Huge Portland Design Week project

It’s great to hear from polargraph people from around the world, and I was especially pleased when it turns out they’ve had zero problems, and have added their own features to the standard kit.

IMG_1725You can see this is a big machine (12ft wide, 8ft tall), drawing some promo stuff for for an agency in Portland. Notice the extra pulleys that have been added to reduce the drop of the counterweights – liking that.

This isn’t merely a really big machine though: The makers, Olivier and Evan spend 55 hours drawing the motorbike above and decided they could do better, and came up with a very sweet little script that will read your optimise the saved command queue and … make it efficient!

motorcycle_originalAbove is what the original pen path looks like. No surprise it took 55 hours really. The path planning has never been efficient, and just draws the file as it reads it, from top to bottom.

Running an exported command queue (previewed above) through this Polargraph Optimizer results in:


Which I think we can agree is much more sane. Evan reckons this is 3 1/2 times faster, and I don’t doubt it. Brilliant!

Thank you to Olivier, Evan and Squishymedia for supporting the project, and for giving back too. I’m going to try and pull those algorithms into the Polargraph controller at some point, but until then, I’d recommend that anyone doing really complex drawings should have a look at this.

Most of the things I end up talking with folks about about are troubleshooting and helping get things working, and I feel endlessly guilty about putting you through all that. It’s really gratifying and refreshing to hear success stories – and when someone cares enough to contribute, it means a lot. Even if it is embarrassing because it shows up all the bits I never got around to finishing…

Source: Polargraph Optimizer on github


6 thoughts on “Huge Portland Design Week project

  1. Amazing work, Evan and Olivier! Thanks for sharing.

    In the past I’ve used the “Reorder Paths for speed…” extension for Inkscape, created by Evil Mad Scientists as part of their Eggbot tools. For one of my more egregiously jumbled SVGs, it got an 18hr draw time down to ~9hrs, IIRC. If this new optimizer is even more effective….you guys are boss!

  2. Hi Kongorilla,

    Evan’s optimizer should be fairly similar to the extension you mention. Both options determine the next line to draw by looking at the closest starting point only. His ‘reversing’ branch also checks the reverse of each line which in our limited testing shows quite a substantial improvement (2x quicker than the non-reversing one for a test drawing of a street map we looked at). He’s still testing that branch a bit more before he’ll merge it into master.

  3. How do I get the script to work? I have never used python and have wasted so much time trying to figure out how to use this to process the map file. I have downloaded python 3.5 and been trying to execute the program with notepad ++, but I am unsure what file I need to launch, if anything needs to be changed or modified within the process file.. and so on. All I get is the program just hangs and never outputs an optimized map. Can anyone explain the process in simple terms, I would greatly appreciate it!!

    • No not yet. Part of the reason is that it’s takes a long time, and I’ve never had a good way to show that something is happening but you’ve got to wait – to give feedback during long operations.

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