Fluid Power Journal

Transforming Air and Light into Art

At the annual Amsterdam Light Festival, the best light artists from around the world light up the Amsterdam canals. From November 20, 2017, to January 21, 2018, visitors can once again enjoy the beautiful installations and works of art downtown, including a piece by artist Lambert Kamps. Pneumatics specialist Aventics supports the festival as a sponsoring partner.

With “Touch of Time,” a huge illuminated digital clock, the Dutch artist Lambert Kamps has created a pneumatically driven work of art.

“The underlying idea for ‘Touch of Time’ came about ten years ago when I wanted to control the amount of light by removing a light source. I managed to do so with a pneumatic control: I moved a translucent plastic tube with an LED strip back and forth in a gray PVC tube so that there would sometimes be more light and sometimes less. Turns out, I found this movement much more interesting than simply looking at the light.”

Since PVC tubes wear very quickly, Lambert Kamps sought professional assistance for his pneumatic project: In April 2017, he contacted Aventics to discuss his project with employees at the Dutch subsidiary in Boxtel.

“The project impressed us right from the start,” reports Geert-Jan Stöver, General Manager of Aventics Benelux. “At first glance, art and pneumatics have little in common. But at second glance, you will see that pneumatics, a simple and clean technology, offers the reliability Mr. Kamps needs to realize his project.”

The display measures approximately 10 meters wide by 5 meters high and incorporates 30 pneumatic cylinders. The aluminum cylinders, which measure approximately 1 meter long and 50 mm in diameter, were custom-made by a separate third party. Each cylinder houses a translucent polycarbonate piston that contains an LED strip inside to provide the light. The pistons travel back and forth inside the cylinders (like conventional pneumatic cylinders) and the lights are switched off once the piston is retracted fully inside the cylinder. The cylinders are actuated by the Aventics ES05 valves, connected via parallel wiring to a computer that’s running a program developed by the artist to generate the visual display.

The computer controller and the valves are housed in a control cabinet that sits outside to accompany the display, so the pneumatic valves needed to be durable for continuous operation in rugged environmental conditions with extreme temperature fluctuations.

The air lines from the valves to the cylinders are 8 mm (from valve to cylinder) and 12mm (as ring line power supply) in diameter, and the total length used is approximately 250 meters (of 8mm line) to 500 meters (of 12mm line).

The self-operating display runs off a 2.5 m3 compressor with approximately 1.8 bar of pressure, and a flow volume measuring approximately 500L/min to actuate all 30 cylinders.  

 “With this system, we offer our customers a particularly economic, user-friendly solution for applications in industrial automation – and in art, too,” chuckles Stöver.

Clear the Stage for Pneumatics

The general manager is particularly delighted that “Touch of Time” is featured at a prominent location, right across from the main train station, during the Amsterdam Light Festival. “Our pneumatics are in the spotlight.”

Lambert Kamps’ artwork displays more than just the time. The clock is also reflected so that it can be seen from both the front and back. “Touch of Time” also showcases various patterns and rhythms.

The ambitions of all those involved with “Touch of Time” go beyond the exposition in Amsterdam: There are also plans to display the artwork outside the Netherlands. As Dr. Peter Saffe, responsible for strategic sales at Aventics, explains “The ‘Touch of Time’ project makes clear that, as a well-known and proven technology, pneumatics can always be used in new applications.”

You can watch a video of the artwork at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcjYnr3B76o

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