Mechatronic Technology

Art & Culture

Mechatronic Technology embraces Digital Art creating “Mechatronic’Art”

With clear conditions if you’re one of the 48million or so passengers that will fly in or out of Heathrow airport between February and September this year you’ll be treated to an amazing digital light display emanating from the Watermans in London.

The display is a creation by the French artist Félicie d'Estienne d'Orves and marks the start of Watermans’ International Festival of Digital Art. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have inspired the Festival of ground-breaking installations exploring interactivity and participation in new media and digital art.

The work of 6 international artists will be showcased in a year-long project that is designed to initiate debate around the impact of technology in art. The light display of Félicie d'Estienne d'Orves known simply as Geometry is a kinetic installation driving two masts that cross (one vertically and one horizontally) on which mirrors are attached. The pre-programmed mirrors turn on a horizontal axis creating geometrical movement. The reflection of the sky in the mirrored blades and the movement of the sculpture itself create different kinetic effects according to the time of day and the season.

At nightfall the signal is reinforced through projections of laser light from the horizontal mast. Laser lines will be projected from the Watermans building onto the horizontal mast and reflected from the sky. The programming of the movement of the sculpture means that geometrical forms are created and reach into the sky to a height of more than 20 meters.

Mechatronic  specialists Bonfiglioli have provided the technological support behind the installation working closely with the artist and David Simpson of Show Laser Systems. The expertise of the company in assisting with unusual applications, their mechatronic approach and ability to supply all requirements from one source was an important factor in selecting the company along with the fact that they showed a serious response to the artists’ project.

In order to achieve the variety of mirror positions designated by the artist a very precise positioning motor solution was required with a complex programme for the inverters. The installation utilises two shaft mounted helical gearboxes from the Bonfiglioli F Series. The gearboxes are driven by direct coupled brushless servomotors fitted with failsafe brakes. The drives are an external arrangement open to the elements and are therefore protected to IP65. The Bonfiglioli Active Cube inverters which control the drives are located in a specially prepared cabinet, and programming was made simple due to the plug and play capability.  The inverters are capable of handling the complex programming sequence necessary to enable the numerous changes of rotational direction to give the desired effect. In addition, the drives had to be capable of achieving the 24 exact position co-ordinates required, as well as precisely controlling the eight desynchronisation points of the two reflectors. Close collaboration with the laser architect and the artist was necessary to ensure the final programme produced the desired effect.

The Geometry project runs until the 12th September 2012.