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Motors, Controllers Animate Giant Clock

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 3:46pm
Galil Motion Control, Inc.

East Carolina University is using a Galil DMC 4143 multi-axis motion controller to power components of the Sonic Plaza, a multimedia art piece on campus. The Sonic Plaza is one of 62 public artworks in North Carolina's Artworks for State Buildings collection. The Sonic Plaza is considered the most ambitious and interactive project in the program. The piece combines art, architecture, technology and student participation. The result is a lively, interesting public space that brings a sense of place to the campus.

The Sonic Plaza consists of four different elements: The Media Glockenspiel, which is controlled by the Galil Motion Controller; the Sonic Gates; the Percussion Water Wall; and the Ground Cloud. The Galil controller moves the sculpture that come out of the clock.

The Galil DMC-4143 connected to an Apple Mac, moves the sculptures for four shows daily, from their place inside the clock tower, out through the door and into the center of the Glockenspiel. The Mac runs a JavaScript-based program that calculates sunrise and sunset and sends a pulse to the controller to trigger the movement for those shows. For the other two shows at noon and midnight, signals are sent based on actual clock time. Each sculpture must travel different distances out the door and appear exactly at the apex of its show.

“We upgraded to the DMC-4143 because of its smaller size and built-in Ethernet,” said Carl Twarog, Sonic Plaza Curator. “The Ethernet connectivity gave us the flexibility to have more distance between the Mac and the controller because we connect the devices remotely.”

To accomplish this movement, two of the DMC-4143’s axes are used to move the sculpture. One axis commands the trolley motor, a Bodine DC motor powered by a Minarik amplifier, which orients the appropriate sculpture perpendicular to the face of the Glockenspiel. The second axis commands another Bodine/Minarik combination to move the sculpture out the door to hit the apex of the show.  

Twarog and his engineering team inherited a Galil DMC-2020 with a serial connection to a Mac from the original design. His main objective as curator is to keep the Sonic Plaza running as economically and reliably as possible, which is why he upgraded to the DMC-4143. As a state and national cultural resource, the Sonic Plaza must be kept running forever.

“Carl wanted to continue using our controllers because of the demonstrated success, proven reliability and dependably of our products. Another huge factor was technical support. He knew if they  had a problem with the controller they could call our technical support team and the problem would get resolved quickly,”  said Ann Keffer, Director of Marketing at Galil Motion Control.

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