Friday, February 27, 2009

Joseph Combs: Industrial Design

Textiles Department

As I explored the studio’s facilities I was mesmerized by the diverse and quantity of mechanical and electronic machinery used to create textiles.  These varied from a selection of handlooms, computer interfaced looms, and electronic jacquard loom, to knitting machines, industrial knitting machine, digital textile printer and an embroidery machine. They had a combination of the most innovative tools as the most primitive ways of spinning yarn.  The department focused not only on the design process but the structure and fabrication of materials to and techniques creating one a kind fabric to industrial production. 


The looms ranged from simple knotting techniques to larger jacquard looms. Students were starting with this basic cross looping motion of the yarn from the vast selection of synthetic and natural fibers.  These yarns differed in textures from crippled to smooth, colors, elasticity and strength among other qualities.  Most of these synthetic and organic fibers were donated to the facilities and seemed to become brittle and their colors were fading. 

The importance of having total control in the process and material formation of textiles seems inherent to the nature of the medium.  The process of making textiles involves as much physical process as chemical. Their fully equipped dye lab had the option of chemically bonding color with organic materials as well as synthetic polymer fibers. They used a combination of urea, salt and soda ash diluted in hot distilled water.  For pigment to set on the fabric without fading, it was then placed in a vapor machine for several hours, rinsed and then left to dry.

I found many measuring instruments in the dye lab addressing the importance of having exact measurements of the chemicals mixed. Because it is so heard to recreate the exact color twice, yardage of fabric was done simultaneously.  Many color swatches with different times and quality fibers were available for student’s used. I also saw many inspiration boards with a diverse hue of colors use as reference for their color combination and pallets. 


The more advanced students use the Industrial Knitting Machine. This machine seemed very complex and complicated.  It hand an numerous amount of threads coming from different directions constantly moving back and forth in a repetitive notion.  Many samples of knitted fabric draped in rows on hangers from the same machine but ordered through a company.  They all differed in pattern, colors, textures, and feel. Some were more still and rigid while other where very elastic and flexible. Other seemed to have innovative synthetic fibers that reflected. The textile was closely knit while others were knit further apart giving a sense of transparency. 

After walking for a while I finally saw a students piece draping on a model. It seemed like it was made by some organic wool fiber. I was not sure if the yarn was hand dyed or industrially dyed. This outfit had a combination of different threads probably industrially knitted. Stitches hold together these different areas of fabric.  It seemed like it was a heavy material for it had a draping quality to it.   The knit created an elastic feel allowing the fabric to contour to the surface of the body.  

the Raw and the Cooked

The aim of this book is to show how empirical categories – such as the raw and the cooked, the fresh and the decayed, the moistened and the burned, etc. which can only be accurately defined by ethnographic observation and, in each instance, by adopting the standpoint of a particular culture – can nonetheless be used as conceptual tools with which to elaborate abstract ideas and combine them in the form of propositions.

Claude Levi-Strauss

Architecture & Apparel

Adhesives Investigation

Heat & Air :: Plastics (pneumatic garment)

Laser Cutting :: Silk Scales & Scraps

Laser Cutting :: Linen & Plastic Weave

FAV Material Observations:

Entering the Film and Video department, I found a composite material immediately in the interior window of the administrative offices. These window panes are of a composite material physically assembled of glass imbedded with metal wire. The two materials combine to heighten the thermal capabilities of glass. Although an outmoded version of fire-resistant glass, this material is of interest now because this is a relatively sustainable substance; the two primary materials can be separated and recycled easily. In addition to the environmental advantages and thermal property changes, visually this combination has led to a slightly obscured glass. In this case, it’s unclear whether the minimal barrier created by the wire is beneficial or detrimental.

The next material which captured my attention was this curious wall panel in one of the classrooms. The purpose and ingredients of this panel are unclear to me, but the various layers peeling away at the edges reveal a composite nature. Here the compound structure seems to fail as much of the outer layer is flaking away. The crumbling nature of this material may cause negative health effects as the dust is let loose in the air. Perhaps this degradation is a result of age, friction or a chemical reaction. Maybe functionally this panel is intended to enhance the acoustics in this room which is a guess made based on the video viewing equipment perched in the rear.

Looking down I began to explore another composite material at my feet. The terrazzo flooring in the hallways is made of marble chips imbedded in a resin. This combination is an inexpensive, visually similar alternative to solid marble. Terrazzo is very stable chemically and mechanically and exhibits some sustainable attributes. While it could recycle bits of leftover marble, the new material cannot be recycled or separated into its components at the end of its life.

Following that hallway to the end, I found another composite material to examine. A series of woven window shades made of vinyl and fiberglass fibers form light filtering protection from the sun’s glare and heat. Environmentally, the ingredients used in this material are harmful. In addition, the tightly woven nature of the fibers prevents reuse of the separate components in the future.

The final material of interest is this textile hanging on the wall of the video-editing computer lab. While not a conventional composite material, this project exhibits key characteristics and lends them visible at a large scale. This handmade mesh is composed of several ordered components (paper, feathers, yarn and felt) all woven together somewhat randomly, similar to a polycrystalline structure and Van der Waals bonding. I am unaware of any performance criteria for the creation of this material besides holding itself together as the application seems purely decorative.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Digital + Media Studio

Entering digital media studio in CIT was not allowed unless you are studying digital media, so I had to ask a security to for access. When the door of the elevator was opened, the studio was not really different from the studio of graphic design department. Most students were working on their computers at their desks except for one student. I reached him and asked what he was working on. He explained that he had a poll on the Internet and was transforming the result into 2 dimensional images based on reflection of what people answered. Suddenly, I was curious about what this field does. According to Wikipedia, digital media usually refers to electronic media that work on digital codes. Today, computing is primarily based on the binary numeral system. In this case digital refers to the discrete states of "0" and "1" for representing arbitrary data. Computers are machines that (usually) interpret binary digital data as information and thus represent the predominating class of digital information processing machines. Digital media ("Formats for presenting information" according to Wiktionary:Media) like digital audio, digital video and other digital "content" can be created, referred to and distributed via digital information processing machines. Digital media represents a profound change from previous (analog) media.

I started looking for materials which could be applied on students’ work. What I first found interest was an electronic circuit. An Electronic circuit is a closed path formed by the interconnection of electronic components through which an electric current can flow. The electronic circuits may be physically constructed using any number of methods. Breadboards, perfboards or stripboards are common for testing new designs. Electronic circuits can display highly complex behaviors, even though they are governed by the same laws of physics as simpler circuits. Electronic circuits can usually be categorized as analog, discrete, or mixed-signal (a combination of analog and discrete) electronic circuits. Basically, students who already have engineering background make this electronic circuit to create their work. I was very interested in this material because of its magical (to me) function and elaborate structure. However, in terms of “composite material”, I would say the electrical circuit composes of several composites such as energy source (batteries and generators), output source(motor, lamp, display) and connection(wire, cable).

Printmaking - Intaglio Studio

Entering the intaglio studio, my eyes were immediately drawn to the huge Hazard Information poster up on the wall. It appears that the process of intaglio employs materials both ‘natural’ (meaning can be found as in earth for example, the copper plate that the image is incised on) and composite materials (ferric chloride bath for the newly incised plate), several of which are rather harmful to the human body.

The Intaglio Studio

Example of incised copper plate. The copper plate first had to be covered with hardground (see image below: a composite of organic materials - unknown constituents) and then incised using a variety of steel-formed tools.

Hardground are made in-house by the faculty and monitors -above are some of the material ingredients (most of them are composite materials).

Etching ink paint in jars: jelly-like. Label: chromium green oxide etching. There was a note reminding students to put the lid back on the jar.

The ferric chloride acid bath - after incising the image on the plate, one needs to put the copper plate in the bath to create certain effects in the copper plate such as glossy areas where the paint will not adhere. Always wear gloves when using this bath....

Finally, the paper to print on, a composite material but one that has been in use for a very long time.

The studio was a mix of both modern and traditional equipment – from the huge manual press to the number of bottles and jars littering pockets of the studio. Just looking at the chemicals inside those containers made me wonder how much of these composite materials were newly introduced as new technology was created and how much was retained. There is an entire history of everyday chemicals that I am so unaware of – like all the composite materials that are formed through a chemical process: baby oil, vinegar, alcohol, petroleum jelly, gum Arabic, etc. But there are also natural materials in use such as water, salt and copper. Timing is also critical in this process where leaving the incised copper plate in the acid bath can damage the image or the pressing the paper onto the inked copper plate needs to be done immediately.

Glass department

This is the glass piece I found on the floor at the Glass department.
I assume one of the students threw away, but I was really interested in its follow form and texture on the surface. It was beautiful to me so that I took it back to my studio. Glass is made out of mainly silicca and other components such as sodium carbonate. When it is cold, it gets hard and brittle and the color looks transparent because of the low temperature and the surrounding pressure. When it is in high temperature, it gets melted and its color observe the frame color inside the kiln and looks orange-yellow. Glass is also non-electroconductivity. According to our reading, glass is an amorphous non-crystalline structure linked by covalent bonds.

This is the safety eyeglasses when people are doing hot glass. Since the heat and bright color radiating from the hot glass is extremely strong, people have to protect their eyes. This includes silicote-1 scratch resistant, silicote-6 chemical resistant, clear UV absorbing, X-3 antifog, and metalized heat reflective. This composite materials are intended for high-performance applications where their properties are engineered for specific purposes. By wearing it, people are able to work whole day without any uncomfortableness.

This is the plaster mold I found in the basement of the metcalf building. Usually plaster is sold in the form of dry powder. When it is mixed with water, it re-forms into a paste phase which liberates heat and hardens. Plaster expands while hardening, then contracts slightly just before hardening completely. Dislocation at the micro-scale level might be happening and it allows moving freely and stays ductile. Unlike cement, plaster remains quite soft after drying, and can be easily manipulated with metal tools or even sandpaper. This makes plaster excellent for use in molds, and it is often used as an artistic material for casting. Plaster might be suitable for a finishing, rather than a load-bearing material. After the plaster mold gets hardens, hot melting glass is ready to pour.

This is the alginate mold for cold glass casting. It is a viscous gum. It ranges from white to yellowish-brown, and takes granular and powdered forms. Because its structure is a linear copolymer, like plaster, it also has dislocations quality. Alginate is originally used for dentistry mold making. When it is mixed with water, it absorbs water quickly and gets solid, but keeps moisture in it, like really dry version of pudding. It provides highly details of objects you chose. The picture above is one of my experimentation with alginate mold. I inserted my finger and got really high quality of details in wax.

This is my hand out of the paraffin wax. I created it using alginate mold. After alginate gets solid. I poured the melting paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is sold in a solid form but when it is in a high temperature, it loosese its tension and becomes a liquid so that I can pour it into the mold. According to Wikipedia, it says "Paraffin wax (or simply "paraffin", but see alternative name for kerosene, above) is mostly found as a white, odorless, tasteless, waxy solid, with a typical melting point between about 47 °C to 64 °C ( 116.6°F to 147.2°F), and having a density of around 0.9 g/cm3.

It was really fun to look at things in a microscale level. I would like to continue on practicing in this way.