Abiline Christian University (ACU) in Abilene Texas was looking for a way to showcase their newly renovated quad area, a place on campus that exists literally at the juncture of the arts and the sciences. To do this, they engaged the university community and created an interactive light installation that showcased both technical and artistic skills. The piece looks like a reed filled marshland and consists of 20,000 LEDs distributed across 350 of these electronic reeds. It’s not just a display, but also an invitation to participate as a web app, which you can try out at home, built specifically for this project allows visitors to customize multiple effects that are either triggered by actions or that simply create patterns.
The university had just two months to create the entire field of light and so they turned to Viget, a company of designers, engineers, and strategists, for help bringing their digital concept out of the computer and onto the quad. Viget, in turn, relied upon the tried and true LulzBot 3D printer to get the production rolling. The reason for their choice was simple, as explained by Justin Sinichko, hardware developer at Viget’s Boulder, Colorado office:
“We chose LulzBot because the Mini and TAZ printers can produce production-ready components even while running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The parts we produce satisfy two needs: quick turn, production ready parts, and low-volume, cost effective parts as an alternative to rapid injection-molding.”
LulzBot has made a name for itself by providing superior products as part of Aleph Objects, an open source hardware company, and the popularity of its printers is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the 2,782 percent three-years sales growth numbers. Its product line of printers, parts, and plastics are utilized by tens of thousands of people in 85 countries around the world and has received numerous awards for its capable performance. This philosophy of free and open software was important to Viget when it decided to use LulzBot as it gave the company access to a comprehensive range of built-in filament slicing options, profiles, and settings using Cura LulzBot Edition.
The software platform gave the computer science students the ability to write code and test it on a small scale, as well as provided a fleet management dashboard that sends updates to 35 computers in order to control the full display. Meanwhile, the printers were able to produce custom power supply mounts, pcb standoffs, washers, gaskets, and weather proof enclosures in order to build the functioning parts of the display. As time was limited, the importance of using LulzBot products remained clear to Sinichko:
“We’re able to design very specific solutions that can be implemented in real-time and alongside a natural product development cycle. LulzBot 3D printers are simple and easy to maintain…it’s easy to find disassembly instructions and quickly implement a fix that keeps everything running without much downtime. LulzBot has, as far as I can tell, the largest and most active community. Pair this support network with their own Technical Support Team and you’ll be able to run print, after print, after print.”
The end result is a field of interactive lights that both beautifies the new quad and serves as a testament to what the combination of art and science can do when given the power of 3D printing.
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