Pattern generation through motion-captured Carving

Made by Kevyn McPhail

Created: May 11th, 2015


Mandala is a simple way for one to track their movements made when hand carving and then translate those tool paths into complex geometric patterns that mimic the style of mandala paintings. The hope for the project was that the user in the end would be able to take the line work generated by the carving to either use digital technology to reproduce, add to, and fabricate their project -- or they could also use the projection to then hand carve the object out of a wood block. 

From the beginning, our group was interested in getting data from hand carved objects. However, we were not exactly sure how. We messed around with a lot of different methods, tracking color, trying to acquire depth data, and hand tracking. They all turned out a bit too complex. What we landed on the idea of using a simple palm chisel with a reactivision tag mounted in close range to a high resolution camera to track the tool. Next, we augmented the tool with the tag and also a button. The button allowed us to know when pressure had been applied to the tool signaling that the user is carving. The signal from the button is connected to Grasshopper through Firefly and Arduino, where it is combined with the reactivision data to create the raw tool path files. 


In Grasshopper, the raw tool path data is then cleaned up by only taking cures within a certain range of lengths as carved tool paths. Then I use a series of Mirror and Rotate commands to produce the final piece. As an added feature, an advanced user can also edit the type number of rotations as well as the location of the reflected planes. The generated mandala can then be 'baked' out of Grasshopper into Rhino-space and can be used for laser cutting or CNCing. If the user wished to carve them selves, they can use the projection to then hand carve into the wood block. 


The system itself is not quite as robust as we would want it at the moment. The tracking in reactivison and rhino is not well calibrated and sometimes the tool offset is not constant. The timer used to communicate via arduino, and the reactivision listener tend to eat up memory over time and slow the process. Lastly, the wood we used was very hard to carve and left us with shallow cuts. 

Moving forward we would like to look into creating a hybrid between the digital and the analog fabrication processes. Where the user goes in before and/or after CNCing and laser cutting, to add more of their uniqueness to the process. We are also interested in generating prints with CNC'd carvings to see if we can achieve a similar level of complexity to wood block carvings. We also aim to improve the tracking and have a much more robust system to use. 

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16-455 Human-Machine Virtuosity

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Human dexterous skill embodies a wealth of physical understanding which complements computer-based design and machine fabrication. This project-oriented course explores the duality between hand and...more