Fabrication Notes: Lightbox 2021

I exhibited at The Other Art Fair in Greenpoint, November 2021 for which I produced four new lightboxes. These were the first lightboxes I produced since Fall 2019. The objectives of the new lightboxes were:

-to create works as finished as possible, so as to be suitable for collectors' homes

-to express light paintings in a new size dimension (25"x25") -- previously, I created lightboxes sized 24"x48" (2017 - original Bushwick Lightbox),  40"x60" (2018) and 9"x9" (2019 - lightboxes for CADAF Miami).

-to embody technical improvements and best practices I have picked up since 2017.

My constraints were:

-very limited timeframe for production

-no immediate access to a table saw or wood shop

My solution was: 

-to have the lightboxes fabricated by a professional woodworker

-to assemble the lightbox components in my studio

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LIGHTBOX FRAME PRODUCTION
 

Production began with choosing the wood. It is important to choose good pieces of wood, as straight as possible. 

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After a consultation with the fabricator and purchasing the wood, the finalized the cut list and submitted it to him. 

Then I anxiously waited for the lightbox frames to be made. 

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The frames were delivered and despite some flaws, I was generally happy with them. I was also happy with the conduct of the fabricator and the good communication between us, which built trust. 

In this picture you see the 2017 lightbox showing a light painting in the dimensions that will be on the new lightboxes. 

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LAYING THE LED MATRIX

 

The total LED count per lightbox is 1024, so I ordered enough rolls of WS2812B LEDs for four lightboxes. 

For the LED matrix panel, I used a piece of birch plywood.

I place the LED strips by hand, using only a ruler and pencil.  I find placing LED strips to be very meditative. 

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Placing the LED strips by hand, properly, takes approx 4-5 hours. 

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POWER DISTRIBUTION

 

In this iteration of lightbox creation, I really wanted to professionalize the design. This means design for ease of repair: in the event an LED or LED strip malfunctioned, I wanted the replacement to be as simple as possible. 

Since 2017, the design that has worked well is having a power bus run vertically on each side of the horizontal LED strips. One side is power and one side is ground. 

In the past, I have used 12 AWG wire as the bus, which worked well. However, in the event of a strip malfunction, to attach the new strip to 12 AWG - especially in a collector's house -would not be ideal, given my experience soldering 22AWG wire to 12 AWG wire. 

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As such, I went with screw terminals blocks, which could easily attach and detach with a screwdriver.

 

I wanted any repair down the line to require the most minimal amount of soldering. 

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Three terminal blocks on each side form two power buses on each side. They are attached with 16 AWG wire - hefty enough to carry a much larger load than they would be carrying.  (The expected power requirement for the light paintings I was planning to show would not exceed 4A) 

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POWER SUPPLY UNITS

 

I originally installed a beefy Mean Well RSP-320-5 300W 5V Power Supply Unit, but after having the lightboxes around the house for a few nights, I realised the sound of the fan was super annoying. It would not be something I would want in my house, and I felt that a collector would feel the same.

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So I swapped them out for CLASS 2 power supplies, which are lower current and fan-less. But I would have to ensure power consumption would remain within safe levels. 

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FITTING THE ACRYLIC PANELS

 

What I worried about the most was whether the handcut frames would fit the 24"x24" acrylic panels. As I suspected, the acrylic did not fit perfectly. 

I resolved the problem by using a Dremel to shave off parts of the acrylic panel until it fit perfectly. This took an entire day for the four lightboxes. 

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FINAL PRODUCT

The lightboxes came out very well, with a finish that I was proud of, and proud to sell to a collector. 

Areas for improvement include: 

-finding higher grade material than plywood for LED matrix panel

-having LED matrix custom fabricated having some out-of-the-box solution that ensure consistency and saves time (so I don't have to lay them by hand)

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