Lighting Engines

Project Goals

  • use simple electronics to emit gentle light
  • use paper and other supplies to create a fully functional nightlight
  • make sure the light turns on and off due to a change in orientation

First Experimentations (11–14–16)

The first thing I worked on was making my circuit. My initial circuit only used 1 of the large LEDs.

Once I felt comfortable with the setup of the circuit, I began to experiment with the paper. I used printer paper and tracing paper because those were the materials I had at my disposal in the beginning.

I attempted weaving, layering of shapes, and braiding. With the weaving I made a cylinder, with the layered shapes I made a type of hanging lantern, and the braiding was an experiment to see if I could make the lantern but with tighly braided paper. The braid experimentation did not work beacuse the braids would not remain taught. Overall, this meant the lantern was too weak, especially if it needed to hold the battery pack, and I hadn’t considered how the tilt-switch would fit into the design. The weaving was very elementary with wide gaps between the pieces, and ultimately the form I made with the weaving did not afford any interesting movement as the only way to turn on the light was turning over the whole structure.

Top Left: Braided Tracing Paper; Top Right:Layered Lantern Hanging;Bottom Left: Layered Lantern from above;Bottom Right Woven Cylinder

After Experimenting with Paper

When I was only considering how to use the paper, I wasn’t really thinking about how to incorporate the tilt switch and how to make the motion and interaction interesting. So I considered ideas of lights that I would find engaging. My two main ideas were a pendulum and a flower that opened and closed. I thought that in the context of a nightlight, a form that swayed back and forth and lit up at either end would be kind of hypnotising and comforting. The flower idea came both from the idea that lotus flowers open their petals in the night, and the fact that when I was younger I would have loved a flower night light. The more I thought about the flower idea I realized that my sister had also had a toy with a similar form to the one I envisioned.

The toy that inspired the form I wanted to create; The first lotus experiment based on modified oragami design

Second Iterations and Experimentations

The two ideas I was most intrigued by were the flower shape that would open and emit light, and the pendulum. Since my original folded flower did not fold correctly, I attempted to fix this issue by using larger paper so that the folds would be more precise. This made a cleaner looking form, but the form did not move in and out with the ease I wanted. Since the folded idea didn’t provide the correct user interaction, I tried to make stiff petals out of bristol board that would attached at a central base and pulled open from the top.

Second Iteration of the Lotus Design
Petal Experiments

For the pendulum idea, I wanted a triangular prism form that would swing back and forth. I constructed the form successfully, however I could not get the swinging motion to remain consistent in a way that allow for a definitive on and off state, and without those two separate states I felt the light would be too erratic and not pleasing to use.

I took the prism and instead decided to try a hinged form. I made another prism of a different size that was attached to the original form with a hinge. When the hinge opened, the tilt switch would be activated in one of the prisms.

Hinged Prism in Different States of Motion

“Final” Idea

The hinged idea was sturdier and clearer in terms of interaction than my other forms, so I decided to apply the hinge to another form. I was inspired by jewelry boxes, specifically one I had when I was little that would play music and spin a ballerina figurine when it was opened. I wanted to apply this concept to my design, where instead of a dancing ballerina, you get a soft light emitted where a mirror usually goes.

Initial Sketch

I used foam core and rice paper (I didn’t know about the tool that cuts edges of foam core, so I will be using that for the final and possibly wrapping the entire outside of the form in paper to keep it looking clean. The foam core was helpful because it was sturdy enough to hold the battery pack, unlike the paper I had used to construct a quick model of this idea.

A small foam core model I made after the paper model I made could not hold the battery pack. I bought foam core after this phase.

I created a large rectangle with a smaller rectangle on top. The larger is weighted down to counterbalance the smaller rectangle, which holds the battery pack and light fixture.

The biggest issue I face is one I anticipated in the brainstorming/sketching process; How to create a fixed hinge that will not allow the top of the box to extend past a certain point. I want there to be two distinct phases, on and off. If I can’t control the hinge then there will be 2 positions that allow for the light to be on.

I tried an inner hinge of paper, the paper is too flexible and lets the upper rectangle extend all the way. I tried string, but since the upper rectangle does not rest on the lower rectangle when opened, the lid moves around. Also the strings sat on either side and looked messy/inconsistent. As of now I have an inner hinge to keep the two sides together.

Top right: The position and strength of the bulb; The rest: various positions of the hinge. My hand is holding the top in place in the bottom left picture, which is the level of movement I would like the form to stop at.

Things I’m still considering..

SIZE — is the form too large to be comfortable and visually pleasing? If I reduce the size will I still be able to fit the battery pack and light inside.

LIGHT — I diffused the light using crumpled tracing paper, is that enough to make the light soft or should I use a colored paper to create a yellow tone light? Should I have more than one bulb in my circuit, or should I center the single bulb I have now.

FORM:MOVEMENT — I want to add an indentation in the front face of the bottom part to show where you put your finger, which will then lead users to open the box. I think size adjustments will also be important in conveying how the user should interact, whether with a single finger, a finger and the other hand, or both hands.

THE HINGE — right now the best solution seems to be having a strip of foam core on each back end of the bottom rectangle that would stop the edge of the upper rectangle from going past a certain point. I will ask tomorrow in class to see if there is a cleaner/easier way that I haven’t thought of.

Post Crit Feedback

The good: some peers liked the idea of the jewelry box idea where the bottom rectangle was empty so that it could be used to hold things. The cube was sturdy, and the light was consistent.

The bad: the edges need to be cleaner, the interaction is very simple but not necessarily obvious to the user. The light is too specific instead of diffused.

I started brainstorming during this crit, and spoke to Stacie about my new ideas.

Stacie’s Feedback:

New Idea/ The Actual New Idea

New Form Sketch with possible curves (the curve I chose is the far left)

The new form is a rectangular prism with curved sides that fit the contours of your hand. The upper form is hinged to the lower, and when opened, extends fully back. (This eliminated the problem with the hinge not being fixed, and also allowed me to light both sides.) The curved sides are made of paper you can mold when it is wet, and the back sides of both forms are made of rice paper so the light can shine through. The bottom and top of the overall form are made of conservation board. The tops of both sections that have the light shone through are also made of rice paper, with a pattern that mimicked the curvature of the form made of a darker shade of rice paper.

I designed the contours on the top so that the user will know to open the box from both the front and side direction. The upper section’s front protrudes from the concave front of the bottom section which also informs the movement.

My initial plan was to have the light shine from the corner of one section through the rice paper mid-section to light both sides of the form. However, when my peers used my design, they discovered a bonus state of light afforded by my design. They would first open the “box” and reveal the two lighted sides, then close the form and turn it over. When turned over, the light shines from the rice paper sections, revealing an individual light. This means my light has 1 off state and 2 on states, the first for mulitple people and the second for a single individual.

This led me to have a more concrete idea of the context or use of my piece. I had originally seen my light as desklamp nightlight meaning, a lamp that could sit on a desk or table for two and provide a soft light for both people on either side. Now the light is effective both for two people and for one person when they close the form and turn it to face them.

Top Left: Explorations of pattern; Top Right: Lid with curved pattern; Bottom: curved sides
Top Left: Off State; Top Right: On State; Bottom Left: lamp in context;Bottom Right: Upper Designs

Video of 1 off state and both on states

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