Polargraph Exhibiting in Central Library

Thre is an upcoming exhibition in the Hong Kong Central Library named Beyond Architecture. Organized by Hong Kong Architecture Center.



[Beyond Architecture], organised by the Hong Kong Architecture Centre, gather a group of architects & designers with architecture background to share their love of architecture via creation beyond buildings. To get public audience prepared for grasping the diverse capacity of architects, [Beyond Archtecture] take advantage of the venue at Central Library to display books selected by exhibiting architects which inspire their works. The network connecting the books and works shall ignite a dialogue between the architects and audience.

“Architects, the master builders of our cities, shape the everyday environment where we dwelled, worked, passed by and touched. From the zoning of a district down to the door knob opening into your bedroom, architects draw every detail across a wide spectrum of scale. If architects are to construct something else other than buildings, what other creation do they desire to produce?”

I’m invited by the organizers to display my Polargraph in the exhibition. Having such unrelated-ness to my architecture background, it seems to be a good piece of work to show.

Proposed layout in the exhibition

I’m making a plan here, for the things that I’m going to do to prepare for the exhibition. Note that the machine I previously exhibited in Fotan are back here at home in my bay window (blocking all light and air for my room). I’m planning to make a list of modification to it for this exhibition, the most important part (if successful) are the ability to have pen up and pen down movement; and have real time webcam feeding to the plotter.

List of action (Admin)

  • ✓ Make this plan
  • ✓ Make a blog post for the plan
  • ✓ Make a site plan drawing
  • Finalize exhibition venue location and space with organizer (negotiate some more wall for hanging plotted images)
  • ✓ Reply to organizers formally
  • ✓ Pay entrance fee (yea, self funded)
  • Arrange holidays with company for setup and demonstration period
  • Arrange with organizers if there could be manager babysitting the machine during exhibition (9am – 8pm)

List of Action (Publication)

  • Write a series of blog post for the making of the machine and introduce various technology of it.
  • Write topic: Drawing board
  • Write topic: Solenoid
  • Write topic: Motors and drivers
  • Write topic: Arduino motor acceleration and synchronize control
  • Write topic: Arduino Serial USB communication with Grasshopper
  • Write topic: Grasshopper Firefly communication with Arduino
  • Write topic: Webcam real time feed
  • Write topic: Toolpath design
  • Write topic: Exhibition report
  • Publish these stuff in Facebook, Arduino forum, Grasshopper forum
  • Send invitation letter to friends about the exhibition
  • (Copywriting and graphic design) info explanation board for display in exhibition
  • (Copywriting and publishing) publication package for media, blog
  • (Photoshoot) Hardware components in detail
  • (Photoshoot) Plotter in action, contextual shot
  • (Photoshoot) Printed graphics
  • (Photoshoot) During Exhibition

List of Action (Software)

  • ✓ (GH) Webcam input without lag
  • (GH) Simplify user interface for other people’s use
  • (GH) Design script to automatically loop printing upon ending
  • ✓ (GH) Tool path with pen up and pen down commands
  • ✓ (GH) Tool path design that can accomodate pen up down
  • ✓ (GH) Tool path dynamic script that analysis real time image and send to arduino buffer
  • (Arduino) Fine tune timing, buffer, speed, acceleration stable enough for exhibition
  • (Arduino) Look ahead acceleration and deceleration (not likely to have time for this)
  • (Hardware) Intensive test run for hardware problems such as overheat or mechanical failure
  • (Hardware) Reduce noice
  • ✓ (Hardware) Draw paper size guidelines on the board
  • ✓ (Hardware) Figure out what caused step skip
  • (Hardware) Tidy up details
  • (Hardware) Make feature for easier calibration
  • (Hardware) Check balance of gondola
  • ✓ (Electronics) Solenoid driver with high initial pulse voltage
  • (Electronics) Power switches and USB port

List of Action (Exhibit)

  • Move in – move out transportation
  • Test run on site
  • Purchase pen and paper for exhibition demonstration
  • Arrange demo schedule
  • Talk to exhibition manager and explain maintanance
  • Mount and hang printed image
  • Power and Laptop
  • Print, mount and fix intro board
Last plot with the new gondola, some steps are skipped.

Polargraph is a drawing machine that many guys had done before. It is a simple but poetic drawing machine that move a hanging pen over a piece of paper, thus it’s nickname: Hanging pen plotter. Better explanation of why this machine is so fantastic could be found somewhere else. My aim of making one of these machine is probably a self induced exercise for programming Arduino, working with stepper motors and scripting in Grasshopper. The core technology combines knowledge of a few area, some of them I’m more familiar, some less. This series of post is not targeted to be a kind of instructables, but rather sharing bits and pieces of the lesson learnt.