Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Empty space in front of student center

Yesterday we took the tower down... by now, it is even entirely disassembled into pieces... and tomorrow it is being boxed! Disassembled and stacked nicely, it only takes up 5 x 5 x 10 cubic ft.

Goodnight for now... but the green monster will be back!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

In the news...

WhoWhatWhenAIR is the featured project on on June 9th, 2006!!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Picture time

Picture time! It might start raining again, so it was more than time to give our super star its photo shoot...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Movies of moving tower

Excitement, relief, victory, worry, happiness... it probably was a mix of all those feelings, but the thing was moving!

Check out two of Peter's very cool movies:
Actuated tower at MIT (640x480, 10.6 MB) (320x240, 2.88 MB)
Festo muscles in action (640x480, 5.44 MB) (320x240, 1.62 MB)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Remote Control

The tower can now be controlled using a remote control! It is quite tricky... Check out Joe Walish's video of the thing in action: movie (3.62 MB) !

More pics and videos will follow once it finally stops raining here in cambridge...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Front page

'Muscles' featured on the front page and in a full page article in Tech Talk!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Axel and Peter are working on the controls. We hope to have it actuated (i.e. moving) by the end of the week...

A picture of Thursday's erection appeared in the Tech today. You can see the pdf here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Opening day

In order to be ready for the official opening, the manual control panel had to be fabricated and connected. So many wires to connect...

The opening didn't quite go as perfectly as the erection yesterday. We ran out of time, but luckily we gave the crowd something exciting to look at by moving the top segment! We will still need the weekend to finish the control... so stay tuned for the opening II, the sequel.

In the afternoon we had a photo shoot in front of the tower for the Boston Herald!



(picture courtesy of Daniel Nagaj)

We carried our 800 lbs tower with about 20 volunteers along/over/across Mass Ave from building N51 to the student center. Even Yung Ho Chang, our department head, came to help out! It must have been a funny sight to see the parade transporting this skeleton over the street.

movie of the parade (5.1MB)

(picture courtesy of Daniel Nagaj)

The department hired a crane to erect the tower. We did several tests in advance, but still...
we didn't expect it to go that smooth: Everything went as planned!!

movie of the erection (18.6MB, double speed)

Daniel Nagaj followed us the entire day and took some amazing pictures! Thanks a lot, Daniel, for capturing this very emotional and intense day so nicely. Check out his pictures!

It is finally up there, but looking at it... it was worth every minute!

Getting ready for the big day


We had to push ourselves the last days to get the tower ready for erection day... We attached the muscles, connected the air supply, installed the valves and their signal wiring.

To stay excited we did some little actuation tests in the shop. Actuation tests: movie 1 (4.2MB) , movie2 (8.2MB) .

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Bringing the last elements together... We are definitely on the final 'last stretch' now!

And there it is: a moving (but still amputated) tower! We attached the 4 muscles in between the two units to try out the movement. Slowly and gracefully it started shifting from one side to the other. Even more remarkable, the structure straightens itself when equal pressure is being put in the four muscles at the same time. So far so good!

(Almost) finishing the assembly

Slowly all the details are getting there! The tower could have been up... unfortunately some items were missing from our control system. We are working on a solution.

We are assembling everything off-site to anticipate any problem on erection day. Today we also did a succesful crane lifting test.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Finally arrived

The Festo Muscles arrived! They look amazing...

We put some load on two segments and tested the mechanism of the pulley sytem and the hardstops.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ghetto load testing

We load tested the top (i.e. weakest) segment using big trash buckets filled with water. We left the 700 lbs (=~ the weight of the entire tower except for the base) on there for the day.

Peter enjoyed being a water fountain!

Big Green Alien

Chris Dewart and his son are making the foundation anchors for us. A green alien landed in their workshop.

Overnight we moved all the pieces from the paint shop that started to feel like home to the N51 architecture wood and metal shop. We are assembling the entire tower (horizontally) in the court yard to check all the connections, hardware and tolerances. The spine of the tower is arising. It is exciting... and scary!

Let's bring this pile of dinosaur bones to life!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Assembling the modules

Finally, all the fiberglass pieces are finished. We assembled two units with some of the hardware to test if everything comes together and works as designed... but mainly also to motivate us!

It looks impressive! We are indeed all motivated again... (?)

Troubling news from Festo: our muscles are being held in customs. They are in Boston but they haven't been cleared yet.

Many itchy hours later...

We've just spent a week and a half in the shop (8 to 12 hours a day) laying fiberglass, grinding, drilling, and all kinds of very manly things! There was no time for pictures or updates... Slowly and painfully we saw the pieces getting finished... It was hell! Every arm (and we have 24 of those) had to undergo about 10 steps before being entirely finished.

We got help last weekend from Justin, Matt, Will, Jimmy and Emily. All of you really helped us quite a bit!

Everything asks for a creative solution. A bundel of garden hose tubing will serve as damper for the joint between two levels... Long live Home Depot!!!

Move some dirt

Free pizza, nice weather and 6 o'clock in the afternoon seem to be a better combination to attract some volunteers! Thank you all!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hell of a weekend

We got a lot done this weekend... but not quite there yet. In the picture you see an assembled segment of the spine of our structure. Just to give a sense of scale: Axel is over 1m90, so that is a huge piece! We are stacking six of these on top of eachother onto a base that is as high. oh oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh....

Professor digs foundation!

It was wet, cold and way too early for a saturday morning to come out and play in the mud. The hot coffe and donuts didn't seem to have the hoped effect and the huge crowd of volunteers hit the snooze button and turned around in their bed...

The foundation will not leave a single trace. No concrete is poured; instead the design uses a wooden frame that provides an ankering reaction by the weight of earth. The foundation is designed by Prof. Ochsendorf and Chris Dewart. Thanks a lot, Noel, Chris and John, to come out and move some dirt!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Production line

We shifted into fabrication mode... 15 arms a day! it is exhausting, the fumes make us high and with all the fiberglass sticking in may hands, i feel like a cactus...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More than a ton !!!

After only a day of curing, we decided to just test the thing. We stopped at 2000 lbs... and no sign of failure: succes!! Our structural iteration was succesful! Now... we are really ready to start a fabrication pipeline?

Molds, molds, molds... molds

The piece came out very nice. The color is great. We do have to refine our fabrication technique a bit because there are still a lot of little (and less little) flaws here and there.

It takes much longer to do all the molds than we were afraid of... even Peter joined the fabrication line to finish all the pieces. aaaaarggggghh.....

New fabrication procedure (yet another test!)

To have more control over the consistency of the wall thickness of our pieces, we decided to make two seperate parts that have to be connected afterwards. This guarantees that the layers are layed properly, because they can be reached at any point, and that the integrated aluminum joint sits in the right position.

We added some blue pigment. We -on purpose- didn't put enough color in the resin, resluting in this nice transparency that you can see on the image.

Springfield, MA

We drove all the way to Springfield, MA, to buy fiberglass and resin. After talking to Joe, the fiber-man, we decided to go for polyester resin instead of epoxy. It is much cheaper, cures much faster, and is much stiffer than epoxy. Sounds exactly what we want/need. We also bought more expensive fiberglass cloth: a bi-directional weave with fiberglass mat stitched to the back that allows us to build up thickness much faster and to absorb the resin better.

We started what seemed (and later prooved to be true) a crazy task: assembling the six molds that would allow us to work in parallel.

Since polyester smells extremely bad, we decided -in order not to loose our paint shop privileges- to do our tests with the new material outside. The quick tests done yesterday came out very well and look really promising!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Crushing the boomerang

Our five foot long piece didn't fit in any of the load testing machines and therefore we had to build a frame to test it. Stephen Rudolph and Dr. John Germain from the Civil Engineering testing lab set up the frame and ran the test with us. They helped us out even though we asked them on very short notice. Thanks!

The piece failed due to plate buckling caused by the bending moment induced because of the boomerang geometry. This loading case was chosen because we wanted to proove that the piece would still hold loads in an extreme state when anything else would have failed. Well... it didn't! It only held 500 lbs... but we learned some valuable lessons. With a small -and hopefully last- design iteration we can prevent this.

Let's conclude that luckily we did do a load test?!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Opening the sarcophagus

And there it is: our first structural element!! We succesfully took the it out of the mold, only damaging the mold slightly. The ceran wrap that had to prevent the piece to stick to the mold did an excellent job. It needs to cure a bit longer, but it feels already extremely strong and stiff. The real test will be Thursday when we load test it in the Civil Engineering Lab.

Fiber everywhere

Big day today! We made the first test piece in fiber glass epoxy using the negative mold Axel developed. We could use MIT's paint shop that has a gigantic vent, perfect for working with epoxy. So, dressed in garbage bags again we started to lay some fibres...

The model for the mold, with cutting files integrated, is made enitrely parametrically using Catia; the pieces cut with the lasercutter and assembled using puzzle pieces. Exciting to see that this extremely lightweight mold seems to perform pretty well! We included all the hardware (axles, cable/muscle connections, pulley system...) so that this prototype resembles the actual piece as close as possible.

Hopefully the "boomerang" comes out of the mold as we "expect"?! After approximately 48 hours of curing we will know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pleasant surprise!

We received quite unexpected, but very good news today: we won New England Initiative II. It is a $3,500 commission given to 3 proposals in New England for interactive art works combining digital and virtual reality. The art installations will be launched/ performed on Turbulence and at Art Interactive in the fall of 2006.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

3 seconds of eternal fame and glory?

Today we were invited by the BBC to talk about our mini-skyscraper. After a lot of waiting, we finally got our chance for 5 (?) minutes of fame. We were interviewed by the very tall Dan Cruickshank. So... if everything goes well, we'll appear in Dan Cruickshank’s Marvels Of The Modern Age, a documetary on the future of architecture on May 30th on BBC2!!

Good news from Festo, fabricator of pneumatic muscles. They are very excited about our project and offered to sponsor us! Not official yet, so, let's wait and see....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mold for fiber glass pieces

We will use a negative mold with a inflated blatter on the inside to form the fiber glass boomerang elements. The mold can be cut on the lasercutter out of 1/8" plywood and plastic. This allows us to "outsource" this process to friendly helpers.

Making a parametric model of the cutting pattern for the model wasn't as obvious...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Paper mold

A paper mockup (half size) of the negative mold for the boomerang pieces. It is made out of developable surfaces. The actual mold could be made in the same manner using very little and cheap materials (wood and thick plastic), using the lasercutter since every piece fits in the bed of the machine and the process is fast and reliable.

We started ordering materials today. The budget is rapidly disappearing!

It is getting there...

well, the design of the core at least... almost!

The new scheme is based on our calculations. The shape is responding to the forces in the system creating a more elegant structure. It is interesting to see how the structure -all of a sudden- starts to make sense when it is no longer 'random' but following the flow of forces.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Layer by layer...

Today we layed the first layer of carbon fibre /epoxy on our test piece. It was a painful and difficult experience, but we learned a lot! We know what we want to do differently next time to increase the efficiency of the fabrication process and to improve the accuracy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Revisiting the design (continued)

We gave up the woven core and decided to go for a continuous surface. We made the mold/foam core out of flat sheets. This allows for a much shorter milling time on the router.

Today Kenny joined us...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Revisiting the design

Safety is important and we were not confident about the ball joint design. A new scheme is demonstrated by Axel with this little laser cut wooden model.

After a quick stop at Home Depot yesterday evening, we were ready today for some strange spatial weaving experimentations... Were we smoking the hemp rope? We'll need other solutions to fabricate the core...