Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Holo promises

I just got a message through the RPF, reminding me there are still people interested in the idea of a cheap-and-simple Holocron kit.

The first one I built, I extensively modified a kit I'd purchased. I documented the build on my Instructables page. I got enough expressions of interest to start an INT thread over a the RPF.

Besides the ideas I'd already tested, like using the laser engraver to frost the inner walls with a pattern, I knew I could improve on the assemble-ability of the kit. It took quite a few weeks of tinkering but I at last had a set of shell parts that would snap together and make for quite a bit less time spent in trying to line up everything so it could be glued together, and patch it up once the glue was set.

Another element was boiling down the somewhat baroque electronics package of the first attempt into a simpler board suitable for a more typical end-user; based of course on my LED driver board in progress:

But then problems surfaced. I spent way too much time working with one prospective client on a design with proprietary elements. He never did quite get to the point of actually paying anything for this work, and as this dragged on I lost all trust in him as well as desire to continue the relationship. He got a complete holocron kit out of me for free (minus the majority of the electronics, though):

All this time meant a lot of the design elements had evolved along a path towards adaptations that simply didn't exist anymore. I wasted more time trying to pick up from that point, but at last have accepted I need to throw away the most developed designs, go back multiple generations, and work from design elements that are more suitable.

I would say "canonical," but there is sadly little canon yet on holocrons. The best-documented holocron comes from one of the 3d animations, and is the so-called "stolen" holocron:

This design however is difficult to realize in the materials I've chosen to work with. The frosting pattern simply doesn't work, the groove interferes with the mechanical structure, and worse yet, one of the keys of the thing in the canonical (well, Extended Universe!) depiction is that the corners rotate.

At least it is easier to realize in laser-cut acrylic then this over-sized prop made entirely for an advertising photograph:

So this leaves me without really clear directions to go in order to find a design that really speaks Star Wars. That looks like it could be canon.

This was as far as I got before I decided that the "shapes surrounding a central engraved image" approach was the wrong one. And believe me, there were a lot more shapes that never got past the Illustrator file stage (but there were still more than this example that got as far as the laser).

I am stalled here by the inescapable understanding that even limiting myself to this particular technology (aka laser-cut acrylic) I should be able to make a very deep and interesting shape (aka using multiple layers, diffuse elements, etc.)

But also by the realization that problem-solving how this can be assembled without glue stains and fiddling around and so forth is an ongoing challenge and whatever I dream up is going to have to go through more rounds of materials and time-expensive test cuts.

Probably all this would sort out if I could come up with a vision that I really liked. Some kind of a look for the thing that uses the strengths of the materials I have available but that is exciting (or, at least, as exciting as the original proved to be).

And then hopefully that would give me enough impetus to struggle through solving how to make an electronics package that is cheap and flexible and is easy enough for the end-user to work with.

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