Flag Widget! – Part I

 In honour of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, I  bought an outside flag pole recently to hang my 1790’s era English King’s Flag on.   This is the same flag used by the British during the American Revolution and in the colonies here in Canada.  The pole and flag will hang on the front of a reproduction 1800’s style Loyalist cottage I’m building.  In my effort to try and be somewhat accurate, I’ve kept all of the exterior hardware iron black.  Which brings me to my flag pole.

I searched everywhere for a black flag pole and actually found one in London.  Now the problem I have is that it was missing one of the widgets needed to secure the flag to the pole at the bottom.  The shop provided a replacement in orange, which Bill later said could be re-fabricated in the lab.  Today’s blog is about how to do a fabrication template in Adobe Illustrator for a simple object.

First, you need your widget or gromit or object for fabrication (the piece we’re interested in is the orange widget).  As this is a rather simple object that’s somewhat thin, we can scan it using a regular desktop scanner.  More complex objects like archaeological artifacts would require a hand held or other scanner process, which in the coming months I’ll document.

Try to get the widget lined up perfectly on a horizontal and vertical axis.  Don’t worry if this has to be adjusted later as the final template image we’ll use in Adobe Illustrator can be rotated in slight degrees.  Next obviously you want to scan the object into something simple like a jpeg.  Just a quick note on naming conventions.  Make sure all images, files or documents maintain a proper naming convention and follow this through when naming layers and actions within Adobe Illustrator.  It’s a good habit to get into and allows for quick and simple searches and data mining when you eventually file this work in the digital archives.

Now that you’ve scanned and imported your “widget template image” into Illustrator, you’ll want to apply a proper naming convention and lock the template layer so we’re not working on it directly.  Unlike Adobe Photoshop and the just scanned template image which uses pixels, Adobe Illustrator is a vector based program.  Meaning, it defines the shapes, fonts or 2D objects created in it by absolute points, lines and shapes which are sharp and crisp.  The fabrication machines I hope to use in the lab also use vector based images to define what is going to be fabricated (I assume).

On a new layer, you can then start to model the object in 2D.  Use basic shapes by scaling them and manipulating the points to get the general outline of the template object.  In this case I’m going to use multiple negative and positive shapes (black and white) to get the inner and outer shape of the widget.  You’ll notice once we start adding guides and applying the shapes that the original object when scanned was slightly rotated.  The best we can do to rectify this is to unlock the template layer and rotate the image slightly to get it to line up with the guides and the vector objects being used to build the 2D widget.

As the top and bottom connections or eyelet parts are essentially the same shape, I created a single object and then copied and mirrored another version for the bottom.  To make sure I was proportionately within the same outlines of the original widget template, I brought the opacity down on the model build layer to see if the template was the same.  As you can see, we only get the slight pixelation of the orange template widget showing through, so generally we’re in good shape.

The final illustrator file has the widget in full opacity.  Some of the big questions for me is the type of file format needed for the fabrication machine to actually build the widget in a solid material?  How do we determine thickness and input those variables into the fabrication process?

Once we get into the lab, I hope then to document the fabrication process and final product.  Wait for Part II in the coming weeks!


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