An Impossible Object That Would Make M.C. Escher Drool [Video]

It casts three different shadows, depending on the angle of light!

That object you see above isn't a box made of McDonald's coffee stirrers by a meth addict. Nope, "Shadow Cloud" was fabricated using 3-D printing, and it hides a bit of clever magic: Those little panels in the grid seem random, but they actually align at certain angles, thus creating distinct 2-D patterns. Three separate patterns, in fact.

Which means that when you shine a line through the thing, it creates three separate shadows. Prepare to be amazed:

For obvious reasons, that particular piece is called "Thru Religion," and it was created by Drzach & Suchy—it makes perfect sense that the duo has a grad-level background in architecture (that's Drzach) and crytopgraphy (Suchy).

It goes without saying that if not for 3-D modeling and rapid prototyping, this thing would be essentially impossible to make, unless some monk dedicated years to the effort. Instead, it's a computer model that you pop into the rapid-prototyping machine, and emerges a few hours later.

We can't wait to see how Drzach & Suchy extend and apply the idea. They tell Co.Design that they're working on a larger installation that will display an entire three-word message (you can see a version of that idea at :40 of the video above.) And they're also considering using tiny solar panels as building blocks (similar to this project)—"so that the clouds can spin using its own energy," as they tell us.

The mind races: You can imagine all sorts of cool objects, ranging from lampshades to full-blown furniture—imagine a chair that casts a shadow of another, different chair, or a dining table that casts shadows of delicious bacon, duck or ice cream, depending on the time of day. Which reminds us, we should go eat breakfast.

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  • Randy Simmons

    Cliff – enjoyed the Escher piece, however they may have stumbled on something even more clever without knowing it. A dumbed down version of this could be fabricated as a solar screen to let light through during the appropriate hours of the day yet provide significant sun shading at the more severe moments. With computer simulation you could adapt the screen for the specific geography of the project. I could also see a long linear element with different messages built in that could be installed as a screen element for a building. The message or branding would be cast as a movable shadow as the light changed along the building. Thanks for putting this idea forward.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Sean---I'll bet the chair you're talking about was one designed by Joris Larmann or Freedom of Creation. In that case, it's the same technique---SLS, or selective laser sintering. Check out our archives for lots of cool examples of what it can do!

  • Sean

    There's a chair in the design section of the St Louis Museum of Art, such that is credited as having been made using lasers and polymers. I'm not sure how closely the technique by which that simpler chair was created may resemble the 3D Printing technique used in the work displayed here, but it sounds like it could be similar, in principle, at least.