Ball State University's i.M.A.D.E.

Throughout the Spring semester of 2009 as well as this summer, CASE had the opportunity to collaborate with the students from Ball State University's i.M.A.D.E (Center for digital fabrication) on their Inconvenient Studio.  One of the more impressive parts about this program, and this group, is the breadth of work that they have been able to produce and to what level of definition.  On our latest trip a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see photos of their latest project for an exhibition in Florence, Italy.  We wanted to post this project as an example of how this program is bringing together design, technology, and fabrication to produce not only great work, but an innovative approach to design education. Some of these guys are members of the designreform community so feel free to ask them questions. Below, their description of the project:

"MorphoLuminesence is a kinetic ceiling prototype, originally described as a simple surface in Rhino. The surface was triangulated into panels or "petals" using a combination of the PanelingTools plug-in and manual modeling based on a specific tessellation logic. "Morpho" consists of these kinetic petals, laser cut from white acrylic, which hang from stems of clear tubular acrylic with planar elbow joints. The acrylic tubes were laser cut using custom fabricated jigs to create angles and grooves along each piece. The compound joints of each petal were created using unique laser cut acrylic angles and pivoting model airplane hinges.  The surface is actuated using monofilament attached to small, high torque servos. The servos are mounted to acrylic towers above the MDF top surface, providing maximum leverage. Variable value RGB LEDs, above the petal surface, are tuned across the visual spectrum to provide a wide variety of lighting effects.

The MDF soffit was modeled in Rhino as a network of the stems. Although the original form was a NURBS surface, the tooling patterns and g-code where generated using Mastercam. The preview modes allowed us to tweak the step sizes until we could achieve the right aesthetic. The ridges allowed material to be placed where it was needed to keep the petals stable and fixed. The top of the soffit became the circuit board for the LED’s and base for the servo towers. A series of prototypes informed the shape and structure of the components that create the overall form. Acrylic panels were flexed to their breaking points, fishing line was stressed, and multiple materials were tested for the rigid top surface including, HDF, MDF, Paticleboard, and High Density Foam.


The surface reacts to people standing and moving beneath it, as Arduino micro-controllers are used to receive infrared sensor data and to control the position of the servos. The sensors detect speed and direction of people in relation to the piece. If a user stands still for a long enough period of time, the petals will retract into the completed surface, but once activated by human occupation, the piece opens and closes pods."



Visit the i.M.A.D.E. website