Circadian Rhythm: A Mechanical Flower

So. It has been done. I created a functioning mechanical flower. If you missed my sneak preview post, here’s my fancy schmancy artist’s statement:


3D printed components, a Neopixel RGB LED ring, a servo motor, and an Arduino were assembled into a mechanical flower mimicking the changing temperature of ambient light in nature over a 24 hour period, as indicated by the opening and closing of the petals.

Artist’s Statement:

The rise of technology has changed humans’ light exposure. Instead of sunrise and sunset defining our work and sleep patterns, electricity and the resulting plethora of artificial lights and screens confuse the body’s ability to detect time. Though we have physical clocks to remind us of the hour, we can’t consciously control our body’s excretion of chemicals like melatonin that helps to control our sleep cycle.

Artificial lighting poses an problem for body clocks, yet instead of omitting this lighting, we prescribe another artificial solution in an aim to “fix” the problem, such as “sun lamps” that produce bluer light, or commercial lights that also mimic this circadian rhythm. My piece reproduces the correct temperature of ambient light, but through artificial means, further emphasizing this juxtaposition.

Through “growing” a mechanical flower with 3D printing, and brining it to life with electronics, I aim to not only provide a commentary on our tendency to use technology as a crutch for problems it itself created, but also to create an object that briefly reminds the body of its lost circadian rhythm. The repetitive cycle of the petals furling and unfurling captivate the viewer, while the subtle changing lights bring a brief respite from the monochromatic lightbulbs installed in buildings.

Mechanical Flower

My mechanical flower debuted at my Media Studies Art Show called “Neglected Fork”. You’d think that has some deep meaning, but it really had to do with this fork that kept being mentioned in our project statements, and the fact that there was a random fork in the 3D printing room. Well, the fork was actually helpful for unsticking the finished plastic from the glass base.

Mechanical Flower
When it’s closed the lighting reveals the hexagonal structure of the 3D printed petals.

The full 24 hour cycle doesn’t take very long, maybe about 20 seconds? This way the viewer can actually notice the changing colors and movement of the petals. Plus, the servo motor doesn’t have a lot of resolution; it only has 180 discrete locations it can turn, so it can’t behave like an analog clock and continuously move.

Mechanical Flower

The mechanical flower was received very well. It’s incredibly mesmerizing to watch, and I’m super happy that the battery pack ended up working out (I had to do some sketchy soldering to an 8-batter pack in order to only use 6 batteries with it). In the future I’d love to create a smaller, more compact version that would be easier to manufacture, as some of my classmates wanted one. I’d probably need to research into using the Atmega microprocessor without the Arduino packaging to really get it down in size, and make it look less like a prototype.

I’d love your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on my project!


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