Three Times Square

Recently I am experiencing three big cities in at most 6 months; Seoul, Shanghai, and New York. All of three cities take important roles in the world and also have something in common; a big river. It was a great experience for me, so I wanted to celebrate and express them at this assignment.


However, with my another thought about the ‘visualizing time‘ which was my recent obsession with the physical computing class, I suddenly thought that combining these two insights would be greater.

1. There are three (or four) of acrylic square sheets engraved with each city’s major road maps, combined with a case.
2. LEDs are separately set at the bottom of each acrylic sheets.
3. Users could set a specific time via a potentiometer, and when they turn on the switch, the LEDs turn on gradually.
4. Therefore, we can naturally see the time visually with the city.

(From this line, I will focus more on the fabrication process)

Materials (Only Fabrication)
 – 1 Acrylic Panel (24″ x 12″)

Step 1: Case Design
Through one of last year’s blogs, I could get a site creating a custom case at The dimension was decided after considering the Arduino kit and breadboard as well as LEDs.


Step 2: Getting Roadmap Data
A well-organised road system of Manhattan gave me a big inspiration and this enabled me getting a vector roadmap file at Fortunately, the roadmap of Seoul and Shanghai were available as well!.


Step 3: Etching & Cutting
There were a bunch of layers in each of each city’s vector data on Illustrator, so simplifying the data was the key mission. I left only major roads of the city, hiding all of the minor roads and so on. Next, for the optimized and balanced image, I simulated and adjusted the each roadmap.


After that, I put them in squares and finalized the illustrator file for laser cutting.screenshot-2016-09-25-20-41-14

At the sequence of laser cutting, etching was very easy but cutting required four iterations.


After cutting, I temporarily assembled every part and checked any problems and solution as below;
– No stability in the case design –> fill black acrylic paint inside the case (not outside)
– Need to fix all of the connected parts –> Use a glue


The painting was not easy than expected. Brush strokes remained so I dried and painted it again. But it could not be perfect:

img_6670 img_6671

Used 6 modules of white 12v LEDs for lighting. The level of reflection on the top was high when space is bright, but also not became a big problem to see (and even common circumstances).




Seoul + Shanghai (I have to sand the bottom of squares due to the space gap)


Seoul + Shanghai + New York


(Light controller is not included)  img_6703  img_6706

If I could go further, I’ like  to make it full frame.

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  1. Good work. Usually those finger joint enclosures do not go together so easily. Glad to see you didn’t have any trouble.

    The lighting effect on the etched acrylic is nice, did you purchase special acrylic or is it typical clear acrylic?

    • It was just typical clear acrylic. The Leds I used were much brighter than I have thought. But I was guite unsatisfied with the housing 🙁 Maybe full frame would be better. As you said it was good, but not great haha

  2. I really like your work! It’s adorable!

    • Thanks Eric!! But I think the way of expression is too direct as well. Maybe I could make it abstract?! haha

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