Last weekend during the MakerFaire2014 me and ArcAttack did something ELECTRIFYING, we created a wearable faraday cage dress! Hereby our process on how a collaboration like this got started! Enjoy. Muhahaha.
Step 1: COMPUTER GENERATED METAL PLATED FARADAY CAGE DRESS
First started by making a drawing of the ideal look (hard because it was a first time explicitly working with full metal as material) due to the hardness of the material I needed to be creative creating a structure that would be flexible and wearable.
Through 123D, we used Autodesk’s Maya to draw panels on top of the scan of the model using Quad Draw. An image plane with the artwork/concept was used for reference in the front view.From there we used 123D Make (app) to layout the 3D panels from Maya into flat into a 2D sheet. We managed to make any design changes, such as slight offsets for the panels for spacing, in AutoCAD. Due to the use of this software, the base dress only took one few days to complete from design to cutted piece, since a lot could be solved in software. Finally we had a 2D layout of all 94 panels, which we cut out of a sheet of metal using the waterjet at the machineshop of Pier 9. Martin, who is in charge of the Omax 60120 at the Autodesk workshop at Pier 9, was a great help here helping me out in getting everything setup and ready to go (these machine's can be hard to handle).
Constructing the whole dress together with rings (over 600 rings) I think this process took the longest of all - we mainly did this in the ArcAttack workshop in Austin / Texas with the whole team while having a chat about how cool the end result would be (motivational talks - very important).
Creation of rings by pulling wire over a wooden stick and cutting them off with a powerful cutting tool.
Don't wear this dress to a bar, as sitting was impossible with the metal plates.
Step 2: CREATION OF 3D PRINTED PLASMA BALL SHOULDERPIECES
Creation of the model of the shoulderpieces in AutoDesk's Maya - this time I constructed two 6inch (diameter) nitrogen-filled plasma balls that glow bright purple in order to be electrified through the tesla coils. One important thing while constructing these pieces on the shoulder is BALANCE - so it feels comfortable - even if these designs can have a bit of a load - a good balance can safe a lot. The mount is a collaboration with Niccolo Casas with who I am exploring the possibilities of fashion, on-body technologies and 3D printing and what effects can be reached while using the spaces around the body.
Once ready - I loaded the file into the computer and with special software of the OBJET printer I checked if everything was correct before I hit 'print' so the piece could be printed. 3D printing the design at one of 7 OBJET500 Connex printers at Pier 9 during my AutoDesk/Instructables residency - one shoulderpiece took over 33 hours to print - so me and Gabe (responsible for the 3D printing facility) choose to load the machine in with DOUBLE material so it only took HALF of the time. Each piece ended up taking 19.20 hours (20 hours) to print on high speed. I choose to do it on high speed since the design didn't had that much detail, basically it would not matter that much.
After printing I needed to clean off the material - I used a water blaster to blast everything off so it would be cleared from all, sometimes a bit oily, support material.
Last step is polishing - sandblasting (machine + by hand) + polishing of the pieces and finally painting them (primer - paint - coat) and your piece is ready to be IMPLEMENTED BY TECHNOLOGY. Yes baby.
Step 3: A HELMET TO PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
One step in between: in order to protect the head from the agression of 2x half a million volts of tesla coil madness (as I stood in between an approximately 1 million volts of electricity) - we needed to protect my head so we created a prototype helmet from full metal at the ArcAttack workshop in Austin / Texas.
I started off making a sketch, at the 'Home Depot' (oh yes!) we collected materials and started to shape the patterns out of the materials, made a big dome that my head would fit in from 3m scotchcast casting tape (resins are 100% solids, thermosetting, electrical-grade insulating resins) on which I constructed the metal plates with screws. We constructed the helmet with a lot of muscle power, grinding and hammering and the help of Sam using a spot welding technique. I constructed the helmet and added spikes that might lead the arcs on stage over the helmet (did not work) and spray painted and coated the helmet so we could test the usability (did work).
Step 4: ADD SOMETHING EXPERIMENTAL!
It's always FUN to try things out - for this project I used two 16 inch NITROGEN-FILLED PLASMA BALLS that I constructed in the shoulderpiece that would (hopefully - and they DID!) would GLOW when they would get struck by the arcs (you can see this in the next step) It was SIMPLE but has an INTENSE effect! [some things can be SO simple! ...hooray] it's all about experimentation - even it you think sometimes it might not work is VERY important - without experimentation no innovation. But - BE CAREFUL and don't do things without the expertise OR experts around you. Test - ask - make sure, don't do anything without full control over the situation - this makes you a real genius.
I bought toy plasma balls from Ebay
I hacked the toys and put them into my shape.
Step 5: TESTING PHASE! BEFORE WE HIT FULL LIGHTNING
I might need to make a note here 'Don't Do This At Home'
Again - this is VERY dangerous, so NOT try this at home lil kiddo's!
It’s a bigger process than just gathering the right materials or colors and constructing it, so I flew into Austin, Texas, where ArcAttack’s builder shop is housed. It’s “form follows function” in this case — a continual back and forth between design and role or purpose, where function was alpha, above all: multimeter testings of constructed connections, metal and aluminum materials that were ordered and mostly turned out not to reach the required conductive capabilities, paint jobs and coating that isolated too much of the created grounding structure.
It’s always trial and error when you are trying to do something new — and by testing it time after time, you secure your best options. When it was finally time for fitting and testing we started with firing up the coils lightly and built it up step by step. If the arcs raise through your heart, you might not live to tell, so if anything, this process was done very carefully. ArcAttack have been doing this for over 12 years and are specialists in their field.
Here you can see me and Steve of ArcAttack with a tesla
coil gun testing the plasma domes before the MakerFaire:
Step 6: GOT STRUCK!
I took place in the MIDDLE in between the coils, as coming too close is dangerous.
We activated the Tesla coils - if you would like to know more about TESLA COILS go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_coil
ArcAttack - http://www.arcattack.com
SETTING: Two custom engineered hand built Tesla Coils by ArcAttack throw out electrical arcs up to twelve feet long, each one acting as an instrument with a sound reminiscent of the early days of the synthesizer.
OH MY... Although I fully trust the whole team, the first time that the arcs hit me fully on stage was very scary, but incredibly interesting being in contact with such a free and pure form of electricity. Each coil can peak at about ½ Million Volts, so I was basically surrounded by close to a million volts.
Incredible pictures by Kyle Cothern by the way,
he used a wide lense camera! - oh it's a Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS II on a Canon 7D camera I just heard.
Step 7: (IMPORTANT!!) DOCUMENTATION!... Document your stuff.
Or better - I took a GO-PRO with me / close to me: we shot a clip from inside my helmet using a GoPro, so viewers could see my perspective:
All went good and no humans got broken during the process - a good thing because MAKE magazine was able to make a fun interview about it http://makezine.com/2014/05/23/anouks-sizzling-ho...
Step 8: REFLECTION - WHAT DID I LEARN?
I gained a more intuitive understanding of how electricity could flow freely, as I experienced it firsthand on stage. It was a good investigation on how to route and engage electricity as it flows over certain surfaces. Working with the unstable (instead of controlled) nature of electricity at higher voltages inspired me to think of ways to energise uncontrolled effects — interfacing in a direct way with electricity instead of enclosing and leading it. This collaboration (based on Nikola Tesla's invention) gave me the possibility to have electrical energy being broadcast without wires, through the ground, while energising the plasma balls without any onboard circuitry.
[picture is a sketch setup of the ArcAttack stage]
ONE FINAL DISCLAIMER: [can't say this enough]
This is something that you really should NOT do yourself as you need to be very specific about everything when you are working with things like high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity ;) piew piew