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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My small theater room is currently in the process of being rebuilt. Brick walls, a concrete ceiling, and wood floors translate to a room which rings like a bell. I've finally got some furniture in place and will be adding an area rug, but I also figured it might be useful to add a few acoustic panels to help absorb some of the wall reflections where possible. I looked at the options and found a number of how-to guides for building fabric covered panels, but that seemed a little boring. I then found a few sites that would print up movie poster style panels which seemed perfect. What didn't seem perfect was the $500+ asking price for each panel! I figured there had to be a better way, where "better" == "cheaper".


In short, an acoustic panel consists of a frame supporting the absorbing material wrapped in absorbing or transparent fabric. I'll cover each of these items separately, followed by a build log detailing the construction process.

Absorbing Material

The first order of business is some material to actually absorb the sound. There are plenty of guides for DIY panels around the internet, and the general consensus seems to be that Owens-Corning 703 glass fiber panels work pretty well. Roxul mineral board or mineral wool is another favorite. There are also plenty of lower-priced equivalent materials with similar specs from other companies. You can find this material online or check with a local insulation dealer. These materials are typically used for HVAC insulation, so you might find HVAC suppliers will carry what you're looking for as well. The standard size is 2' x 4'. In my case I had a local dealer which had JM 1000 panels in stock in the size I needed for $8 each out the door. As an aside - when I stopped by the local insulation shop looking for OC703 or equivalent, the guy I was talking to asked if I was making acoustic panels. Apparently I'm not the first person they've talked to about this kind of project! Anyway, don't be afraid to call up your local insulation guys - they do this stuff for a living and can be a great source of friendly experience.


Without going into too much detail, thicker material will absorb better across the spectrum and will also absorb lower. If you check the spec sheet linked above, you'll find the following table which illustrates this pretty clearly:

1 inch will be an absolute minimum and you can go up to 4" with most panels. In my case, the room is small already so hanging 4" panels on the wall is a non-starter. I went with 1½" material just for aesthetic purposes. 2" seems to be a common choice. If you're going with non-OC board for a lower price (and I suggest that you do), you're going to want something that's 3 lbs/cu foot or more.

Frame

The frame material will surround and support the fiber board and provide a rigid surface for stretching the printed fabric. Again, there are plenty of guides for creating a frame online. Otherwise, check local art supply stores for canvas stretcher bars . These are pre-cut materials used by artists for creating strong, square frames to mount ("stretch") canvas for hanging paintings and the like. They are dead simple to work with and can be assembled with few or no tools. The downside is that you don't often have a choice for how deep the frame will be to allow for 2" or greater material. Also, they can be expensive once everything is ordered. If you haven't figured this out by now, I'm cheap, so I made my own. I chose to rip a 2x4" to create 1¼" bars then tacked on ¼" quarter-round shoe molding to create a 1½" deep frame. Total wood cost for the four 1'x3' frames was $15.

Art

Finally, you need the printed poster! For this you are going to need two things: some source artwork, and somebody to print it on fabric. You can find source art all over the internet. If you don't mind spending a couple dollars this can be a good source. Otherwise, google image search can be helpful. You are going to be blowing this up to poster size so you are going to need high-resolution images to start with. Anything under 1000-2000 pixels high is probably not going to look too good. In my case, I selected a series of four posters from the movie Goldfinger, blew them up a bit with third party software , then touched up the final results to smooth out the resulting image (having a professional photographer wife helps with these steps).


Next, you need to get this printed. There are loads of shops that offer digital canvas printing - you don't want this! Canvas prints are great for art reproduction, but are very thick and won't transmit sound to the material inside at all. What you want is printed fabric. Your options may vary depending on where you are, but I found Spoonflower in the US and they are great! They have a variety of fabrics, a super-easy to use website, and can print large-format fabrics for cheap. The site also allows you to share posters you've uploaded. You can find mine here and here . You can order a fabric sample set from them to get an idea of what the options are. The fabric needs to be thin enough to transmit sound while still being thick enough to allow a decent print. You'll want to stay away from stretchable materials as they will be nearly impossible to mount. After reviewing the sample set then ordering a couple printed samples, I've found that the standard "quilting weight" fabric offers the best balance between print density and acoustic transparency. [update: mtbdudex is a stud and tested the Spoonflower "Quilting Weight" fabric for acoustic transparency here . Short version - it works great!] My order for the 4 posters came to $36 shipped and arrived in about 2 weeks with standard shipping.


After additional materials (some adhesives, fasteners, etc), this whole endeavor added up to just under $80 for 4 panels. That's more my price!


Full length view of 4 completed panels


Corner detail


Build Process

First - a disclaimer. This isn't intended to be a "how to", rather it's more of a build log of how I made my first panels. My woodworking skills would charitably be described as "novice". Feel free to adapt and improve upon what you see here, and don't assume that just because I'm doing it one way that you shouldn't do it another.


The first step is to build out the frame. I'll be making the remaining three panels which are 1'x3' each. I'm starting with a few lengths of 2x4 that I bought from HD because they were cheap. I then ripped them down to 1¼" square for the body of the frame. You can likely find pre-cut pieces to fit your project at the local lumber yard, or you might get them to cut the pieces for you.


I then tacked a ¼" shoe molding to the bars to create the stretcher bar. The idea is to create a narrow point of contact around the edge for the fabric so the wood frame underneath doesn't show through as much. For whatever reason this method doesn't appear in any of the DIY panel guides I've read, nor is it used for any of the (mostly overpriced) DIY "kits" for making your own panels. I don't know why this is - in the art world you simply don't stretch a canvas over a frame without doing something similar. Here is an end view of the pieces before cutting, and a shot of the molding being tacked to the frame. I've highlighted the outline in red to give you a better view of the profile. I'm using a brad nailer here, but you can use a regular hammer and nails if you want. Just make sure to use small nails (brads) to keep from splitting the wood.


Once the molding is attached, use a miter saw to cut the pieces to length. You can get a cheap miter box from your local hardware store for $10-$20 if you don't have one. I'd really recommend against just cutting this by hand without either a miter box or chop saw or similar - you're going to want these cuts to be 45° on the nose. Here's a look at the cutting process, along with the finished edge and finally the parts for 3 complete frames (six 3' pieces and six 1' pieces).


Next you need to assemble the frame. Some corner clamps help here, or just use a square edge and some normal clamps. Run some wood glue along the inside mating surfaces in the corner, then tack each corner with nails or counter-sunk screws. Once these are together, sand them down so the outside edges are smooth. If necessary, throw some wood filler in any gaps you might have. It doesn't have to be pretty, just relatively uniform in color without any gaps or uneven edges.




For these next few steps I'm going to be handling the bare fiberglass. This is nasty stuff, something a trip to the urgent care clinic taught me at a very young age. At a bare minimum, wear long sleeves, gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask. You really don't want this crap in your lungs or eyes (trust me on this), and it's irritating on your skin too. Do not screw around here - the gear is cheap.


First you need to cut the panel. Here I've laid my frame on top of the piece of fiberglass and used a marker to mark the edges. You can then use a box cutter or similar to cut through the panel. Once it's cut it should fit relatively snug inside the frame.


Once the panel is fit into the frame you might want to take the additional step of using an adhesive to make sure it stays put. I've run a bead of Liquid Nails along the edge and then smoothed it down with a disposable brush. I'm using the "projects" type as it's easy to work with and happens to match the color fairly well so it won't be visible afterwards.


Finally it's time to get the print stapled to the frame. First, make sure the work is ready to mount by ironing out any wrinkles. If it's dirty for whatever reason, run it through the wash. Remember - this is fabric intended for use with clothing, so ironing and washing is OK! Once the art is ready, center the piece on the frame and tack it in the middle of each edge. You'll be working from the back (still with gloves!), so it might take a couple tries to get it lined up perfectly. Don't be afraid to pull staples and try again if needed.


Now work your way out from the center of each edge. Once you get to the corners, you will need to square off the corners like a bedsheet. I've kept the folds on the top and bottom of the frame as those will likely be less visible than the sides.


Once you've got the entire piece stapled, you are going to want to add some sort of backing material to keep the fiberglass from getting into the air in your room. I simply used an old white bed sheet, you can use whatever you might have lying about the house. The color and condition shouldn't really matter as nobody is going to see it anyway.


After everything is stapled, you'll probably still have a few minor wrinkles. I've found wrinkle releaser from your local grocery will work wonders. Just spray the final panel down with this stuff and the wrinkles will pretty well disappear. Now add a sawtooth picture hanger, hanging wire, cleats, or whatever works best on your wall to get it mounted. I used a sawtooth hanger because I'm mounting to a rough brick wall which prevents me from any chance of actually firmly mounting these panels. You might find using a simple cleat will provide a stable solution to mount to more traditional walls.


Once it's mounted, you are then ready for the final and most important step - taking pictures and posting them here!
 

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Wow great post! I too was looking into printed AT fabric but got turned away from the high costs. I am definitely going to give tihs a go. Thanks for sharing!
 

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luma;

awesome find on these and timely post, as I'm looking at local source for doing same, Acoustic artwork for side wall absorber panels, but the source you linked has done this before.


For sake of a simple Q, I assume the fabric you got obviously pass's the breath test, have you done freq measurements to see how it passes/blocks freq for objective data?

I'd like to see that data.

If not, could you in near future?

Quote:
Originally Posted by luma /forum/post/20036196


Next, you need to get this printed. There are loads of shops that offer digital canvas printing - you don't want this! Canvas prints are great for art reproduction, but are very thick and won't transmit sound to the material inside at all. What you want is printed fabric. Your options may vary depending on where you are, but I found Spoonflower in the US and they are great! They have a variety of fabrics, a super-easy to use website, and can print large-format fabrics for cheap. The site also allows you to share posters you've uploaded. You can find mine here and here . You can order a fabric sample set from them to get an idea of what the options are. After doing this and then ordering a couple printed samples, I've found that the standard "quilting weight" fabric is the best option for my needs. The fabric needs to be thin enough to transmit sound while still being thick enough to allow a decent print. Also, stay away from stretchable materials as they will be nearly impossible to mount. My order for the 4 posters came to $36 shipped and arrived in about 2 weeks with standard shipping.
 

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Discussion Starter #5

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex /forum/post/20036482


luma;

awesome find on these and timely post, as I'm looking at local source for doing same, Acoustic artwork for side wall absorber panels, but the source you linked has done this before.


For sake of a simple Q, I assume the fabric you got obviously pass's the breath test, have you done freq measurements to see how it passes/blocks freq for objective data?

I'd like to see that data.

If not, could you in near future?

I don't have all of the rest of the pieces together to get this data quite yet but when I do I'll update.
 

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I'm going to have to jump on the bandwagon. Great post. The timing couldn't be better for our build. Thanks much.
 

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How much did those cost you? It looks like they charge the yardage price and then its kind of unclear about how much the printing costs.
 

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Discussion Starter #9

Quote:
Originally Posted by adammb /forum/post/20039530


How much did those cost you? It looks like they charge the yardage price and then its kind of unclear about how much the printing costs.

The yardage price is the printing price, plus a small shipping fee, minus a "designer discount" which pretty much wipes out the shipping fee. You're probably confused because the price is so low! In the case above, two of the posters fit on a single yard of 42" wide quilting weight cotton, which is $18. That's the printed cost. If you submit your own design, they knock 10% off the per-yard price. In my case, that balanced out the shipping fees, so I wound up paying $36 for two yards shipped.
 

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Nice job, I will have to save the link for the printshop.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by luma /forum/post/20039799


The yardage price is the printing price, plus a small shipping fee, minus a "designer discount" which pretty much wipes out the shipping fee. You're probably confused because the price is so low! In the case above, two of the posters fit on a single yard of 42" wide quilting weight cotton, which is $18. That's the printed cost. If you submit your own design, they knock 10% off the per-yard price. In my case, that balanced out the shipping fees, so I wound up paying $36 for two yards shipped.
........................Are you serious. That is an insane deal. I will place my order soon then. I want to do 3 panels that will equal 6'x8' for my entry hallway to bring the echo down. That is so awesome. Thank you so much for this link.



I assume the performance is good. Is the pass through of the material pretty good?
 

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Do you have a recommended source image site? For large files of course
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by luma /forum/post/20039799


The yardage price is the printing price, plus a small shipping fee, minus a "designer discount" which pretty much wipes out the shipping fee. You're probably confused because the price is so low! In the case above, two of the posters fit on a single yard of 42" wide quilting weight cotton, which is $18. That's the printed cost. If you submit your own design, they knock 10% off the per-yard price. In my case, that balanced out the shipping fees, so I wound up paying $36 for two yards shipped.

From your experience do you think they could print these Astrophotography images I took? With good resolution. If so, I'm sold on them!


example:



or



Thx for your time.
 

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Discussion Starter #15

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex /forum/post/20040143


From your experience do you think they could print these Astrophotography images I took? With good resolution. If so, I'm sold on them!

You can order an 8"x8" sample to get an idea of the print density. My concern would be washing out the blacks in your image. Another constraint might be the 40MB file size limit.


From their site
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoonflower /forum/post/0


Creating Custom Fabric at Spoonflower is Easy!

1. Create a design

A Spoonflower fabric design can be a digital photograph or a scan of some artwork, or a design created in photoshop or illustrator.

2. Upload to Spoonflower

Acceptable file formats are JPG, PNG, GIF, TIF, SVG, AI, and EPS, and the file must be less than 40 MB. Vector files (AI, SVG, or EPS) are converted to PNG format during the upload process at a size chosen by you. Your design is always private unless you choose to make it public.

3. Select your Fabric, Size and Layout

In the Spoonflower fabric item previewer, you can choose your fabric, fabric size, and repeat style. The previewer will let you try any combination and show you how your design will look, with rulers running down the edges to give you a sense of scale. We have a variety of fabrics, and you can choose sizes from a single 8" by 8" swatch up to 5 continuous yards. Your design can be centered on your fabric, or you can put the design in a basic repeat, half-step repeat, or a half-brick repeat.

4. Check Out

Swatches are $5, with yards varying from $18 to $38. We accept major credit cards and paypal, and we have inexpensive domestic and international freight options starting at $1. We typically ship in under 10 days, and the custom shipping estimate for your order is shown in your shopping cart.

5. That's it!

Additional file details (for people who like to read instructions!)

Image Resolution: Set up your image at 150 dpi (dots per inch). If you want to design an 8"x8" swatch, for example, you'll want to upload an image that is 1200 pixels x 1200 pixels. The default print size of your image in pixel dimensions will be 150x the number of inches. Don't worry too much about this, you can specify a different one later when you are ordering fabric.

Repeat or Center: Once you upload your design to spoonflower, you can choose to either center it on a piece of fabric, or have us place the design in a basic repeat, half-step repeat, or a half-brick repeat. Details:
  • Center: Your design will be centered on the fabric. We will not alter the size or dimensions of the design. If the size of the design does not match the size of fabric order, the space around the edge of the design will be left unprinted.
  • Repeat: We will tile your design from the lower left corner up and to the right to fill the space of the fabric you order. If you upload an image larger than the area of fabric you order, then we will crop it back towards the lower left corner (e.g. the top and/or right sides will be cropped). The design will not be stretched or changed in its dimensions. The fabric preview will clearly illustrate the repeat.
  • Half-Step Repeat: This is like the basic repeat, except the design is repeated with a half-step upwards as you move to the right. Again, the fabric preview will illustrate this.
  • Half-Brick Repeat: This is like the half-step, but the design is repeated with a half-step to the right as you move upwards... like bricks in a garden wall - hence the name.
  • Mirror Repeat: Using mirror images on x and y axes, this layout tool creates fabric without seams: every edge pixel is identical to its immediate neighbor, so the seams disappear. Really... try it! Mirror works well with photographs or designs that have action at the edges that won't otherwise repeat smoothly. Definitely not a good option for images with text.
  • The fabric item previewer will allow you to click back and forth between these options in real time, so if you're having a hard time picturing a repeat option don't worry, its easy to just try it and see how it looks.

Color Notes: You can upload a JPG or other common image format and it will print nicely, however there may be colors in your image that can't be reproduced by pigments on fabric in our printer (very bright colors, absolute blacks, and very saturated colors, for example). Just a few quick tips:
  • Use lighter colors for backgrounds. Highly saturated dark colors over solid areas will not have the visual impact they do in the digital version of your design; they are more prone to flaws in the print process, and will not carry as much saturation when translated onto fabric. Any area of solid color larger than a few square inches will work best in a lighter tone.
  • Dark colors work well as foreground and detail elements, although they will render somewhat lighter than they do on your monitor.
  • Use contrasting colors next to each other. Subtler distinctions in shade (e.g. forest green vs. emerald green) won't transition as noticeably as the do on your monitor.
  • If you're not sure how something is going to look its a good idea to order a swatch or a fat quarter before purchasing fabric for your whole project. There are lots of fancy tools for managing color, but in the end you are the best judge of how your fabric looks. Most people have been pretty happy with how their designs turn out.
  • We have a color changer tool that enables you to pick any color in your design and change it to one of 171 different colors we've selected that print very nicely on fabric. Useful for tuning colors, and also useful for printing a design in different colorways... upload a design and have a try!
  • Finally, if you receive your fabric and you're not satisfied, just send us a note at [email protected] and we'll refund your order.
 

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Discussion Starter #16

Quote:
Originally Posted by adammb /forum/post/20040126

........................Are you serious. That is an insane deal. I will place my order soon then. I want to do 3 panels that will equal 6'x8' for my entry hallway to bring the echo down. That is so awesome. Thank you so much for this link.



I assume the performance is good. Is the pass through of the material pretty good?

You can move air through it, but it isn't totally "easy" to do. They do have a lighter weight "cotton voile" but the print density suffers greatly as it is almost gauze-like. The "quilting weight" seemed to be the best trade-off for transparency vs print quality. As I said the in OP, I ordered the sample kit which has all the various fabric options, then ordered a couple samples on quilting and voile as they appeared to be the closest options. YMMV, if you want to be certain, order the samples.
 

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It's my understanding that you need to be able to push air through the material in order for it to effectively pass the audio to your absorption panel. If that makes sense.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by luma /forum/post/20040484


You can move air through it, but it isn't totally "easy" to do. They do have a lighter weight "cotton voile" but the print density suffers greatly as it is almost gauze-like. The "quilting weight" seemed to be the best trade-off for transparency vs print quality. As I said the in OP, I ordered the sample kit which has all the various fabric options, then ordered a couple samples on quilting and voile as they appeared to be the closest options. YMMV, if you want to be certain, order the samples.
Quote:
Originally Posted by adammb /forum/post/20040555


It's my understanding that you need to be able to push air through the material in order for it to effectively pass the audio to your absorption panel. If that makes sense.

Ideally we'd get a nearfield speaker test without and with the material, and compare the frequency change, I like objective to back up subjective / gut feels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luma /forum/post/20040455


You can order an 8"x8" sample to get an idea of the print density. My concern would be washing out the blacks in your image. Another constraint might be the 40MB file size limit.


From their site

I'll call them directly, the 40MB file size limit I could manage, but need black as close to RGB black as their process is capable, as well as the other colors "correct" to the master image.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex
Ideally we'd get a nearfield speaker test without and with the material, and compare the frequency change, I like objective to back up subjective / gut feels.
I'd like to perform some of these tests as soon as I get a decent REW setup put together, but it might be a while before that happens. I'll update the OP if/when I get the needed parts together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex
I'll call them directly, the 40MB file size limit I could manage, but need black as close to RGB black as their process is capable, as well as the other colors "correct" to the master image.
Keep in mind that their service is geared around printing fabrics to be used for sewing dresses or whatever. I don't get the impression that laser-accurate color repro is their primary goal. It's just a coincidence that this service also fits well for my needs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by luma
I'd like to perform some of these tests as soon as I get a decent REW setup put together, but it might be a while before that happens. I'll update the OP if/when I get the needed parts together.



Keep in mind that their service is geared around printing fabrics to be used for sewing dresses or whatever. I don't get the impression that laser-accurate color repro is their primary goal. It's just a coincidence that this service also fits well for my needs.
luma;

I just called Spoonflower and working with Steve B will get a "swatch sampler collection" of 8" x 8"'s with my artwork printed on them.

From discussion with him using Photoshop CS5 and saving in RGB space they should be able to match my colors (I have calibrated monitor).

I'll also take freq tests also.

This way before I commit $$'s for the big panels I can tryout their color matching ability and know their frequency pass thru ability also.
 
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