Immersion Wheel – Design Review

Upon first impression, the Immersion Wheel will seem rather mundane, because at rest it will not be very dynamic. The main component made of perforated steel may appear more like a tool for sifting rocks rather than to provide visual stimulation.

The wheel itself will be nestled vertically on a sleek base, triggering curiosity and inviting a closer look. As the observer gets closer they will notice that the perforated sheet is framed by a smooth band around the edge. The object will invite the hand to gauge the nature of its material. Is it light? Is it heavy? What’s it made of? How’s it standing on edge? Some may be surprised at to find that it is made of solid steel. As they begin to fiddle around with the wheel, they will be again surprised to find that although there is no central axel to this large heavy steel plate, it rotates freely in place.

The observer (turned user) gives the Wheel a little tug to see just how smooth it rolls. As the Wheel is set in motion, an array of six sided figures flutters from the center of the wheel. None of these shapes can hold still. The hexagons fade as fast as they came, disappearing as new ones appear. The fleeting nature of the immersive pattern will leave the user wanting more to ensure they have a chance to thoroughly observe the phenomena.

They spin again. First slow then fast, creating a nervous flickering effect as the Moire patterns (more on this later) take shape and dissolve far too quickly for comfort. As the heavy wheel slows down, it begins kicking off a pattern more calming and more mesmerizing than before. At some point the user may begin to feel that they are able to understand this curious effect; only to find that the wheel, given the chance to cease motion, returns to its mundane state – worthless and static.

As the wheel facilitates a brief immersion into the world of sacred geometry, it hopefully provides inspiration and a momentary escape from reality. For some who have experienced lucid patterns in other states of mind, this may be familiar. For these folks I believe the Immersion Wheel can help validate the connection between the spirit and the physical world. People who experience the Immersion Wheel will find themselves reminded of it in the architecture of places for worship, observing a snowflake, or when rediscovering basic geometry through the eyes of a young pupil. The realization that such dynamic patterns can be hiding in plain sight, and that these patterns reappear throughout the ages over vast distances, sometime even with our eyes closed, will allow people to experience a universal connection.




I found the inspiration for this project while working with perforated sheet metal, I noticed that two sheets with the same hole pattern rotating in relation to each other creates dynamic hexagonal patterns. Using a common radius to create hexagonal patterns is a technique widely used in the architecture of sacred buildings such as mosques and temples, and can also be seen in mandala paintings and other art forms used to evoke deep meditation. Sacred geometry has also been reported in the spiritual revelations by individuals consuming ayahuasca- a brew that contains the psychedelic compound dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Because these patterns surface across different cultures’ spirituality, it seems to indicate they are somehow connected to the core of human existence. As seen in the featured image, I’m considering using highly saturated colors to help create this psychedelic aesthetic.

DMT snowflake

Knowing quite well that most ideas have been done before, I searched on-line for images of “perforated metal rotating pattern”, etc. To my surprise I did not come up with anything remotely like what I saw. Then as I shared my project concept with Dr. Hertzberg, and she casually told me I was working with a Moire’ pattern. So now my dynamic object has a name, and has ever since 1570.

Moire Effect defined by Wikipedia: In mathematics, physics, and art, a moiré pattern (/mwɑːrˈeɪ/; French: [mwaˈʁe]) is a secondary and visually evident superimposed pattern created, for example, when two identical (usually transparent) patterns on a flat or curved surface (such as closely spaced straight lines drawn radiating from a point or taking the form of a grid) are overlaid while displaced or rotated a small amount from one another.


Feature image credit:

The critical part of this project will be machining two perforated plates to have a common center. This is challenging because the plates will be machined individually (one at a time). The other challenge is to get one of the plates to rotate nearly perfectly smooth. I do not want to have a central hub or axel because I feel the visual effect will be more immersive if the center is left unobstructed. So the plate must rest on some ball bearings and be perfectly aligned with the secondary stationary plate to achieve the best visual result. There is also a risk that the outer band which will be welded to the perforated plate will not be perfectly round; which would result in bumpy rotation. Hardly Zen I’d say.

If the hub-less design fails, I will result to fixing both of the plates on a single axel. This will ensure that they are aligned perfectly and spin freely. In this case, the axel will need to be supported like a Ferris wheel which will somewhat deteriorate the visual effect. One solution could be to only have the support structure on the back side of the object. Another solution could be to use acrylic sheets and laser-etch the perforation pattern. This could be an interesting option especially considering how etched acrylic catches light. As seen in the video of my rough prototype made with laser printed transparencies at Staples, the same effect can be made using very light weight materials. Interestingly, this prototype produces a square pattern rather than hexagonal due to different spacing of the circles.

Given the choice, I would like to stay with my original vision of using heavy steel construction.

I estimate the cost of this entire project to be $300. This includes about $100 in steel material, $100 in cutting and welding service, and $100 in material for the base (wood, axis, ball bearings, paint). Thus far I have purchased the perforated steel sheets (Viva McGuckin!) and have found a machine shop capable of cutting the circles, rolling the outer band, and welding the band to the plates with the needed precision. I plan to have the metal plates assembled by March 2, 2016. Sand blasting and painting the plates are scheduled for completion March 11,2016. The remainder of the semester will be used to design, troubleshoot, and fabricate a fully functional base that safely holds the plates/wheels vertically and allows one of the wheels to roll freely in place.



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5 Comments. Leave new

  • David Holliman
    May 4, 2016 1:09 pm

    Would love an immersion wheel in my home to meditate too. This design makes me think along the lines of interactive art and would be awesome to see an installation in some sort of venue, art exhibit, festival, etc.. I wonder, as an industrial designer, your thoughts on pursuing these types of engineering projects for the purpose of creating an immersive environment for public viewing? Do you know of events like this that exist?

  • Thomas Brunsgaard
    March 5, 2016 11:49 am

    You did a really nice job defining and giving context to your aesthetic. I am looking forward to helping you make this thing become a reality! I will spend some time thinking about how the hubless mechanism could work, and hopefully we can come up with something not too complicated. I was thinking that it could be possible to mount it to the outside ring of a planetary gear, which would allow you to keep the central gear fixed to the base. I bet you could just laser cut these out of .250″ acrylic, and get a really nice mechanical feeling (you could also get them water jetted for fairly inexpensively at somewhere like ). For your CMYK color theme, were you thinking of painting your rotating plates? Also, props for that gif, it is totally psychedelic!

  • Sreyas Krishnan
    March 4, 2016 12:44 pm

    Totally psychedelic – I remember being blown away the first time you showed this to me. Looking forward to seeing an update once you get the parts back from the machine shop, and of course, the final product!

  • Elyse Skinner
    March 4, 2016 12:42 pm

    I like where you are getting your inspiration from the sacred shapes/the hexagon. I think it is a really interesting aesthetic and that you are exploring the collective unconscious and why hexagon shapes keep appearing over time and in nature. I also like the way you are making it dynamic by moving the parts correlated to another. Great idea!

  • Jason, this is a great aesthetic. I have never seen this before. You can add some light effects to it. It might be cool to have those sheets made of lenticular paper. I am not sure how smooth it will work or how good it will look, but it will definitely add a new element. Also it will be very easy to experiment and prototype with those sheets if they had cool colors printed on them. We can talk more about this when I see you next class. Let me know how I can help. Good Luck.


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