Introduction: Polyscape

Picture of Polyscape

I set off to design a kinetic sculpture titled Polyscape as a "floating island" made out of recycled polypropylene plastic, which is the same material used in making disposable plastic bottles and bags. I was interested in investigating the natural properties of recycled plastic as well as the injection molding process therefore it was important for my design to incorporate modularity, semi translucency and the sculpture to be as light weight as possible. Most importantly Polyscape was designed to be flexible in shape, size and scope in order to be exhibited in a variety of settings.

The completed form is a tessellated pattern of interlocking irregular pentagon shapes. In order to achieve this I developed a 3D tile that can be interlinked together to form multiple types of patterns, such as linear grid forms, interlocking hexagonal forms as well as other less regular patterns.

Step 1: Mold Making

Picture of Mold Making

As a graduate student at Stanford University I took a class called Mechanical Engineering 318, where I was introduced to computer-aided design. I was new to using Solidworks or any other CAD program, thus learning the program gave me skills that I can now apply in other project. I found designing in CAD was a great way to visualize and prototype parts, work out detailed design issues and precisely create forms. I also enjoyed interfacing Solidworks, Gibbs Camm and the CNC Haas mills, a great way to take something from the virtual reality of Solidworks, specify the physical milling process in Gibbs and then create it as a tangible part on the CNC mill. This is how my two-part aluminum mold was made.

I had some trouble with the CNC milling process and learned many good tips along the way. I learned that it's much better to go slower then faster, this can avoid breaking delicate milling bits and controls the smoothness of the surfacing. I also learned that it is much better to let the entire Gibbs program run from start to finish as apposed to stopping midway and trying to set up again continuing your milling program from the middle. This increases potential for error, a mistake I made was miscalculating my XY offsets by 0.1", which when unnoticed until the machine milled in the wrong place and damaged half of my mold beyond repair.

Step 2: Injection Molding

Picture of Injection Molding

After several days on the CNC machines, the mold was finished and I was ready to inject reground molten polypropylene plastic. The injection molding process was surprisingly more involved than I anticipated. Getting the settings just right took a good while. Initially I had many partially filled pieces due to my wall thickness of .030". I manually milled out more gates and runners to allow the plastic to flow better and fill the entire shape. Overall I enjoyed the injection molding process and its efficient way to make multiples in less than a minute. This process allowed me to make hundreds of pieces in only a few days, after many days of trial and error.

Due to my injection troubles, most plastic pieces had to be post processed. Each pentagon had to be cut away from the flashing and runners Each piece was then linked together with (17gage 1/4" diameter) aluminum rings to create hexagon flowers and two other shapes. Each shape had to be joined together to form the tessellated polymer fabric.

Step 3: Assembly & Installation

Picture of Assembly & Installation

This assembled poly-fabric grew to be 14 x 14ft approximately and was suspended from the ceiling with monofilament looped through pulleys. Some of these lines got attached to a motor activated by Arduino electronics with sensor input. The fabric is designed to move such that it mimics the motion of water. Using motion sensors input to drive the motors Polyscape undulates when humans are present. This invites people to explore and interact with the fluctuating seascape from above, below and all around.

Step 4: Exhibition (Final Form & Concept)

Picture of Exhibition (Final Form & Concept)

POLYSCAPE is a project which merges art, architecture, engineering and ecological literacy. It visualizes complex pentagonal tessellations that create magnificent interlocking forms, therefore addressing pattern, repetition and mathematics in modular design. POLYSCAPE is also unique in its design because it is flexible in shape, size and scope. This allows the piece to be transformable for its environment, expanded or collapsed, installed with minimal specifications and be almost maintenance free.

This project comments on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex. This floating island of ocean debris is primarily made of plastic and is estimated to be 100 million tons in mass and twice the size of Texas. POLYSCAPE hopes to bring attention to this massive yet growing trash vortex and create awareness of our own relationship with plastic by transforming common trash into unique forms which function as art. This project gives viewers the opportunity to reconsider our consumption of plastic and the consequences of its environmental afterlife.

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Comments

jayludden (author)2015-01-05

This is beautiful! I love the image in step 4 with the pieces that merge from hanging to directly attached to the wall.

What mechanism did you use to attach your tiles together?

Ypink (author)jayludden2015-01-06

1/4" aluminum rings.. needle nose pliers to open and close each one, a very time consuming, tedious process, if I can redesign I would make built in hinges.

jayludden (author)Ypink2015-01-06

Oh my gosh! I can imagine that would take forever.

krummrey (author)2015-01-06

Awesome installation. I wish there were an easier way to make the molds. Not having access to an injection mold machine...
But it's great to see how it's made on "real" equipment.

makingbrad (author)2015-01-06

This is really unbelievable... I don't know if I can add one thing to it to improve it...

Truly incredible work. A couple thoughts I have, that I can't help sharing... But again, your project is absolutely perfect... I have no 'improvements' for it whatsoever.

First - injection molding and recycled plastic are AWESOME, and I bet you learned a lot about machining and tooling. Thermo-forming would produce similar shapes, tooling would be less complex, but not allow recycled bottles as the substrate. Sheets could be made with living hinges between tiles, allowing for larger structures with less labor. But the aesthetics of recycled material, really tough to beat! I think you made the right decision here.

Second - I can't wait to see what you do next... and might I suggest an exploration of double knit polyester fabrics? They allow a stretch to them that allows for both organic and angular surfaces, and using this as a skin can allow for kinetics while still maintaining an unbroken surface.

If you would appreciate some polyester fabric, Printed, or unprinted, please reach out. I have access to a fair amount of it, and would be glad to provide it to you 'gratis' as a thank you for releasing this instructable.

Kafukai (author)2015-01-06

WOW!

I'm not looking at the final product, only at the mold. I worked as a plastic technician, and I must say this mold is so perfect.

1) Is the mold made from steel? or you've to plate the mold with some other material.

2) Did you have to coat something on the mold that the PP won't stick? or only just machine adjustments.

Olek410 (author)2015-01-05

Very cool idea but I know how to make it better. Try this put motors on the strings and space strings out at about 1 string for every 10cm then connect them to motors. If you do that then you can sculpt 3d models with this or if you add lights to each one you can make a disco with a moving music equalizer. Or even better make a better you can make a paper module and make this whole thing out of recycled paper so it is art but it helps the environment too. Just saying you can try it out but give credit because this was my ideas. Still good luck on other projects and again very nice project I love it good job.

DragonTamer458 (author)2015-01-05

It may have just been the music, but the way it moves seems a bit... creepy. Like it's breathing. Waiting.

Still beautiful.

dr_peru (author)2015-01-05

Amazing sculputure and a very nice first instructable! I´m looking foward to seeing more of your projects :)

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Bio: I believe in slow craft, carefully observed hand made objects. Currently I'm an Artist in Residence at Autodesk Pier 9, San Francisco, CA where ... More »
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