In the first couple of days at the VFL, I’ve been continuing to look at ways of visualising drones and other aspects of the network.
I’ve been playing with 123D Catch as a quick way of generating models of things. 123D Catch is both quite basic and unbelievably complex, capable of generating 3D models from a small set of photographs. For example, I was able to generate this model from a Flickr user’s photographs of a Hurricane Sandy building collapse in NYC:
There are better, more advanced tools for doing this, but I’m always more interested in the accessible and free ones, the ones that anyone can use. What is intriguing here is that this image was made from someone else’s imagery, found on the net (permission was sought and granted).
I tried to extend this to drones, using more images found on the net, but this has been unsuccessful. There are plenty of similar sets of images (such as from air shows) but they’re too different, and the shapes too complex for 123D Catch.
I also tried using images from Street View - I still think this might work, but I went all out and tried modelling Isamu Noguchi’s Moerenuma Park - which produced this unwieldy object:
So again, I turned to found imagery from the web - or in this case, found models. There are a host of low-detail but perfectly serviceable models available for free, and these were tidied up in Solidworks by VFL assistant Carlos Cruz (see the previous image on this blog).
The first two models - basic Predator and Global Hawk models - were printed with the lab’s uPrint SE machines. Two models printed together took about four hours overnight, and then another four hours in a sodium hydroxide bath to remove the support material.
The drones were printed at a 90:1 scale, to match diorama figures available from the local art shop. As a result, we can produce these:
The Predator was unfortunately damaged after being trapped in the solution box, producing this unintentional but somewhat atmospheric crash scene:
This is not the final product intended, but an interim visualisation. More on this soon.
In addition, I became really interested in the process of 3D printing, which I hadn’t seen in this more industrialised form up close before.
The VFL is very clean, especially the room devoted to 3D printing and laser cutting, with the visible “work” occurring on computers. In this it resembles the circumstances of my This Is A Working Shop Project at Lighthouse in Brighton (blog post, video, another blog post), which tried to make visible the work of programming by reimagining it as a workshop space.
I wanted to look at the “support material”, which is the extra, disposable stuff the printer has to add in order to physically support the printing of the final model - the white stuff in the above images. This seemed like a strange inversion of traditional sculpture, a reversal of the famous dictum attributed to Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
In this case, the process involves artificial construction of the marble, and its subsequent destruction: the literal dissolution of the material traces of the process. I went through the recycling bin to find used printing platters, on which is found the last traces of this process, the wood shavings, the dead typewriter ribbon. This is what they look like:
The angels in the support material.