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A Tactile Steam Turbine In The Exhibit Builder’s Collection

In November, a new interactive model of a steam turbine will be added to the Energy and Technology Museum Energy Exhibition collection. Until now, the museum has exhibited a model of a building (a former power plant), a steam boiler and a model of the general plan of Vilnius City. The models accurately illustrate the objects they represent, are tactile and have recorded soundtracks that tell the story of their operation and the history of the power plant.

Suitable for the visually impaired

During the project, the museum worked with the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “The Association representatives told us how big the model should be and what it should highlight. As there are more visually impaired than blind people, certain parts of the model are illuminated by touching it, while small, sharp, minor details were removed. The blind and visually impaired community is large and close-knit. It is encouraging to hear that the galleries have tactile works, but there is still a shortage of technical and engineering exhibits,” said the project’s author, curator of the museum’s Electronics Workshop Andžej Kuldoš.

Andžej Kuldoš

3D scanning and printing company “Idėja 3D” has scanned the steam turbine in the museum. Its parts have been recreated from plastic and metal parts. Durability was an important factor in the choice of materials, as the new exhibit will be touched frequently. In addition, the parts inside the steam turbine were accurately modelled in three dimension.

“The turbine was reproduced in the model to within 0.2 millimetres by a hair’s breadth,” said Kuldoš. “The biggest challenges of the project were the production and reprinting. Once the support of the large model parts were printed, they had to be removed, sanded and polished – a lot of fine and precise work. It is only when you start assembling and gluing the parts that you notice the need to adjust – some moving parts are stuck. Some of the necessary parts we printed ourselves at the museum. We had to re-model or rethink additional fasteners to make the exhibit withstand the high flow of visitors. In addition, we have opened up the generator in the model, which is still sealed in the original, so that it can now be seen by the blind and the sighted as well.”

Turbine illustrated by augmented reality

Exhibits workshop

A model is a visual demonstration of what’s inside a turbine and the physical principles behind its operation. “The operation is very simple, no different from today’s more sophisticated turbine generators. As shown in the model, two elements – the turbine and the generator – are connected on a single axis, interacting with each other and converting the steam energy into rotational energy, which in turn is converted into electricity. But the key part of the exhibit is the audio narrative. I was curious to hear what the museum guides tell visitors, how they get interested in technical objects and what people find interesting,” said the electronics engineer.

Power plant director Juliušas Glatmanas (in the center) and workers at the steam turbine installation. Unknown author, 1929. Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania

The Energy and Technology Museum often makes new exhibits rather than bringing out the collections from the archives where they are kept. “We actually produce a lot of exhibits. We have excellent facilities for this – modern, well-equipped workshops. The adapted spaces, the displays where we can show new collections, the technical knowledge of the staff, the fact that the guides respond to the visitors’ need to learn about engineering in a comprehensible way – all of these circumstances have created the conditions for the creation of the exhibit-making workshops,” said Kuldoš.

Turbine model

The exhibition was financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and Vilnius City Municipality. Partners – Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired and “Idėja 3D“. The model will be added to the Energy Exhibition on November 14th.

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