Work in Progress

Passing light through the spiral

22/10/18 – blog post – Passing light through the spiral – Matt copeland

Plywood acrylic composite –

 The last two weeks have been mostly material research. Last week I started with a composite – plywood acrylic plywood – material and had laser cut the spiral design allowing the 2d to 3d movement. The layers bonded well with a spray contact adhesive even after being laser cut. I hoped the clear acrylic layer would transport light up the spiral creating an even glow as the spiral was pulled from the rest of the board. In darkness the light was obvious on the first ring of the spiral but limited when passing any further up the coil and in light or partial darkness it was hard to identify the light. In the darkness the light was impressive when the spiral is pushed inwards. A bowl of light is created and there is an impressive transformation as the two-dimensional panel shows little to no sign of any light until interacted with. I tried a lamination of mirror surrounding an acrylic centre. The mirror was meant to direct the light inwards and towards the end of the coil. This didn’t work as any glue I used stopped the light passing from the acrylic to the mirror layer. The layers also didn’t bond together well.

Electro luminescent wire –

In Wednesdays studio class Geoffrey Mann showed me an alternative lighting source, electroluminescent wire. The wire has a phosphor centre that glows when electrically charged. It can be bought in many different colours and in strands as thin as 1.6mm (Castle, 2018). I bought a few lengths of the wire at 2.5 mm and a battery pack to power them then began designing a means of housing the wire within the coil.

Process to embed wire –

Because the acrylic wasn’t passing the light up the spiral in the way I wanted I had to consider other ways. I began experimenting on the laser by first drawing a spiral that had a void cut out of the centre to house the EL wire. This was unsuccessful as it meant post cut lamination and the sections warped on the laser when so many cuts were made so close to each other. I did some engraving tests and realised I could engrave a channel to house the wire rather than cutting. This would leave the acrylic solid long enough until the final spiral was to be cut, and I could also have a layer of plywood pre laminated then engrave and then cut both layers without worrying about lining all three layers post cut. I have experimented with power and cutting speed on the laser in order to cut the correct depth in the acrylic I worked out that at 100mm/s speed and 10 mAh of power, I could cut 1.5mm deep. For the 2.5mm wire I had, I would need two passes. On small test pieces I experimented with the engraved channel being cut into the wood rather than the acrylic layer. The MDF I used to trial this engraved better than the acrylic and more material was removed in one pass. It was difficult to achieve the correct depth without breaching the thickness of the material when working in such small margins. This test piece in the end, worked and the light was even and bright inside the coil. The MDF was fairly weak though and on such a small scale and with glue residue from the post cut lamination, the spring motion is non-existent. Although the engraving of the acrylic is time consuming it is a better option. The material is stronger when leaving thin walls and the light is more vivid when the EL wire is at the core of the lamination layer it will be released from.

Movement –

I spent some time during the week researching materials that could potentially at movement to my object. I was hoping to find a material that could be laminated into the composite I had, be laser cut and when electrically charged – like the EL wire – react and move. I had a rough idea of this being done before in things like artificial muscles but didn’t know the exact name. I did some online research looking for electro reactive materials. There is a lab at Columbia 3D printing a synthetic tissue. (Shah, 2018). These materials are difficult if not impossible to acquire.Geoffrey Mann suggested that the most important part of the product and tests I had designed was the interactions with the materials and the motion of the spring. Tests with the first acrylic lamination showed that the interaction turned the light on and off and perhaps contact with the object is more important than having it move by itself. The interaction could also be the activation.

Spiral –

the spiral I designed is the same width for the whole length of the coil this means there is an uneven spring as the radius of the spiral gets smaller. To combat this, I would have to design a tapered spiral that gets smaller towards the centre meaning less material resistance and more flex I experimented with different cuts on the laser. Although the tapered spiral has an even spring, I feel the motion isn’t as pleasing as the constant width spiral. This would have to be tried on a multilayer lamination to get a true reflection of the action.

Existing design research –

“Unconscious Form” – John Sorensen-Jolink

Sorensen-Jolink’s design is a lighting performance piece photographed with dancers for the series ‘Unconscious Forms” (Howarth, 2018). The curved oblong sections are made from cast resin with imperfections and impurities added to manipulate the light. (Collection, 2018)

(Collection, 2018)

“Pocket Light” – Ryan Hark

The 2-Dimensional bank card sized light folds into a 3d form and activates the light bulb shaped clear acrylic part. There is a switch mechanism when the two parts separate.

(creative Product Design, 2018)

Castle, A. (2018). How To Get Started with Electroluminescent (EL) Wire – [online] Tested. Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

Shah, S. (2018). Synthetic muscle breakthrough could lead to ‘lifelike’ robots. [online] Engadget. Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].

Collection, P. (2018). Product Live: Coil + Drift’s John Sorensen-Jolink Reveals the Choreography Behind the Spring 2018 Collection. [online] Interior Design. Available at: [Accessed 20 Oct. 2018].

Howarth, D. (2018). Coil + Drift’s furniture and lighting is designed from a dancer’s perspective. [online] Dezeen. Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].

Creative Product Design. (2018). sendpoints.



New Making Projects

Computer waste toolset

The Edinburgh Remakery is a project in Leith that aims to educate and encourage people to repair their belongings. By offering the facilities and expertise they hope to start a revolution in changing people’s perception of the life of a product and how many things we throw away can be easily repaired or re-purposed. Our task as students was to demonstrate this vision with our own interpretation. Early in the brief we visited the Remakery warehouse and met Sotiris, an employee at the project. He showed us around the warehouse and explained the existing practises they have in place to recycle some of the old things donated. There was an array of different things kept at the warehouse. Large amounts of furniture were held and a large selection of electrical goods like old PC’s and computer parts. We were given the opportunity to select something interesting here and use this as inspiration or the basis of our project. I left the Remakery with a few things but most importantly I had found some old plastic PC cooling fans. They were 12 volt and relatively powerful but had, like many of the things in the warehouse, fallen victim to obsolescence and no longer had a purpose.

The potential of the fans being used as motors steered me towards a modelling tool, inspired by the tinkering I do at my desk. I would use the fan stripped of its casing and fins and find a means of adding a sanding disk to this. The tool was to be powered by the cells I had retrieved allowing it to be recharged and mobile. Early iterations followed the conventional shape associated with a Dremel or multitool, the batteries being housed in the area that was to be held. The goal was to design a series of STL parts that could be downloaded and be accommodating for many different computer fan sizes and types. this would then form an Instructable type guide. The problem again with this was the function of the object. It stood little chance up against a conventional powerful Dremel and although it uses recycled parts, a lot of it required large 3D prints adding to the waste problem but not creating anything new or unique.

Feedback when presenting and more research led me down a different path. Having a passion for making and being a frequent visitor to the ECA workshops I am forever being told by the technician Alan to sand my work on a hard surface to conserve energy. In certain situations, for more organic work I enjoy holding the piece I am working on. It allows me to monitor my practise and to feel and engage with my work. The opportunity to exploit motor size and this desire to have a more physical sanding and modelling experience dictated the form and function of the final product.

I began iterating, using the 3D printer to quickly print prototypes to test the way the motors would be housed and held inside the hand. The ergonomics were the driving force behind the project. The tools had to be passive.
They needed to assist the maker in forming and finishing but not be a distraction or a hinderance, An extension of oneself.

There were three different iterations with two looking at using the space between fingers to grip the device. These were ultimately made as small 
as possible but were still too big to sit comfortably between fingers. The third and final design opted for a ring that went over the finger. This would allow the motor to be cradled within the hand and the user could hold work with the other offering a very physical experience.

The different tools rely on a male female adapter system. The power bank I created houses the batteries and has the switch and the female adapter. The three separate tools have a male adapter. These are easily interchanged saving the user the time and hassle of having to change cutting disk or drill bit like in conventional multi tools. The power bank control station is made from the outer casings of the fans. I aimed to repurpose as many of the parts as possible in the design. The laptop batteries fit inside the body and a spring contact system inside the bank allows them to be taken out and recharged when required.

The end result is a series of tools that help the designer or maker in model making. They are able to feel the form of the object they are sculpting and make live design choices based on its physical form. The designer can embrace their work and shape and form the model based on physical feeling. The function of the parts has been changed completely and zero waste created. The old computer fans now have a new life in aiding creation.


New Making

New Making

The first half of the current semester has been focused on experimenting with new technologies and exploring the unconventional oppurtunities they posses. The project was split into three subsections – Hybrid materiality, Scaffolding glitches and Parametric design – the aim being to explore their potential through ideation and experimentation.

Hybrid Materiality

Beginning  with hybrid materiality I looked for a problem I could solve that also allowed me the opportunity to explore the topic. I decided to try and design something that would organise my laptop charger in my bag. Designing around the dimensions of an existing product posed a challenge.

 I began by sketching initial ideas and how I hoped it would work and realised there would need to be two independent parts. I designed the parts in illustrator with the knowledge I would be cutting on the laser cutter. Knowing the thickness of the material I was using allowed me to create joints of the correct dimensions to house parts when it was eventually assembled. Holes for nuts and bolts were considered to make the assembly as easy as possible. The hybrid materiality aspect was explored through the use of an existing product and housing this in a new structure, as well as the merging of materials; nuts and bolts, ply and acrylic. 

I enjoyed the creation of a three dimensional object using only a two dimensional software and the challenge that posed visualising the final product. I gained an understanding of how to merge materials and objects into one product succesfully.  


Scaffolding Glitches

Scaffolding glitches was the research into the support structure, infill and other tools a 3D printer uses to print a model correctly. Our research looked at exploring and exploiting these traits through experimentation.

Ideas for this mostly involved the failure to add support and how this could have an effect on the final print. I moved away from this and looked and celebrating the support, creating a set of floating steps and allowing the printer to insert support where it was required.

Through printing the part and making cuts in the support I realised the support had a hinge like quality and allowed the treads to move independently on a variety of different planes, Something to explore in future projects.

Parametric Design

Parametric design is based on numeric value, altering dimensions in a way that will distort or change the size and shape of the object. To begin I looked at softwares that offered the ability to design parametrically, opting to try the design tables in Fusion 360 and OpenSCAD. I struggled at first with OpenSCAD but after watching tutorials began to create forms and shapes and was comfortable editing their parameters. Design tables in fusion was a little more restrictive, although I was more comfortable with the software I felt it was less capable of creating the kind of output OpenSCAD did. My Experiments in Fusion were the altering of sizes of a nut I had previously drawn. I played with angle and base size and ended up with an abnormal but aesthetically pleasing part.

I made a variety of different forms in OpenScad changing the parameters to alter its shape. Exploring parametric design gave me a means of creating original spontaneous forms that can be made either manually or based on data collected.

Final Outcome

As a final step I wanted to create an object that merged different elements of the three design tasks. I opted to make a sculptural lamp/ form that was based on a shape I created parametrically.

The object used different processes to design and manufacture. For the design I used OpenSCAD to create the form. This form was then made in Fusion and split into 13 fins. The fins were then saved as dxfs in illustrator in preparation to be laser cut. A housing for the fins was required. I chose to create this in Fusion 360 with the size of the acrylic being considered then 3D printing one for the top and bottom to hold the fins. This part needed to revolve on a central acrylic pole to show an almost ghosted version of the form when spun on the acrylic axis.


After assembling, adding a base and an LED the form can now be appreciated when revolved, showing the parametric form in a pleasing ghost like style.

Reflecting on the assignment as a whole, I have developed a greater and deeper appreciation for new technologies and processes as well as traditional craft and assembly. I have a better understanding of what it takes to translate an initial digital design idea to a final three dimensional object.  I have gained skills that I can apply to future work and add interest to the work I produce.

Projects Transactions


Matt Copeland & Julia Jones Hellstrom.

‘Infringe’ challenges the boundary between public and private spaces.

video of the design process.

As society relies more on technology and digital surveillance creates more transparency, we are left questioning the need for defined physical boundaries and fences. Boundaries and their restrictiveness are instinctive to humans, holding great historical and symbolic value. We are led in specific directions and halted at certain points. We obey rules and alter our behaviour based on these confines, conforming to an ideal we have always understood.

‘Infringe’ challenges this notion. The range allows an unconventional means of marking a division between spaces by redefining the form of a conventional fence. Climbing a fence has always been recognised as an act of defiance. ‘Infringe’ supports and builds on this idea by allowing users to pass through and question the meaning of the boundary, realising their own level of deviance, based on the route they choose to pursue.


Initially the project involved research into existing fences and their connotations. Notable features were the vertical bars and speared railheads, implying an aggressiveness and a means of intimidation.

 Early iterations explored ways of breaching existing fences in the form of an accessory. Questioning where the responsibility lies in breaching a fence, latter designs focused on a more permanent and anonymous breach that maintained the fences appearance and symbolic value. Different designs models, made first in illustrator then laser cut, responded on different levels to the theme of deviance. Ultimately, they were narrowed down to five designs of varying difficulties to breach, creating a range of visually pleasing but conversational sections that in full scale can be connected in any order and maintain the underlying elements associated with a fence.

Social Narratives

Humanity in space – The fate of the new frontier.

In a world plagued by pollution and greed, humanity begins its search for a new home and new possibilities in space.

Yale Universities Environmental Performance Index ( is a system that awards countries a score based on factors that include climate, energy, biodiversity and agriculture. Countries that rank higher on the index are awarded larger and more valuable portions of Mars. This is an incentive to make conscious environmental decisions on Earth and an assurance that the future of Mars will be well protected by those with good environmental intentions.

Ice is recognised as a vital asset in the development of humanity in space. The globe shows accurate geographical representations of both surface and subterranean ice. This is considered in the allocation of land in conjunction with Yale universities ‘EPI’ statistics.