3D printing : behind the scenes

As mentionned in A solid foundation , we printed our first full-scale sculpture last friday, and it was a success.

We were relieved because there were multiple factors that were not 3D printing-friendly :

  • Our scultpure needs to be hollow, because we need to be able to put all the PCBs and LEDs in it
  • Not only should it be hollow, it needs to be translucent, and thus very thin
  • The thickness should also be relatively constant in order to have uniform lighting
  • The sculpture has several parts which are almost horizontal

Why were these problematic ? Well, let’s see how 3D printing works


The first step in 3D printing is to create a .stl… Read more

Final LED tests

Since we started doing research on which LEDs to choose for our project, there three different LEDs / type of LEDs we considered:

  • The LE RTDUW S2WP , requiring 1.4 A
  • The ASMG-PT00-00001, requiring 200mA
  • Four similar SMD PLCC 2 (the package compatible with the flexible waveguides we were considering) LEDs: ASMB-MTB1-0A3A2, HSMA-A431-Z50M1, CLM2D-GCC-CC0F0783 and ASMB-BTE1-0B332, all requiring around 20mA

The LEDs for the PCB petals (see our latest architecture post) were to be either the LE RTDUW or the ASMG-PT00, and the LEDs for the top PCB were to be the ASMG-PT00 or one of the four SMD PLCC2 LEDs.… Read more

Taking full control on our 3D model

We discussed in our post Generating 3D Models  the script I wrote to generate the 3D model of our phyllotactic sculpture. In this script, I start by generating a polyhedron made up of quadrilaterals arranged in a phyllotactic pattern:

Then, my script takes as input a 3D model of a petal and copies it on each quadrilateral:

The 3D model of the petal I use is taken from John Edmark’s model

One problem with this method is each quadrilateral is different, which means I had to slightly deform each petal to fir the quadrilateral’s shape. Figuring the exact 3D transformation to accomplish this seemed a little too time consuming so I used lattices in blender, which are a way to deform objects according to a 3D grid.… Read more

A false sense of symmetry

Although our initial plan to light the petals was to put waveguides between the petals and LEDs placed on a flat rigid PCB (see “About LEDs“), Alexis recently told us using flexible PCBs might be possible.

Flexible PCBs could be placed directly on the inside of the demi-sphere of the sculpture, thus avoiding the use of waveguides and ensuring a good luminosity. Their drawbacks however includes a high cost and the fact that Alexis hasn’t yet used them for previous projects.

Using flexible PCBs, our idea would be to take advantage of the symmetry of the sculpture and place identical PCBs along each of the 13 spirals.… Read more