Introduction: Lux Aeterna - Data Enabled Light Sculpture

About: Yagmur Uyanik is an architect with a professional interest in media art, sound, computational design and fabrication techniques. She studied Architecture in Istanbul and recently graduated from San Francisco A…

Lux Aeterna is a data enabled light sculpture. The piece uses the data of planet Mars’s topography and turns it into a voxel landscape as a base to explore the movement in space. The path the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars is directly translated into the motion of the LEDs, and the brightness of the each voxel is sent via an OSC message to proportionally control the amplitude of a single sine wave. The piece was exhibited in San Francisco at The Old Mint San Francisco and Z Space in 2017.

This instructable will explain how to fabricate the sculpture and install and run the LEDs.

Software Used: Processing, Rhinoceros, Adobe Illustrator

Hardware Used: ws2812 LED strips, fadeCandy, power supplies, wires, wire cutter, soldering equipment, transistors, capacitors, electrical tape

Materials used: Acrylic diffuser sheets (%60 transparent, size depends on laser cutter bed, 1/8" thickness), wood board

Tools used: Laser cutter, woodworking tools, acrylic cement (solvent type), solvent cement applicators, drill, drill bits, white spray paint

Step 1: Fabricating the Units

This form is an interpretation of the area Curiosity rover traveled on Mars' landscape, based on topological data converted to lower fidelity voxels. To create the landscape, I used 60% acrylic diffusers and 2-way-mirrors. The size of the sheets you're getting is based on your laser cutter. I used 30 cm x 45 cm (12" x 18") sheets.

TAP Plastics, which also offers online purchasing and delivering, has a great selection of materials.

• Start with cutting your diffuser sheets into smaller square and rectangles. You will be using these squares and rectangles to create boxes (cuboids). The boxes consist of 5 types of units:

- 5 cm x 5 cm
- 5 cm x 10 cm
- 5 cm x 15 cm
- 10 cm x 5 cm
- 10 cm x 10 cm
If you need guidance preparing your AI file, here's an instructables on it:

• To create the whole piece, produce around 2000 of these squares. Majority should be 5 cm x 5 cm since all of the boxes have square front surfaces.

• When you have your pieces ready, start joining them to make boxes. Use Acrylic Cement to bond them.

Again, could be found at TAP Plastics:
Here's a video that shows how to use the bonder:

At the end of this step, you should have a variety of boxes with following the dimensions:

5 x 5 x 5
5 x 5 x 10
5 x 5 x 15
10 x 10 x 5
10 x 10 x 10

Step 2: Preparing the Board

After you produce the boxes, next step is to install the LEDs on a surface which also will hold the acrylic boxes.

• To install the LEDs and the boxes on, get two wooden surfaces. I used 2 sheets of (50 cm x 100 cm x 2 cm) plywood from Home Depot. It's important to have a surface rigid enough but not too heavy.

• Paint the wooden surface white. (Makes the lights reflect more.)

• Drill 10 holes equal distance apart from each other to allow the wires to go through. (See picture.)

• You will be using 20 LED strips. Position each LED strip so they are offset from the holes you just drilled and the cables from every 2 LED strip go through the same hole.
(see picture)

• Use a quick glue to bond LED strips on to the wooden surface. Use a ruler to make sure they are perfectly aligned.

Step 3: Installing the LED Strips

For each LED strip:

• Cut 3 wires. (black, red, green, 20 cm each)

• Solder the wires to the LED strip. (black -> ground, green-> data, red-> power).

• For each pair of LED strips, feed all 6 wires into the hole between them.

• Solder the ends that have passed through to the Fadecandys and power.

This piece uses a 5 V 15 Amp power supply per 4 LED strips. Check out scanlime's GitHub for everything about Fadecandy:

At the end of this step, you should have a white wooden surface with 10 holes at the edge and 20 LED strips glued onto the board, passing through the holes, and connected to power and Fadecandies.

Step 4: Creating the Landscape

• Arrange your acrylic and mirror boxes on top of the surface and LEDs to create the landscape.

Step 5: Running the Piece

After you have your landscape form built, plug in the Fadecandys to your computer and power supplies to an outlet. Start the Processing sketch.

This piece uses a custom Processing sketch that interprets the motion of the Curiosity rover.

Step 6: Final