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

A solid foundation

Last week we met with Alain Croullebois, the go-to guy for mechanical questions at the school. We went to his workshop with the motor we received during the holidays : this Turnigy Multistar 4225-390Kv 16 Poles Multi-Rotor Outrunner. We discussed what the physical structure of the Phyllo could look like.

Here is a global diagram of what we came up with :

The mechanical structure of the whole Phyllo

The Base

For the base of our Phyllo, he suggested stacking two 30cmx30cm aluminium plates 8mm thick, with a separation of 6cm between the two plates maintained by 2cm wide pillars at each corner.… Read more

IRoning out the Phyllo detection

Back to school after the holidays, we ran tests to validate our idea for detecting other Phyllos with IR radiations. Quick reminder, we had ordered two powerful IR transmitters (LTE-R38381S-ZF-U and SFH 4441) and several receivers, some in AGC2 (TSOP2256 and TSOP4856) and others in AGC4 (TSOP4456). Signal management is a little different depending on the type of gain control (AGC): some receivers are more suitable for noise reduction and other lower detection times.


We will briefly go through the IR detection protocol once again. 

First of all, Phyllos give themselves a unique identifier by communicating via Wifi.… Read more

New Year, new skin

Happy New Year everyone, hope you enjoyed the holidays !!

Today we are going to talk about the latest trends of our hardware architecture.

New PCB disposition to drive the petals

We used to try to drive each LED with its own processor. However we could not manage to get every component to fit on the PCB petals. Moreover, the processors were underused as we barely needed half of their timer outputs. Therefore, further inside the Phyllo, we decided to add a layer with slightly bigger PCBs (let’s call them the petal controllers). They have a STM32F207VIT6 which can drive up to 10 LEDs.… Read more

Ruling the colony of Phyllos

Yesterday we mostly worked out the detail of how we’ll be detecting neighbouring Phyllos.

Without further ado, here it is :

Step 1 : Discovery and identifier attribution

The first step for the Phyllos is to establish collectively which other Phyllos are present. Each Phyllo must therefore broadcast its presence and be given an identifier. 

This step must be repeated regularly in case Phyllos are switched on/off. 

As described in this post, we plan to base the protocol on wifi broadcast: a Phyllo regularly broadcasts its IP over wifi to signal that it is still on. The others register this IP address in a local running Phyllos table.… Read more

Update on Phyllos detection

Magnetic deception

Last week, we thoroughly tested the MPU9250 that Alexis lent us. At first glance, it looked a lot more promising than the TLV493D-A1B6 MS2GO () we tried before : the range is way better ! Unfortunately, magnetic detection is more complicated than we first thought and it looks like it’s not going to cut it.

You can take a look at this post to remind you of the detection scheme we had in mind.

Essentially, the idea is to use electromagnet in every Phyllo that can be turned on and off, so as to detect the Phyllos one after another, and use Wifi or Bluetooth to coordinate.… Read more

LED’s do some tests

Yesterday I set out to test the LEDs we received : ASMG-PT00-00001 and LE RTDUW S2WP. The first is a powerful RGB LED, while the second is an even more powerful RGBW LED. They need to be quite powerful because in order to avoid a blurry image due to the motor rotation the duration of the flashes must very brief, and since the LEDs are flashed only once every 137.5 degrees of rotation that means they are off most of the time.

The goal here is to test under conditions similar to those the LEDs will actually be used in : once every 1/30 seconds, they will be turned on for 100µs using high frequency PWM modulation for the colors, and then switched off again.… 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

The magnet strikes back

In a previous post we discussed several ideas on how to detect the direction of neighbouring Phyllos relative to a given Phyllo. Our favourite idea in this post was based on a mix of Wifi and IR : the Phyllos would cooperate using Wifi to turn their IR emitters on one at a time to allow the others to detect it using IR detectors.

But this idea raises several problems. The most notable is IR reflections : they could spoof the Phyllos into detecting neighbours in the wrong directions. We thought we would be able to differentiate an IR reflection from a direct emission by comparing the amplitudes, but according to Alexis, we will have too much trouble.… Read more