The Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows program was established by the Secretary of Defense in 1994 as a long-term investment in transforming US forces and capabilities and, as such, is a key part of the Department of Defense strategy to achieve its transformational goals. Fellows get to express a preference as to where they are assigned, and year after year, Autodesk is the most requested destination. Last night I attended a Secretary of Defense Fellows dinner at the Waterbar Restaurant which has a view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. This prompted a discussion of the bridge lights. This rekindled this old blog post about a former Autodesk Gallery exhibit.
At 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high, Bay Lights is the world's largest LED light sculpture — featuring 25,000 white LED lights that are individually programmed to create a never-repeating, dazzling display across the western span of the Bay Bridge. Shining from dusk until 2:00 a.m. for 2 years, the lights will inspire over 50 million people in the Bay Area, with billions more seeing it in the media and online. By conservative estimates, $97 million will be added to the San Francisco economy.
A small but important part of the Bay Lights project is a custom plastic clip that attaches the LED lights to the suspension cables on the bridge.
The design of the clip was completed using an iterative process:
A 3D model of the bridge suspension cable (to which the clips would attach) was created from photographs of the cables.
Design software was used to create a clip that exactly mated with the suspension cable. The first concept used a small plastic part to lock the LEDs on to pre-assembled rails, but this added complexity and installation time. A second approach eliminated the rails and enabled attachment using steel-reinforced zip ties.
55 clips were then 3D-printed and installed on the bridge. This confirmed the desired ease of installation and stability while also protecting the data cables from the stresses and strains of 2 years of outdoor exposure.
Some of the people/companies involved in the project include:
- Leo Villareal // more
- Gian Villamil (Autodesk) // more
- Guillermo Melantoni (Autodesk) // more
- Timothy Childs (Bay Lights Project) // more
- TechShop // more
Some of the software involved:
The clip design was refined and tested again before final adjustments were made to allow the manufacture of thousands of clips in a UV resistant polycarbonate via a two-part injection molding process. The solution allows for assembly of zip ties before work crews go out on the bridge, improving efficiency and safety of the team. It is estimated that several hundred thousand dollars were saved by the chip design.
The total project cost is specified as $8 million and is being covered by private donations. I have made donations to dedicate lights to:
- Sheryl Sheppard, my wife, (tower #1, cable #34, light #69) [first one, had not thought of the birthday thing yet]
- Stephanie Sheppard, daughter, (tower #2, cable #13, light #6) [her birthday is 06-13]
- Jeanene Price, mother-in-law (tower #1, cable #24, light #38) [her birthday is 01-24-1938]
Equally important as the funding is that the LED lights are environmentally friendly. They use hardly any electricity. The energy cost of operating the Bay Lights is less than $15 per night. This means that of the $8 million, less than $15,000 will be used for energy for the entire life of the project.
Thanks to Global Content Manager, Matt Tierney, for some of the text that comprises this blog posting. Bay Lights is just one of the many exhibits in the gallery at One Market in San Francisco. The gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and admission is free. Visit us.
Attachment is alive in the lab.