Heat Sculpture: Playtest

Heat Sculpture: Playtest

The playtest for my heat sculpture (name tbd) gave me a great amount of feedback in terms of how the sculpture can be built and function. I began with tests of how the material (jello and/or non toxic silicone rubber) melts with the new 15 volt peltier heater I received last week. The video below shows the jello melting, and liquifying, very quickly, with the remaining mass of it sliding off the metal sheet (which covers the peltier). This was at the peltier’s highest heat setting. This also tells me that I should make the metal square encasements such that they tip slightly upwards (or have tiny little walls) so that the liquid pools before falling off and also allowing the block of material to fully melt in that location.

The second part of the playtest was prototyping how the sculpture may look once fabricated. The prototype pictured below has a few caveats due to the materials I had to work with. The half open plexi case exhibits what will in the end be a fully enclosed glass case. The tubes, brass & aluminum plates and support system will probably all be the same material and have the same hue (likely brass) though I do kind of like the contrasting colors in the current prototype. The aluminum covered wood blocks (supporting the metal plates) is a placeholder for more brass/ copper tubing as I only I had one 16″ tube to work with for the prototype. The metal plates themselves will be outsourced for cutting so that they are perfect squares. The peltier heaters will be sandwiched between 2 of these square metal plates. The wires will run through the tubing and out through the wooden wall of the case. I would ideally like to have double the amount of structure shown here (i.e. 6 squares on top and 6 on the bottom but this is tbd).

The functionality for the prototype pictured here is that a block of gelatin will rest on top of the grid of squares. As people move through the room 5 varying levels of temperature (including OFF) will be fed to the peltiers according the the calculations of how much movements has been occurring in the room at that moment. Therefore, more people = faster melting, less = no heat, material recongeals (the rubber is ideal for this). Another very viable possibility Im working with is that the grid is such that each of the 4-6 squares are associated with an assigned quadrant of the room/ space being detected (using blob detection and web cams).

As you can see in the images below the metal plates are mirrored by a similar configuration of plates below them. This entire structure will be suspended in the middle of the case with a few inches below and above it. It will be suspended by running the tubbing through the sides of the structure. The gelatin can then melt through in one direction, recongeal on the floor of the case and be flipped over to melt through in the other direction.


I received extremely helpful feedback in terms of possible designs for the tubing, plates, and melting configurations. Here I’ll list a few of the comments and ideas for the sculpture and other designs which are adjustments of the prototype you see here:

1. It’s possible I will build small, modular, metal cubes adhered to the top and bottom of the glass box so that the gelatin will congeal into a geometric form as it cools in between turns.

2. It’s possible for the sculpture not to have a flipping function and instead grid all of the peltiers together and let a larger block of gelatin melt through. This might better exhibit what motion is happening in which part of the space being detected by the webcam.

Video of jello melting on peltier heater covered in brass plate (please forgive shakiness of video…I was excited):