I have always loved the color black. I think it is futuristic, classy, and sleek. If you look around my room or even in my closet, most of my items are black. My computer, keyboard, printer, water bottle, decorations, etc. I just love the modern and sleek look of it. So it made sense for me to fit that into my personal design aesthetic.
I think infinity mirrors are an intriguing decoration. They are mesmerizing and mysterious. So I thought I would combine my sleek and modern aesthetic with this and out came the dynamic infinity mirror.
It’s bazaar to think that this sketch is where I started with this project over 50 days ago and where my project ended up. My design iterated from this preliminary sketch into a fully thought out and functional design over the course of the previous months and I am happy (for the most part) with the result. There are definitely some things I would go back and change, and even may make an effort to change in the coming months.
Constraints in Design
When I started the design process for this, I knew I wanted it to be dark, mysterious, and futuristic looking. The aesthetic was my constraint priority number one. This determined the material, the shape, the color, and the dynamics of the lights.
I wanted this to be a desktop sized item. It would be able to fit on the corner of a desk or on a shelf without taking up too much space. Size was also determined by my choice of material and manufacturing method. This is going to be 3-D printed so it was required to fit onto the 3-D printer.
It didn’t take me all to long to decide to use Arduino to power my device. I could control the lights, the servo, everything from one Arduino Uno. Doing a little research I was able to find an addressable light strip, a servo, and a button to switch the device on and off. The available switches also had a little impact on my aesthetic.
Because of the size, the components I needed to install, and the function I needed a material that was easy to mold and make small features while still appearing to be seamless from the outside. This led me to 3-D printing. I could sand the final product smooth and it would appear to be a solid object without any seams or signs of manufacturing.
I wanted this project to fit into my budget (~$100). Thankfully Sparkfun makes the technology cheap and 3-D printing filament is fairly affordable. I should only go over my budget by ~$20 or so which is fine by me. I can use the Sparkfun starter kit for many projects after this one, so I am definitely getting my money worth.
The Juicy Stuff
My final design involved five 3-D printed parts, 10 screws, two Arduinos, 32 LED’s, a servo motor, and a power switch. The 3-D printing took over 24 hours (that’s not including a failed 10 hour print). I definitely began to get acquainted with Pat at the prototyping lab in the Idea Forge. This project and Pat have actually inspired me to build my own 3-D printer this summer! All of the printed parts came out great though. All I had to do post printing was a little sanding of the tracks to smooth them out, other wise I decided to keep the texture of the additive manufacturing process on the exterior of the box. I think this also contributes to my aesthetic. 3-D printing is a futuristic method of manufacturing and this device is something that I wanted to make futuristic and mysterious. I really like how the manufacturing method plays into my aesthetic without me even planning it.
The LED strip is an addressable strip which allows me to control each LED individually. This makes for much more excited patterns than can be made with the typical LED strip which requires all of the lights to be the same color and brightness. I was able to find a collection of patterns on a blog , so I used some of these and used his examples to try and create a couple of my own patters. All of the colors are completely random, as well as the length of time they run for and the order of the patterns. This took a lot of time for me for I have never coded an Arduino so there was definitely a steep learning curve.
What I Could’ve Done Better
Once again because my C coding is not developed at all, I was struggling to code a servo and the lights to run two functions at the same time… so I had to get a second Arduino. Then I came across power issues trying to run both the servo and the lights from one power source so I had to get creative and use both USB and a 9V power supply for the Aduinos. This is definitely a pretty messy design, but with my current experience I was happy just to have the entire system working.
I am also very inexperienced working with arcrylic. So there was a little trial and error that happened with cutting and gluing acrylic. I assumed it was like most other materials and attempted to super-glue it to my project, but I came to find out that super-glue actually melts acrylic, who would’ve thought. Also I couldn’t keep the acrylic clean in the laser cutter and everything seemed to scratch it.
This is far from a finished product. I would like to clean up the coding, clean up the mirrors, and fix my power issues so I would only need one power source.
An Arm and a Leg
Mistakes and all I ended up way over budget on this guy.
- $60 in PLA filament
- $170.50 to Sparkfun for arduinos, breadboards, servos, switches, etc…
- $36.75 to Home Depot for the mirror film, acrylic, and glue
Which comes to grand total of $267.25…. $67.25 over what I wanted to pay at most and $117.25 over what I was expecting to pay.
 Luijten, Hans. “Arduino – LEDStrip Effects for NeoPixel and FastLED.” Tweaking4All.com. N.p., 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.