MAPP (Mechanical Art Production Platform)

Benjamin A. Leduc-Mills

MAPP (Mechanical Art Production Platform) is a 3-axis robot capable of producing a variety of aesthetics by reading commands from custom computer software.


Classes Programming from A to Z,Studio (Physical Computing),Thesis

The Mechanical Art Production Platform, or MAPP, is an art-making platform, consisting of a three-axis drawing machine attached via microcontroller to custom computer software.

MAPP is a platform, and not simply a machine, by virtue of the fact that it was not designed with a specific aesthetic output in mind, but rather as a vehicle for expression capable of various and unexpected artistic results. Thus there is no singular input or output for the machine, but rather a number of choices for the artist to make.

The aesthetic range of MAPP is determined by its three main components: the physical machine, the software that controls the machine, and the drawing media used for each particular piece.

The mechanics of the machine are centered upon the movement of three plexiglass stages (one per axis), attached via a nut and threaded rod to a stepper motor. The attachment of the rod to the motor turns the radial motion of the stepper motor into the linear motion of the stage. The software arrangement translates various forms of user input into commands that, once received by the microcontroller, cause the motors, and thus the stages, to perform specific movements.

While MAPP is currently a single instantiation, it is also the beginning of an attempt at providing an accessible framework to aspiring artists and technologists who wish to work on similar projects in mechanically driven art. The instructions for the physical machine and electronics are adaptations from the open source project reprap.org, and the custom programming work will soon be released as an open-source library for others to use and expand, in the hopes of fostering more inventive projects bridging the worlds of art and machines.

Jean Tinguely's 'Meta-Matic' series, Demetrie Tyler's 'Conversations' series, The reprap project and the McWire Cartesian Robot, and Roxy Paine's Painting Machines

Anyone who likes art and robots.

The process of creating MAPP can be divided into three categories of work: the physical building of the machine and electronics, the programming of the software, and the creation of the artwork. The construction plans for the robot were adapted from a three-axis Cartesian robot design from reprap.org. The frame of the machine is constructed with a series of 3/4” galvanized steel pipes that form a U shape for the base with a vertical pipe coming up from the middle for the Z axis to mount onto. On top of the pipe frame are the aluminum guide rails that determine the length and direction each stage will travel.
The stage assemblies are made of 1/2” thick clear acrylic, with spring tensioned bearing arms attached to them in order to keep the stages snug against the aluminum guide rails while they are in motion.
Three bipolar stepper motors dictate the mechanical movement of the machine, one for each axis. The motors are attached to the corresponding stage via a lead-screw, which in turn screws through a large hex nut affixed to the bottom of each stage. Thus the rotation of the motor turns the screw and moves the stage.
The electronics of the machine consist of an Arduino Diecimila microcontroller, three stepper motor driver circuit boards (again, one for each axis), and six opto-endstop photo interrupter boards (two per axis, one on each end). The photo interrupter boards and the steppers motors both connect into the motor driver boards, which in turn connect to the microcontroller.