Saturday, January 30, 2016

Initial Design Finished and ready for printing, some thoughts on sound...

One of my favorite things about this semester is finally having the opportunity (and the reason) to wrap my head around Computer Aided Design.  While I could have used it before in many instances, its use was never imperative because I didn't have the concurrent Computer Aided Manufacturing capabilities...this has changed now that we have generous access to multiple stereolithographs, or as they are more prosaically and less poetically called, 3D printers.

While we have access to the top of the line design software in the Labs at Michigan, specifically the industry standard Solidworks, I instead decided to start working with the Autodesk Fusion360 software.  This was mostly so that I, because I'm a commuting student, didn't need to be tied to the computer labs and I could work on my designs at home.  Another reason was that Fusion360 has a super generous three years free student license and much more affordable rates after that.  I didn't want to dive too deep into Solidworks, fall in love, and then not get to use it after graduation because of the $3500+ license fee. 

I have found Fusion360 to have a very easy, almost curated, learning curve.  It comes with a huge host of 'in application' hands on tutorials and a comprehensive online documentation.  It also automatically works in the cloud, making sharing and backups as easy as using social media.  So, all that being said, here is what I've come up with so far...


The top compartment is made to hold all of the electronics, with a proximity sensor mounted on the bottom of the removable disk and the Inertial Tracking Unit mounted on the top.  As both of my sensors are i2c there will be a minimal amount of wiring in the housing as I believe I can daisy chain power and data, hopefully coming out of the device with a clean four wire + shield cable.  Later on I want to look at modifying the electronics to include Bluetooth, but that's for an iteration far in the future.  I do not consider this the finished geometry for the project, this is more proof of concept, and it was designed with the Cube2 printers in mind, which only have an effective print surface of around 4.5".  While I believe the height, at around 4.5" assembled and at rest is about right for the scale of the human hand, I would like to extend the ring out another two inches or so.  Now that we have access to the department printers, this will be in my next iteration because I believe there is around an eight inch print surface.

The new departmental printers!  I've been working with John Granzow a bit in the setup and calibration of the two printers, and we've done some trial runs of simple parts.  There is a lot of combinations of variables that must be taken into account, between the material, nozzle, heat, travel speed etc, but they should be up and running in a little while.  Here's some vid of a test run.  I love the music of the stepper motors!


After our last in class review, I've tried to do some thinking about what 'sound' the bucky would be tied to.  This wasn't my focus so much in my first conception, I was more attentive to various design concerns.  I wanted several factors; something that could use as many affordances as the shoulder-arm-elbow-wrist-finger combination allows (impossible to get them all, our hands are amazing devices!), something that would invite touch, and something that would make understandable musical changes right out of the box while allowing for creative growth.  As I think about sound, I'm still drawn to thinking about 'What are the controlled parameters?' as much as I'm thinking about a particular synthesis patch.  For instance, combining data from the two sensors, I can get Y-axis velocity data from the ITU and get distance data from the proximity sensor.  This could lead to an interaction that has a metaphor in the pizz to arco range on a string instrument.  The ITU data would set the initial attack time of the sound with faster movement meaning shorter attack, and the depth of the plunger would set the initial attack level, deeper being louder.  So a fast descent of the Bucky with a shallow compression of the plunger would be a quiet pizzicato; light compression of the plunger with almost no Y-axis movement would be a soft arco; fast Y-axis with deep compression would be accented sustained attack, etc.  This, of course does not have to be tied to volume envelope, it could be transferred to the filter, to LFO, whatever we usually would tie to an ADSR in the modular synth paradigm.

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