This High-Tech MIT Design Tool Lets You Create Color-Changing Mosaics
By Alexa Heah, 24 Mar 2023
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a new tool that allows artists to digitize the creation of vibrant mosaics, which can be printed onto cellophane to be used as displays, mechanical animations, and more.
The key? Regenerated cellulose. PhD student Ticha Melody Sethapakdi discovered that the substance could be used to form machine-made color-changing mosaics, known as polagons, that creatives can harness to showcase their ideas.
Till now, these colorful mosaics have only been made by hand. The new computational design system will allow for the process to tap into the technology of laser cutting and welding, saving artists a significant amount of time.
Turning the task into a more high-tech endeavor, users simply have to import their custom mosaic designs into the system, which will automatically compute a feasible color palette based on the available cellophane supply.
To make more complex pieces, the software allows for multiple designs to be uploaded at once to create “morphing” mosaics that transition from one image to another.
The technology helps creatives out by optimizing the necessary components for each design, such as the type of cellophane and the number of sheets needed. Once the visualization is completed, the laser cutter then sets into motion.
Why does mosaic artwork best with cellophane as compared to other types of paper? This is due to birefringence, a property that changes the speed of light when it passes through the material at different angles.
As such, when cellophane is placed between two polarizers (materials that only allow certain polarities of light to pass through), it forms various colors, which can be tweaked based on the thickness of the material or the angle at which it is placed.
For now, scientists have yet to figure out how to create mosaics that represent every color on the rainbow continuously, though they believe such a result could eventually be achieved by changing the fabrication process.
“In creating this system, I was mostly interested in democratizing this art form and helping preserve something that might only be accessible to skilled individuals,” explained Sethapakdi.
“I think there is a real benefit to building these systems that democratize niche art forms. We hope this tool can expand the community of modern polarized light mosaicists.”
More related news