Saturday, 19 March 2016

Weekly progress 14 - 18 March

I’m at a crucial point in my MA studies, with only a few months left till the degree show, I’ve taken some time off my part-time graphic design job to focus on my projects.

The plan for my 6 weeks off is to make goals each week and try smash them to move the project on to make it a reality, this post is a journal of what I got up to during week 4.


This week my basic goals were:
  • Playfield Lasercut
  • Playfield Art Development
  • State of Play print

Playfield Lasercut

To be honest, this week I had originally hoped to have the playfield cut and printed with the aim to start attaching the mechanical parts and installing to the cabinet. As well as that goal being hugely ambitious, things don't always go to plan. Between the cutting template taking longer than expected to plan and drawn and the large lasercutting machine at uni breaking down last week there are always real world scenarios that I don't tend to plan into my use of time. The good thing is I don't have an immediate deadline or anyone I am answerable to so my time is flexible, the extra week to finish of the digital cutting file has actually been really helpful. 

The final digital cutter playfield design

At the same time the deadline of having the lasercutter booked and paid for means I had a time specific task to work towards this week. The focus was getting the drawings finished and checked. I had to make some very important and tactical layout decisions about the playfield which will effect the final game as well as technical limitations and challenges of some of the parts to consider and design.

To recap my reasoning to lasercut: A pinball playfield is usually CNC routed, with a router you are able to control the depth of a cut, so you can make a small lip at a precise depth into the plywood for plastics to be glued into. A few weeks ago I realised that I wanted to design my own plastic inserts, with a more detailed shape than standard pinball plastic parts (and cheaper!). To do this I needed the intricacy of lasercutting, and unlike the router, lasercutting cannot cut a certain depth into a material (well some probably can but not the machines at uni).

The 'sandwich' method: After some advice I decided to make a sandwich of plywood using two outer sheets (top & bottom) of 3mm and an inner core of 6mm ply. Although I could have used only two sheets, I'm told this sandwiching method will give extra strength to the playfield, which is something I was worried about when glueing together plywood sheets face to face.

So thankfully I had planned out this process and had everything ready to go for cutting within my 1 hour booking. I had three sheets to cut, each has slightly different artwork, to create drilling and carving guide marks as well as ledges to allow glueing the plastic parts into the playfield when complete.

The top sheet cut
From past mistakes in lasercutting and glueing together sheets of material, I knew it would be near impossible to line up the sheets precisely without some guides. I used a registration method using 'plugs' and slightly different sized guide holes cut near the edges of the playfield. (I'll get a better photo of this)
The bottom two layers glueing together, weighed down somewhat!
 I used diluted wood glue to allow quick spreading onto the ply, it was quite a challenge to get the whole sheet covered as the wood quickly absorbed the glue and started getting tacky + dry.
The final top layer in place and glued

Final playfield sandwich, yum!


It's slightly unreal having the physical playfield cut, it's obviously such a crucial part of the final piece, so have put a lot of time into it, although it feels like another big milestone completed, I'm still so far off finishing! 

The next step is to laser my plastic inserts into 3mm acrylic, and glue these in place, before printing the playfield. My estimation for printing the playfield is 14th April, and is my window from now to complete the artwork.

Playfield & Cabinet Artwork

Based on my research, I've been exploring some styles for the playfield print.

Ripple & Twist. Marbling

Brush & Rip. Paper texture

Ripple & Smear. Thick layers, reflection. Impasto

Clearly a work in progress on the artwork. Feel it's important to make more sketch book studies to explore different possible styles. Like I have mentioned before, I would like the print to be simple, in reference to 1970s pinball machines, but also be something which is quite striking and modern in a white wall gallery setting.

3D cabinet art mockup

My original thought for the cabinet artwork is to screenprint directly onto the cabinet. I'm able to hire a screen which is large enough that I can get to my studio to print it, but there is the risk of a misprint and other technical challenges, including washing out screen in an environment that isn't setup for screenprinting. I've had some other thoughts about the cabinet artwork, partly due to the printing challenge, but also aesthetically. I will do some more development on this by the next post.

State of Play Screenprint

Last week I wrote that I had been working with State of Play games (the makers of the wonderful, BAFTA winning, Lumino City game) who got in contact with me relating to my pinball prints, as they are currently working on their new pinball game, INKS. The game is launching at the Now Play This exhibition, part of the London Games festival in April.

In addition to the arcade button wiring I made for the launch of their game, they asked me to make a print, similar to my recent Pinball print which has an embedded digital screen. I had originally expected State of Play to supply artwork but was happy when they asked me to design the cabinet which would feature in the print.



I set about this using Blender with my 3D pinball machine template, UV mapping artwork from assets supplied by State of Play. My concept is the ink has spread and splattered all over the cabinet during playing.

Once this was approved, I was ready to screenprint:

First two colours down



The next steps is to embed the Raspberry Pi and screen into the frame in time for the exhibition in April.


Next week 

Will be a bit quieter for me, due to UWE holidays (so no access to facilities) and family visiting us in Bristol. It will also be nice to have some time away from working solidly on the project, as much as I want to keep plowing through, I always know time away is important. See you in a few weeks!