Stratasys, Inc. Eden Prairie, MN

In April 2009, Tommy Voeten, President of the New York City-based 1212-Studio, was asked to help illuminate the fabric roof of the stages for rock band U2's upcoming international 360 Tour. The roof would become part of the band’s LED video screen. 1212-Studio, Inc., a product design company, specializes in custom design and innovation of LED illumination products for the architectural and entertainment markets.

A custom LED-illuminated microphone, created by the Dimension 3D Printer.
The 360 Tour featured three identical stages, each holding 36 orange pods, called polyps, on the roof. Each polyp held eight pieces of illuminating LED fixtures to light the roof fabric in millions of colors. A total of nearly one thousand custom fixtures had to be designed, manufactured, and delivered within four weeks. To illuminate the double-curved fabric roof structure in full color, Voeten created an optical, mechanical, and thermal design product called U2BE (pronounced you-tube).

Voeten, who had invested in a Dimension BST 1200es 3D Printer from Stratasys in 2007, used the printer to create the fixtures.

According to Voeten, the most important test was the performance of the optical system as a completely assembled product. "We needed to avoid unwanted shadows or an uneven light distribution," he said. "In addition, the fit and function of the units had to guarantee a fast, hassle-free assembly of nearly one thousand units in a matter of days, not weeks."

Dimension 3D Printers use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology, a method of additive technology that puts down layers of thermoplastic materials to create a prototype. The Dimension-produced functional prototype helped to demonstrate proof of concept to the other team members. Three days after the printer began creating the part, Voeten flew to the United Kingdom to meet the team for final approval. The next day, the design went into full production.

The production of nearly one thousand U2BEs became an international venture. The units and optics were designed in New York City, LED electronics and drivers were custom made in the United Kingdom, and the housing was manufactured and assembled in Belgium. The entire design for the stage LED lighting fixture, U2BE, simulation, and validation was completed in eight days.

After successfully completing the LED polyp project, Voeten received a second request from U2: to build a custom LED-illuminated microphone for lead singer Bono. It was to be suspended from a steel cable, enabling the performer to swing from the "U2MIC" device.

Voeten's team was able to print several design iterations and sections of the microphone in order to examine and optimize the pressure points and light distribution within the rings and between all the components.

The final illuminating ring is composed of two FDM shells that are assembled together. The interior shape consists of a support structure to divide pressure among the electronics and LED components, without hindering the light transmission of the shell design itself. The ring design had to be strong enough to hold the pressure of a full body weight without deflecting and crushing the internal components.

Besides the illuminating ring, a separate compartment was printed by the Dimension printer to hold all of the electronic parts, batteries, and other components included in the microphone. Tools were printed to simplify the assembly and to increase the consistency between the custom U2MIC units.

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Lighting Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of Lighting Technology Magazine.

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