Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

BUBBLEGRAM MEMORIES

I HAD FORGOTTEN the word “bubblegram” until I got out my collection of them. According to Wikipedia, “A bubblegram (also known as laser crystal, 3D engraving or vitrography) is a solid block of glass or transparent plastic that has been exposed to laser beams to generate three-dimensional designs inside.”

Yep, that’s what they are.

Most of my collection. They’re posed on an art stool cushion to offer an idea of scale.

How They’re Made. A laser can be focused to an extremely fine beam, which is how these minutely detailed engravings are produced. Each image is composed of a multitude of tiny fractures within the material, each fracture caused by a focus of laser heat at that precise point. The laser is computer-controlled, a typical image within a 2-in. cube requiring tens of thousands of such points.

Wikipedia says, “Glass block bubblegrams of Russian origin entered international commerce as novelty items in the late 1990s, but high prices and the predominantly simple, inartistic subject matter severely limited market penetration.”

“In the early 2000s, a much less expensive, more visually appealing and highly diverse array of Chinese-made bubblegram novelties achieved wide commercial success in the United States, to the extent of becoming a fad: representations of monuments, corporate symbols, religious imagery, mythical creatures and nature scenes appeared in gift shops.”

My London Eye. Back in 2016 when I described an earlier visit to the London Eye, I wrote about a bubblegram’s interconnected points having different index of refraction from the rest of the cube.

London Eye.

My trip around London, in the vertical sense, was quite a treat.

BMW M Power. BMW introduced its V-8-powered M5 series in 1998. This bubblegram of its M Power was a memento of the car’s introduction.

BMW M Power.

It was a memorable visit, involving one of my favorite Bavarian locales, Tegernsee, and one of my favorite Bavarian beverages, Ayinger beer.

SAE 100. In 2005, the Society of Automotive Engineers celebrated its 100th birthday with a fine bubblegram.

Several views of SAE 100.



Established in 1905, the Society of Automobile Engineers had 30 founding members, including as its first vice president a fellow named Henry Ford. When I worked at SAE in the mid-1970s, it was the Society of Automotive Engineers. The name change to SAE International came a year after its 100th anniversary.

Michelin’s Bibendum. The French artist Marius Rossillon, known as O’Galop, originated the Michelin Man in his 1898 image “Nunc est Bibendum, Latin for “Now is the time to drink.” The image celebrated Michelin tires’ resistance to broken glass.

Michelin’s Monsieur Bibendum.

“Bib,” to those of us who know him from his involvement in motorsports, is a familiar corporate image in the automotive world.

A Globe. Not all bubblegram art is embedded within the crystal. Wife Dottie gifted me with this fine globe.

Though I’ve chosen to show the details of North America, what’s really impressive on any globe is the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

Nissan 360. There’s no Nissan Z-car associated with the number 360. The Fifth-generation 2001 350Z led directly to the 2009 370Z.

Nissan 360.

In June 2004, the company celebrated its 360-degree commitment to the world automotive market with this bubblegram of a 350Z engraved with 26 model names including the tiny Micra, the Maxima, and the Armada.

GM Sequel. In the early Oughts, GM was bullish about fuel-cell cars, with the Chevrolet Sequel as a concept sports utility vehicle. Alas, this fine bubblegram was the only example built in any numbers.

GM Sequel fuel-cell SUV.

The Sequel concept vehicle had excellent cred: Its onboard hydrogen gave it a super-clean range of around 300 miles. However, the cost of fuel-cell hardware in 2006 precluded any more than a Chevrolet-Equinox-based fuel-cell test fleet. The Sequel platform, sans fuel-cell, became the basis for the gasoline-fueled 2009 Chevrolet Traverse.

Apart from several lovely pieces of bubblegram art, that’s the state of my collection. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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