Experiments With Flipdots

About: Parsons DT MFA Candidate.

This instructable will cover experiments with magnetism undertaken for my final project in the Fall 2018 edition of Computational Craft taught by Liza Stark at Parsons.

For this project I used hematite beads, 32AWG magnet wire, a soldering iron, embroidery thread w/ needle, JB Weld metal expoxy, alligator clips, an embroidery hoop, muslin, aluminum sheeting, 9V batteries, and 6V batteries.

The loops for all of the following steps are created by wrapping copper wire around objects of varying diameters. After completing the desired number of wraps, each end was burned with a soldering iron to remove the insulation so alligator clips could be attached and electricity could flow. The electricity flowing through the coils created a magnetic field that caused varying amounts of movement in the magnetic bead that depended upon the number of wraps in the coil, the size of the coil, the size of the magnetic bead, and the type of battery used.

The above picture shows the first step in this process. These steps are described in the next page of this instructable.

Step 1: Creating First Coils

The first step in this experiment was to create coils of magnetic wire of varying diameters and numbers of turns. The overall goal of this experiment was to see how much movement I could induce in hematite beads. The movement was created by running current from a battery through these different configurations. I made four different sets of loops. I tested four different configurations in total.

Two of the configurations had a diameter of roughly 0.8 inches, the same as a the barrel of a sharpie marker. Holding the diameter of the loops constant I wrapped the wire 75 times, and 50 times respectively.

Two other configurations had a diameter of roughly 1.25 inches, the same as the barrel of an Expo dry erase marker. Holding the diameter of the coils constant I wrapped the wire 75 times, and 50 times respectively. In the picture above the number of coils were numbered.

Step 2: Testing First Coils

After creating the first set of test coils I tested them with hematite beads of varying sizes. A 9V battery was used for each of these tests. The two most successful tests are shown here.

The 50 turn coil and the 8mm hematite bead exhibited the most typical behavior of the flipdots.

The 50 turn coil and the 6mm hematite bead exhibited the most interesting behavior to me. There was much more motion created by the extra space around the bead.

With this in mind I moved on to trying to use the hematite beads, coils, batteries, and metal to create sound!

Step 3: 50 Turn, 1.25'' Coils & Aluminum Sheeting

The next step in this experiment was to see if the beads striking aluminum would create any noise at all. Before going through the process of creating boxes to serve as resonators I wanted to make sure the beads would move enough to create sound if they struck the side of the box. Aluminum was used throughout this experiment because it is not a magnetic material, therefore it would be an ideal container for the beads and coils. It does not interfere with the magnetic fields and makes a nice sound when struck.

By placing a 50 turn, 1.25'' coil on a sheet of aluminum along with two 6mm hematite beads I ran current from a 9V battery through the coil. The coil was held together by a few half hitches created using an embroidery needle and thread. If the coil is not held together in some way it will unravel. The video is included on this page. The result was encouraging enough to begin creating very rough aluminum boxes, which are the next step in this experiment.

Step 4: First Aluminum Box

To create the metal box I used metal snips, and JB Weld metal epoxy. The dimensions of this box are approximately 1'' by 1''. It is important to note that when using aluminum sheeting after it is cut with metal snips the edges are extremely sharp. To avoid cuts it is best to file all edges with aluminum files, in a VERY well ventilated area, ideally while using a dust mask.

Metal epoxy is far from the most beautiful or elegant way to create an aluminum box but for the purposes of experimentation it was adequate. If I had more time I would have learned to T.I.G. (tungsten inert gas) weld the boxes so they looked much more finished.

For the first test I placed a 1.25'', 50 turn coil into the box along with a 6mm hematite bead. The behavior of the bead when current from a 9V battery was introduced was very encouraging. This behavior can be seen in the first video.

The next step in this experiment was to add another 6mm hematite bead. With the two beads attached to each other via magnetism I thought there was the possibility for more movement and sound. The results of this second experiment can be seen in the second video attached to this page. There was indeed more noise created by adding a second hematite bead.

Step 5: Second Aluminum Box

Because of the success of the first small box I created I constructed a second aluminum box using JB Weld, metal snips, and a sheet of aluminum. The dimensions of this box are approximately 2'' by 2''.

The first test of this new box I used a single 1.25'', 50 turn coil, with two 8mm hematite beads. The behavior of this new experiment can be seen in the attached video. With the larger box there was a different and slightly larger amount of noise. This was another encouraging result.

The next experiment with a single 1.25'', 50 turn coil, was two 10mm hematite beads. I wanted to see if the bigger beads would create more noise. The results can be seen in the second video attached to this page. The larger beads did indeed create even more noise.

With these results in mind I moved on to creating a slightly more sophisticated set of coils.

Step 6: 4, 1.25'', 50 Turn Coils, in Series

Now that I had a larger aluminum box to use as a resonator I wanted to see if how I could add more beads and more motion without having all of the beads immediately attract each other due to their magnetism. To do this I created 4, 1.25'', 50 turn coils in series. In series means that when current is introduced into this set of coils it runs through all of the coils at the same time.

In the first video included on this page I used four 6mm hematite beads, one in each of the four coils. Play the video to see how their behavior. With the addition of more beads and current there as indeed more activity exhibited by the beads, as well as more noise created.

In the second video on this page I used four 10mm hematite beads, again, one in each of the four coils. Their behavior was somewhat surprising. After current was introduced into the coils they immediately left their individual coils and joined together. The only explanation for this is the magnetism exhibited by the individual beads was strong enough to override the magnetic fields created by the individual coils.

Step 7: 2 X 2 1.25", 50 Turn Coils, Connected in Parallel.

For the next step in this series of experiments I created two sets of 1.25", 50 turn coils, connected in parallel. I did this because I wanted to see if any more movement and/or sound would be induced by having different magnetic fields within the same box. For this last part of the experiment I also used a much more powerful six volt battery in place of the nine volt batteries that were used in the previous steps. I did this because the bigger batteries are capable of delivering many more amps.

For the first test I placed 6mm hematite beads in four separate coils and introduced current using two six volt batteries. The results can be seen in the first video attached. Much more movement is exhibited by the beads, increased amps means a much stronger magnetic field.

For the second test I placed four 8mm hematite beads in four separate coils and introduced current using two six volt batteries. The results can be seen in the second video attached. Again, the movement of the beads was much stronger than using nine volt batteries.


This was the final step in the experiments undertaken as my final project for Computational Craft. I hope this instructable helps anyone who is interested in experimenting with magnetism.

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