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Body Accordion, phase 1

Musical Prosthetics | Projects

  • We created a corset that acts like an accordion. The corset has two belts, one at the waist and one above the bust. In between these two belts are eight arms. The arms are an organic rib-like shape that is laser cut out of plywood. Each arm is made of two pieces, which are connected together using a screw and a lock nut. We had to use lock nuts because normal nuts would fall off with the amount of usage of the arms. The arms connect to a 3D printed hinge that connects to the belt. The hinge allows the arms to move and be stable to the belt at the same time.

    There are two flex sensors on the corset, one in the front and one on the side. They are positioned at the bottom of the arms and sense when you are bending forward or sideways. The flex sensors give a number based on how bent they are. That number gets sent to the computer and into a program called Max MSP. We programmed Max to change the pitch based on how bent the flex sensor is.

  • We started out with the concept of an accordion corset. We thought that the accordion and a human back are similar. We then began to try and sketch out what we thought that an accordion corset would look like. It was hard in the beginning because we weren’t quite getting our idea clear enough for people to understand what we were thinking. We made a lot of sketches.

    One of the first problems we came up with was what would we make it out of? We originally thought of making it out of acrylic. We soon ditched that idea because it was just way too complicated. We thought of making it out of fabric but that just wasn’t giving us the clean classy look we had in our heads. We thought about making similar to a cage skirt, with big strips of fabric and openness.

    We heavily pursued origami. We thought the 3-D origami had more give and flexibility than the other materials that we were looking at, such as fabric and plastic. We tried a lot of different 3D origami patterns trying to get a feel for it and experiment how they moved.

    Silly us, to think that we had found our medium so soon! We quickly realized that although the origami had a lot of give in one direction, we needed give in both directions. If we only wanted the corset to bend forward it would have been perfect, but because we wanted the corset to bend both forward and sideways so the origami wasn’t going to work.

    We then decided to try a more industrial look. We experimented with hinges with small pieces connecting them. That particular set up would not work because it would be crazy to have that many hinges. While we were trying to problem solve we thought of having only two pieces of wood, but that would not work because then you would have to bend at a perfect right angle which isn’t natural. We then thought, what if the hinges stuck out? Then you would be able to bend without it digging into your side. We were on to something with the extruded hinges.

    We then cut a test out of foam core, to prove the concept. We cut a thin rectangle with a small hole in it for the screw, and what do you know, it worked! We then tried to 3D model everything. We tried to think of different shapes that the corset could take on. Each arm didn’t have to be the same shape.

    We decided that we thought the non-symmetrical shape was more interesting than the symmetrical shape. We also liked the arms to be curved and organic. We thought that the arms would look super cool if they had rubber band strung through them- and it did look super awesome, but it wasn’t practical. Because we had so many rubber bands, they squeezed the arms shut. They made it so you couldn’t really bend or move. But they looked super cool.

    What was stressful about this studio is we didn’t really have much to physically show up until the last day. We had been doing so much on the computer whether it be programming or modeling, that the corset didn’t fall into place until the very end of the studio.

    Once we did start putting it together there was a lot of excitement and busy work. Each arm had to be paired up with its partnered length and screwed together. Because we used lock bolts it took much longer to screw the arms together. Although lock bolts are awesome because they don’t fall off, they are harder to put on. They require ten pounds of force to screw in, meaning you have to hold the bolt with pliers and screw it with a screwdriver on the other end.

    We also had to 3D print 16 hinge pieces, which is where the arms attach to the bottom and top belt. The belts were tricky to design, because they had to have laser cut holes that were carefully measured to fit with the 3D printed hinges we designed. The belt took awhile because every time we changed the arm design we had to change the hinge design and the belt design. We changed the design a lot!

    Once the arms and belt were in place we tried putting the electronics on it. The arduino, which is a mini computer, was sewn onto the bottom belt, and the flex sensors were taped to a side arm the front arm.

    Our final project looked really awesome, and it sounded really awesome. I think we were all really proud an excited about it in the end.