< < back home

week 17 - applications and implications

-propose a final project masterpiece that integrates the range of units covered, answering:

what will it do?

We usually think of new technology focused on the present and the future, but can we think of technology designed for the past? Nowadays obsolete, smoke signals are the oldest form of long-distance communication. Native American Indians used them to transmit news or gather people together. What if we combine an ancient communication system with today's technology?

Like an artifact out of a parallel reality, Totem brings this lost tradition to the contemporary digital era. A retrofuturist device that could have been useful back in the Wild West times but was not possible to make until today.

Totem is an oracle you can talk to and will send your message into the air in the shape of smoke signals. And just like Native American Indians used to dance to their deities, you can also dance to Totem when it synchronizes smoke signals to the rhythm music.

who's done what beforehand?

Totem is a machine that has not yet been built before. Similar things have been made. These projects helped me understand how Totem could work. However none of them are opensource nor it is really explained how they have been built. That's why everything in this project is tested and learned by trial and error.

what will you design?

Case: This is the volume that will contain the void for the smoke, the iris, the woofer, the smoke machine and the electronics.
Diaphragm: This will allow Totem to make bigger or smaller smoke signals. It will also close the aperture when the smoke machine refills the case with more smoke. A stepper motor will do the motion.
Electronics: For the final project the input will be a distance sensor (sonar) and the output will be the subwoofer.

what materials and components will be used? where will come from? how much will they cost?



material supplier
Plywood 1220x2500x30mm (2 units) Fustes Gabarro


material supplier
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Fab Lab Barcelona
Plakene sheet (for the blades) Servei Estacio
PLA 3d printed parts Fab Lab Barcelona
stepper motor+cable+pulley bricogeek

smoke generator and pushing mechanism

material supplier
fog machine diotronic
woofer (Beyma 12BR70) metro electronica

electronics (speaker board)

(boards made by milling PCB blanks and soldered components)
Mosfet NDS355AN or NDS356AP or RFD16N05LSM9A
1x voltage regulator 5V
1x 10K ohm resistor
1x 1uF capacitor
1x 2x3 smd male header
2x 2x2 smd male header

electronics (sonar board)

(boards made by milling PCB blanks and soldered components)
Ultrasonic Ranging Module HC - SR04
Mosfet NDS355AN or NDS356AP or RFD16N05LSM9A
1x 10K ohm resistor
1x 1uF capacitor
1x 6 pin smd male header right angle
1x 4 pin smd male header right angle

electronics (music reaction)

Arduino UNO
Spectrum Shield
Stackable headers

what parts and systems will be made?

Basically everything will be made 100% in the FabLab, except for the smoke machinery, which I dismantled a smoke machine I bought. With more time, I guess even a DIY smoke machine could be made. Also, for the synchronization with music I went for a shield for Arduino, even though I guess I could have done my own pcb...but it was not that expensive to buy it already made anyway.

what processes will be used?

3D printing
CNC machining
Electronics production (input and output)

what questions need to be answered?

Will Totem make good smoke rings? How big can they be? How can I improve them? Will the machine be air-tight enough to avoid smoke leaks? Can I synchronize it well to the beat of music? Will condensation of the smoke affect the speaker? Will the smoke machinery get too hot?

how will it be evaluated?

When I started the Fab Academy I didn't even know what an Arduino was. I am making now a machine capable of synchronizing smoke rings to the beat of music. Something that might seem not so ambitious, but complicated enough for someone with no electronic, no coding and no digital fabrication background. I am super proud with the results I have experienced so far, and seeing at people smiling when they see smoke rings coming out of the machine is all I need to make me feel all the effort is totally worth it :)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.