Introduction: Glow-decahedron Sculpture

About: I create playful interactive art that questions reality and common sense.

Technology has been augmenting our senses for decades. Our perception of the world has been distorted by the screens we view it through. Recent trends in augmented and virtual reality seek to bend our realities even further.

I'm fascinated by art that explores perception through illusion. My goal is to surprise people with physical forms that they are only accustomed to seeing in the digital realm.

For this piece, I wanted to create a de-materialised, CRT-display style, floating dodecahedron.

I love the look of neon lights but they have many limitations: they are delicate, forming glass is difficult, and filling glass with neon requires special tools. In this project, I explore a cheaper and simpler alternative to neon lighting.

Step 1: Design & Supplies

I designed the glowdecahedron in SolidWorks (see attached CAD: Glowdecahedron) using the following materials:

- 1/2" OD, 3/8" ID, Polycarbonate Tubes from TAP Plastic.

- 1/16" Thick Polycarbonate Sheet from TAP Plastic.

- 3/16" OD Rivets from The Home Depot.

- 1/8" Dia. Lime Green EL Wire from Cool Neon.

After designing the plastic joints, I used the boolean feature in SolidWorks to create the 3D printed stamps (see attached CAD: Stamp_1.1,1.2,2.1,2.2).

Step 2: 3D Print the Forming Stamps

I 3D Printed the stamps using an Objet Connex 260 3D printer.

Ultra-fine resolution is not required because the vacuum will not apply enough pressure to transfer the stamp surface-finish to the part. These parts can be made on a Maker-Bot or any other FDM printer.

Step 3: Setup the Vacuum Forming System

My vacuum forming system is made from: a large plastic tub, a piece of plywood, and some ducktape. A shop-vac is used to apply suction.

Step 4: Heat and Form the Plastic Using the Stamps

I heated my toaster-oven to 400*F, placed my plastic in a jig, and cooked it for 1.5 minutes.

The plastic should sag significantly before you remove it from the oven.

Quickly press the plastic over the stamp while running the vacuum.

Use the other half of the stamp to press the plastic down, squeezing the plastic into shape and defining sharp edges.

Step 5: Remove the Plastic From the Jig

Turn off the vacuum and remove the material. I often spray it with water to cool it quickly.

Step 6: Trim and Assemble the Joints

Trim the thermoformed plastic into circles and tape the tubes in place.

Step 7: Assemble the Sculpture

I threaded a single strand of EL wire through the entire structure before riveting the joints together. The tubes are large enough to allow two strands of EL wire to be threaded through.

Eye-bolts were added to some of the joints so as to suspend the sculpture from the stand using cables. The cable suspension allows the sculpture to hang in the air and gently twist in the wind.

Step 8: Share Your Creation in a Public Place

Roofs are the perfect place to display art.

If the public doesn't notice aliens will.

My stand was made from recycled steel tubes from a shelving unit bolted together with joints.

I hoisted the parts up the side of my apartment building because I could not fit them up the staircase. I suggest you do the same, its a lot of fun.

Step 9: Surprise Your Neighbours With Unusual Art

The Glowdecahedron adorned the roof of my apartment for almost a year before I moved out.

A switch inside our apartment allowed us to flash signals to people on the streets bellow. We used it as a signal to friends and as a way to startle strangers.

After some time, the sculpture became a local landmark and its presence became a symbol of our apartment. I made friends with several people who had seen the sculpture and wondered at its existence.

The process I developed could be used to create any glowing 3D form or lettering. If the polycarbonate tubes were heated they could be bent into curved shapes, just like neon. Additionally, Corning Fiberance laser fiber-optics could be used instead of EL wire to create brighter and multi-colored light.