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Transforming a Blank Space into a Space Base

Space Base Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center aims to immerse visitors in its exhibits. An important element of that immersion is the transformation of the Center’s exhibit spaces with the use of wide format inkjet printing.

The most recent example is an exhibit opening this week at the Orlando Science Center that gives visitors an opportunity to sample what it would be like on a Mars space base. Appropriately, the exhibit is called Space Base.

Space Base Orlando Science CenterThe Space Base’s centerpiece is a Virtusphere, a self-propelled 4D virtual reality experience. Visitors don a head-mounted display and can walk around in the 10-foot rotating sphere, virtually sampling the Space Base environment.

Before the visitors enter the Virtusphere, the scene is set with inkjet-printed wall murals that replicate what one would see through the windows of the Space Base: the Martian landscape. The murals are printed on two walls, one which is 20 feet long and the other 25 feet long.

“For the Virtusphere we used data from Mars to recreate an accurate activity on the surface of Mars that visitors can go through and explore. For the theming I took one of the big surface murals from the Spirit rover and made a big bay window overlooking Mars. It’s all life-size so you feel like you’re there,” says Eric Vickers, Creative Manager for the Orlando Science Center.

Space Base Orlando Science CenterThe Orlando Science Center typically uses either LexJet PolyGloss PSA or LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric to prints its exhibit murals. As noted in the story behind the Curious George: Let’s Get Curious and Engineer It! exhibits, which used Print-N-Stick Fabric, Vickers chose LexJet PolyGloss PSA for the Space Base exhibit because of its gloss finish.

“I wanted it to have a clean, space-station feel. The sheen of the material makes the various parts of the space base look like a metal or plastic material, and not just matte white. The window looks like a window because it has that gloss and sheen to it,” says Vickers. “The PolyGloss also holds up real well to people touching it.”

The murals were printed on a Canon iPF9100 60” inkjet printer. Vickers used Canon’s Photoshop Plug-In to set up and print the 59”-wide vertical panels through Photoshop.

Space Base Orlando Science Center“The Canon plug-ins and driver are so great out of the box, and are very similar to Illustrator’s print controls. We use Illustrator as our main overall layout tool, then make individual art boards for each panel as needed before bringing it into Photoshop,” says Vickers. “We included an inch of overlap for each panel so we had some room for error. When we apply the panels, if we do it vertically from the top, stick the first 6-12” and get it evenly flush where we want it, we can then let it hang and it will flow well down the rest of the panel as we apply it.”

If you’re in Orlando, be sure to see this exhibit and immerse yourself in Mars. The new exhibit runs daily. Check www.osc.org/spacebase for current times.

Regan has been involved in the sign and wide format digital printing industries for the past two decades as an editor, writer and pundit. With a degree in journalism from the University of Houston, Regan has reported on the full evolution of the inkjet printing industry since the first digital printers began appearing on the scene.

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