When NASA goes outside of its scope of resources to ask for help, the situation must call for specialized skills and services.
This scenario was presented to the Austin, Texas-based video manufacturer Screen Innovations (SI) when NASA approached the company about the development of a screen that could be used on the International Space Station (ISS).
SI delivered, calling the finished product ViewScreen. Ryan Gustafson, chief designer, president and CEO of SI, says that collaborating with NASA on the development of the 65-inch ambient-light rejecting, zero-gravity screen is the culmination of the company’s competitive spirit.
Photos: ViewScreen is Out of This World
“Working with NASA is a dream come true. As a company SI is a fun-loving group of innovative, dedicated professionals who continue to push the envelope every day,” he says. “Since its founding in 1958, NASA has been devoted to innovation and to pioneering the age of space travel and exploration. It’s safe to say that SI has once again gone where no other screen company has gone before.”
Zero Gravity Projection
Addressing some of the challenges that went into engineering of the ViewScreen, Gustafson explains the zero gravity and dynamic mount locations were the biggest design hurdles the company encountered.
He says it was important that the screen could be easily deployed and mounted in any airlock in the station within seconds.
Gustafson points out that mounts are located in different locations so a universal approach wasn’t possible. To meet the challenge, SI came up with a mounting system that automatically equalizes and centers the screen so that it floats and centers in the middle of the airlocks, while pulling the screens 100 percent flat in zero gravity within a few seconds.
SI documents its relationship with NASA and development of the ViewScreen:
Throughout the process Gustafson notes that NASA actively participated in the design process and educated SI on the many obstacles the product would have to overcome in order to work as desired.
“There were several challenges we had to consider; how the screen would be used, fire hazards, maximum screen size, cycles/usages and storage dimensions,” says Gustafson. “When packed up the screen had to be a certain size and compact enough to move easily within the ISS. And, it had to unroll and set up quickly so we developed a custom ‘tube’ that allowed easy deployment in seconds.
“All the parameters provided by NASA would have never worked with any ambient light screen we had previously developed. The fact that Slate [a new SI product] was just released a few months before NASA contacted us was a match made in heaven. Originally NASA wanted our Black Diamond screen, but it wouldn’t have worked due to the consistent wear and tear [on the screen].”
Impacting the company beyond just the placement of a customized product on the ISS, Gustafson notes the technologies developed for the ViewScreen are being utilized for new projects the company is working on.
“We are currently developing two new screen technologies based on what we learned from the ISS ViewScreen 1,” he points out. “One is a top secret for the military and the other will be the most amazing motorized product you have ever seen. We also just released the Slate .8, the first massive black ambient-light screen to give customers a more Black Diamond-like appearance with unlimited sizes.”
Gustafson says SI was humbled to be chosen by NASA, which had visited screen companies that exhibited at the 2014 InfoComm show. Following up on the trade show visit, NASA then visited SI at its Austin facility. That was the beginning of a new relationship for the company that will result with more product developments.
“The passion the astronauts and the [NASA] team have is right in line with the spirit of SI,” emphasizes Gustafson. We have already begun several new projects together that will yet again blow your mind … space it’s the ultimate environment. If we can put a screen there, we can put a screen anywhere on earth.”