Origami by Andrew Anselmo

Other Projects

Puzzle Car

This Art Car was designed to be more of a semi-permanent ArtCar, capable of reaching normal highway speeds, and remaining intact in inclement weather without losing the effect of being an Art Car.

How it was done:

The first puzzle pieces were made from heavy plastic; the same as the kind used on loading docks to keep the building air (air conditioned or heated) from mixing with the outside air. These plastic strips are about 9" wide, and therefore limit the size of the puzzle pieces that can be cut. The were affixed to the car with strips of magnetic tape, which were sticky on one side. The color of the piece was added by flipping the piece upside down, cutting a rough piece of contact paper to size, affixing it, and trimming it.

The first puzzle piece templates were made by taking digital photos of a regular puzzle, then blowing them up about four times, running an edge detection algorithm, and printing them out. The edge detection algorithm was only used so that the printer would just print the edges of the piece; a sample is shown at left: (Puzzle piece after edge detection).

As I got better at making puzzle pieces, I departed from traditional forms, and made up my own pieces. In making certain sections of the Puzzle Car, I taped scrap paper to the car, and sketched the pieces that I wanted directly on the car. This also helped take care of compensating for the curvature of the car.

Summer 2001, Providence, Rhode Island

The Puzzle Car, First TryThe puzzle car made its debut at an informal ArtCar gathering in Providence, Rhode Island this summer. Only a few pieces were made. This was a test of the basic piece making algorithm, as well as a test of how well the pieces would stay on when together as unit at highway speeds. (The Puzzle Car, First Try)

The next step was to make more puzzle pieces. Also, instead of letting the pieces go over the car haphazardly, it was decided to use the profile of the sheet metal to give a more visually consistent effect. The advantage of this is that the car can be worked on in smaller chunks, and that the pieces stay on the car more tightly. At highway speeds, they might come apart.

The Puzzle Car, with additional pieces.
The Puzzle Car, with additional pieces.

Loss of a Few Easy Pieces

The Puzzle Car was doing fine, until one day, while at work, I decided to take some of the pieces and spread them out over the car, as if the puzzle was coming apart from front to back. This actually happened; unfortunately, the high heat of the day made some of the adhesive get a little gooey, and without my knowing it, a few pieces fell off as I was driving. I was still left with a majority of the pieces, so I realized that I had to keep watch on the temperature, and to make sure the puzzle was together, at least at moderate to high speeds.

High Temperature Pieces

Confronted with the problem of high temperature tile loss (lucky this isn't the Space Shuttle), I decided to use sheets of thin white plastic with magnetic backing, with contact paper on top to give color. These pieces were used where there would be higher heat and/or sharp curves in the sheetmetal of the car. Here, these types of pieces were used in the right front quarter panel and hood. Since they were lower profile, and fit more tightly together, they seemed to have better integrity. Also, the final effect is a bit crisper. I do have to find a place that has cheaper magnetically backed plastic.

Puzzle Car, from the right front, showing hood and quarter panel, and a closeup around the right hand indicator light.

For the rear of the car, the old style pieces were used:

Puzzle Car, right rear. Getting to fit the pieces under the rear spoiler was a bit
difficult, due the the curve of the sheet metal.

The Puzzle Car is an ongoing project. Some further explorations and comments:

  • Should I paint the plastic, or continue to use contact paper? I've hunted around, and there seems to be a limited range of contact paper colors. If I paint the plastic, I can get far more colors, and perhaps even make a real picture that the puzzle will form. However, the paint might chip, and it requires more time to put the puzzle together.
  • How much of the car should be covered; there is a nice "unfinished" effect that you get when some of the sheet metal is exposed.
  • It is possible to cover the car with the old-style heavy plastic pieces, but the curves of the car require that some cuts be made in the plastic; this is time consuming, and tougher to do. However, since the plastic and magnetic strips were culled from the junk heap, it's cheaper to do it this way.