Ferrofluid Art Display

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Revision as of 22:25, 14 March 2010




Team Members

  • Todd H. Poole (Mechanical Engineering & Electrical Engineering, Class of 2010)
  • Katy Powers (Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2010)
  • Max Willer (Material Science and Engineering, Class of 2011)

Mechanical Design

Todd An evolution of concepts. -Early sketches --Pros & Cons Decision of

Electrical Design



The code for the display setup consists of a GUI on the PC allowing the user to select which solenoids to turn on and off and code on the PIC to control the solenoids.


The PC side of the user interface was created with Processing, an open source programming environment with many options for interesting visual display. This code creates a display of circles arranged in the same way as the solenoids in our hardware, which will change from blue to green when clicked and output a character via RS232 to the PIC.

//Katy Powers
//ME 333 Ferrofluid Art GUI
//Lots of code taken from processing website and previous ME 333 labs..thanks!

// add the serial library
import processing.serial.*; 
Serial[] myPorts = new Serial[1];

//setup parameters for hexagonal array
//cx,cy define center position, rc is circle radius, sp is how far apart they are
int cx = 250;
int cy = 250;
int rc = 50;
int sp = 10;

//circleX and circleY store center locations of every circle in array
//solenoidON stores state of solenoid
//chararr stores characters corresponding to each solenoid
int[] circleX = {cx, cx + rc + sp,cx + 2*(rc + sp),cx - (rc + sp),cx - 2*(rc + sp),cx + rc/2 + sp/2,
cx + 3*rc/2 + 3*sp/2,cx - (rc/2 + sp/2),cx - (3*rc/2 + 3*sp/2),cx,cx+rc+sp, cx - (rc+sp),
cx + rc/2 + sp/2, cx + 3*rc/2 + 3*sp/2,cx - (rc/2 + sp/2),cx - (3*rc/2 + 3*sp/2),cx, 
cx + rc + sp,cx-(rc + sp)};

int[] circleY = {cy,cy,cy,cy,cy,cy + rc +sp,cy + rc +sp,cy + rc +sp,cy + rc +sp,cy + 2*(rc+sp),
cy + 2*(rc+sp), cy + 2*(rc+sp),cy - (rc +sp),cy - (rc +sp),cy - (rc +sp),cy - (rc +sp),
cy - 2*(rc+sp),cy - 2*(rc+sp),cy - 2*(rc+sp)};

int[] solenoidON = new int[19];
char[] chararr = {'a','b','c','d','e','f','g','h','i','j','k','l','m','n','o','p','q','r','s'};
PFont font;
PFont smallfont;

void setup()
font = loadFont("FangSong-48.vlw");
smallfont = loadFont("FangSong-16.vlw");
for (int i = 0; i < 19; i = i+1){ //zero array of solenoid values, mouse state data
  solenoidON[i] = 0;

void draw()
  textFont(font, 48);
  text("Ferrofluid Art", cx, cy-200);
  textFont(smallfont, 16);
  text("Click a circle to make patterns in the Ferrofluid", cx, cy + 200);
  hexagon(cx,cy,rc,sp, solenoidON);

void hexagon(int cx, int cy, int rc, int sp, int[] sols) //draws hexagon of cirlces
for (int i = 0; i < 19; i = i+1){
  if(sols[i] == 0) {fill(0,0,255);}
  else {fill(0,255,0);}
  ellipse(circleX[i], circleY[i], rc, rc);


void mousePressed() //executes when mouse is pressed, much like an interrupt routine
  float disX, disY;
  for (int i = 0; i < 19; i = i+1){ //see where mouse is
    disX = circleX[i] - mouseX;
    disY = circleY[i] - mouseY;
    if(sqrt(sq(disX) + sq(disY)) < rc/2 ) { //if mouse is in circle, toggle state and send character
      solenoidON[i] = 1 - solenoidON[i];
      println(chararr[i]); //to debug


The PIC side of the code runs an infinite while loop, executing an interrupt routine every time a character is received from the RS232. The PIC then updates the state of all the solenoids.





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