadly, there are over 30 documented cases of this project killing people, and more cases of permanent grievous injury.

The results of Fractal Wood Burning with High Voltage

Fractal Burning is a hobby where wood is burned by slathering wood in a conductive slurry and then applying high voltage to either side of the wood, usually using something not rated for high voltage, such as jumper cables. The High Voltage is supplied by an¬†unmodified Microwave Oven Transformer. Other projects using MOT’s typically rip out the high voltage secondary windings and re-wind them as low voltage, high amperage transformers, and are using in Spot Welders and even arc welders.

As laid out by [BigClive], the voltages coming from an unmodified MOT, ranging from 2-3 KV (That’s between two and three thousand Volts) at a very low impedance are right up there in the “Don’t go near it!” territory.

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Building An Edge Lit Sign From The Scrap Pile

Whether in a shop window or mounted to the top of consoles in NASA’s Mission Control Center, edge lit acrylic is a popular choice for making high visibility signs. Partly because of their striking hologram-like appearance, but also because they’re exceptionally cheap and easy to produce. Just how cheap and easy? Take a look at this recent video from [Hack Modular] for a perfect example.

Now you might think you’d need something like a CNC router to produce a sign like this, and for more complex images, that’s arguably the case. But if you’re only concerned with text, and have a fairly steady hand, you can pull off the etching step with nothing more exotic than a printed template and a razor blade. Of course, the LCD style font that [Hack Modular] picked for this sign is particularly well suited to hand cutting — if you’re interested in edge lit calligraphy, this method probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

This linear LED provides a more consistent light.

With the text carved into the acrylic, the only missing ingredient is light. For that, [Hack Modular] is using a 12 volt linear LED strip light. That is, instead of being dotted with individual LEDs like traditional strips, it provides a continuous band of light that’s perfect for this application. That gets stuck down to a scrap piece of wood, and a rusty angle bracket from an old Meccano set is used to hold the acrylic right on the center-line. If you think the final product looks like something that was created from trash, don’t feel bad, that was the intent.

The end result looks great. In fact, if we’re being honest, it’s a lot better than we would have thought was possible using hand tools. Granted the choice of font has a lot to do with that, but then again, we wouldn’t mind if all our edge lit acrylic signs ended up looking like big seven-segment displays either.

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