Final Project – The Wall Map

Hey Fellas!

Finally, my final Fabrication and Physical Computing project is done!

It was a long and painful process and I am going to talk about some details of it here:



The number of walls between nations has increased dramatically over the past decades, specially after 9/11. Fear, insecurity, migration and recent events like the refugee crisis or the deplorable terrorist attacks, are some of the reasons that have deeply influenced the decisions made by governments to build physical walls to protect their borders from their country neighbors.


An interactive wall installation that aims to create awareness about borders and walls between countries around the world.¬†Even though we may be aware of this information, looking at the “big picture”, as this project intends to show, allows the user to look at how the number of boundaries has changed our contemporary political world map.


The map made of a big piece of acrylic (60 inches X 40 inches) and about 500 LEDs that together stand in one a metal structures (the ones that hold the white boards). There is also an enclosure that should stand in a platform where the user will control what is being displayed in the map and a sensor that will trigger the projector.


From the first prototype:

wall map

To the final piece:


  1. The size: From the beginning we wanted our piece to be big, but also to have a structure that would make it easy for us to move it around. So we thought about using the metal structures that hold the white boards from ITP. Once we were authorized to take one, all of our process was focused on making a map with those specific proportions.
  2. The materials: Once we had the size of our map defined we started prototyping with materials. For the background and countries, we knew we would have to use the laser cutter to make the shapes so, as I showed in previous posts, we have experimented with paper, wood, acrylic, foam cor and many other things. In the end acrylic was the best option for these reasons: we had very tiny country shapes that did not cut so well in any other materials, we needed to tiny cut holes for the leds in the background, and that also only worked with acrylic. As for the lighting the borders, we have tried LEDs, LED strips, El wire, Optic fiber, Neo Pixels etc. Our best option in the end was the 3mm LEDs, also because of the tiny parts in the map that needed to be illuminated individually
  3. Putting it together: Because we had planned so much our process, putting it together in the structure was quite easy. We measured where the holes needed to be placed to fit the structure and drilled those. We had a little incident when drilling the hole in the acrylic for the first time and it ended up cracking up:

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To fix it we used acrylic glue and also put a piece of acrylic in the back as an extra support:


We also made some acrylic pieces that hold the 4 pieces together:




Then we had to solder 500 LEDs and to do that we divided them by decades and then in groups of 4 or less in serie. Each decade had a color which we outlined the group of LEDs with in the back of the map:


And stripped only the parts of the wires the were necessary to make sure that one wouldn’t touch the other:


We had to be extra cautious with the soldering process because in the end we knew that the back would be kind of a maze:

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This is how the LEDs looked from the front:


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