Communications + Experience Designer

The Invisible • Interactions in Environments

Looking at the Invisible

Created in 2016 - Used laser cutting, 3D printing and prototyping techniques. Materials included: cardboard, hot glue, high density fiber board, clear acrylic, paris paper, rubber cement, ebony filament, blue and teal PLA filaments, bolts and screws, Adobe Illustrator, Sketchup Pro

Our goal was to investigate the microscopic world around us using small lens that can see extreme powers. To capture the images of the microscopic spaces, we will need a microscope.  This is where the idea of making our own comes into play.  We began with sketching ideas and doing research to understand how microscopes and these lens worked.  The purpose of making our own microscope machine was to understand how it can be necessary to make our own tools for design and to help us communicate other goals of what we're working on. 


Scale Versus Size

The presentation of the microscopic images brought us to the question of “what is the difference between scale and size?”  When you think about things like contact lenses or babies, there is a certain idea of caution and care for them.  People react when you drop a contact lens or they behave in a delicate way around babies.  These ideas stem from the social relationships established through these objects.  The scalar relationships that are created through the physical size of the objects establish these social constructs.  This question of scale and size is tied to figuring out the difference of place and space. The scale and the size exist in those terms so that the comparison, combined with the idea of human-ness, creates an unique system of correlation and contrast.  


Breaking Down the Microscope Machine

The machine is meant to be portable and can fit into a wallet.  Once the user takes the pieces out, they can mix and match the HDF and acrylic to their preference.  Either material should fit perfectly into the other. In the bottom middle images, I have included a little more detail about the gear and how you can move it for adjustment. The texture of the grooves is similar to a quarter to encourage movement and discovery.


These are the pieces of the microscope machine disassembled.  Each piece took several trials and errors to successfully laser cut.  In the end, I created two machines: one made out of HDF (high density material like plywood) and one made out of 1/8” acrylic.  The pieces in the two machines are interchangeable to allow different amounts of light to affect the object being examined. 

The final iteration of the machine is designed to allow the user to function through portability and stability.  The design was based on a sketch and paper prototype that involved the phone being held by the machine.  The final machine holds the phone with elliptical notches that sit on a spinning gear or circular piece.  This piece has notches along its circumference to encourage the user's interaction.  It feels similiarly to a quarter.

The design was created using Adobe Illustrator and laser cut on two different materials.  With the High Density Fiberboard (HDF) version, there is an acrylic plate that the user can place the specimens on.  With the acrylic piece, the user has the entirity of the space to position it.  The machine has cutout sides where your hands can easily reach into the machine's space and the user can interact with it.  Each part of the machine is joined using slits or finger joints.  These were each measured and tested to find the perfect fit.  The only piece that requires anything more is the gear which is attached using a nut and bolt.  It makes it easy for the machine to be taken apart and re≠assembled.  For future iterations, I may add on more spokes to the gear to create more levels of focus.  I might adjust the acrylic model so that there is no missing window or arms to allow light in.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this process and project because of its exploratory nature and computational characteristics.  It was exciting and satisifying to see the pieces fit together and be able to use the machine to capture images that would be much more difficult to obtain otherwise.


Image Collection & Curation

All photos were taken using a droplet lens procured by Stephen Stadelmeier.  The lens can view images at 200x power (or more) as shown in the images above. 

Download presentation of preliminary progress

Download imagery presentation

I think that the hardest part about collecting the images and making the observations about the objects we chose was undering why we wanted to take the images.  We discussed about the ideas of our focus and points of view.  It was important to consider how we would be presenting the images as well as how we would use them in the future.  I felt that there were two different solutions to how ot apporach the image collection.  We could capture images we found appealing or we could capture images that would translate into 3D prototyped objects (that is the next step in this exploration). While these two might not be completely interchangeable, the theme of the exploration was unified.  We needed to be inspired to communicate our ideas and inspired to prototype through our demonstration of machines and whatever our images become.  We are asking ourselves how we want to represent our findings.  How do we make something? How do we abstract our findings?  How much do you capture? I think that I focused a lot on the last question of understanding how much to capture and why.  I have over 200 images from things that I found but I chose to present a select few.  I think that some of the images will help me in the future while the images I chose show the ideas of intrinsic textures and patterns.  One of the questions I was stuck on was about how ink printed on paper.  Was it the ink I was intrigued by or the fibers of the paper and how they absorbed the ink? I think I find the internal combination, the intrinsic side of material appealing and I felt that my images were able to capture that.