This is the story of the Lumen, from the persective of it's creator - software developer and inventor Guy Munton Jackson.
My first glimpse into the world of handpans was via a South African band called First Project, and in particular an artist named Paul Boyter. He played the set featured in the video below, and like many who hear these instruments, I was instantly addicted to the sound.
The very same Paul Boyter played his handpan at my wedding, which rekindled my desire to get hold of one. Sadly I discovered that they are incredibly rare and expensive.
Frustrated by the general lack of availability, I resolved to try and make one myself. As a software developer, I thought there must be some way to reproduce the instrument electronically. Work began on the first version, intially called the Touchpan. Using extremely high tech TFPC™ (tin foil and paper clip) capacitive sensors, an SB™ (salad bowl) shell and no small amount of passion, progress was swift.
Realising that the TFPC™ capacitive sensors were faily limited when force was required, I started introducing piezo elements into the SB™ shell for vibration sensing, allowing for some degree of force response.
More piezo elements were added, and TFPC™ sensors were left exposed, but ultimately development hit a brick wall in terms of sensor accuracy.
After some tinkering, the TFPC™ capacitive sensors were thrown out entirely and replaced with piezo elements. The SB™ shell was modified to allow for independent and dampened vibration of the new sensors.
Numerous enhancements were made to the electronics, allowing for more sensors and better response. The sound of fingers tapping on the hard plastic was less than desirable though.
Local industrial design firm Denka was contracted to start turning my prototype into an actual product, now named the Lumen.
Demo the Lumen prototype (such as it is) to Dan and James from Soniccouture in the UK via Skype. Received some very positive feedback and offer of a source of their top quality samples and design assistance going forward.
A wooden prototype shell was commissioned from Morne Gerber, an extremely talented turner.
Wooden prototype is now fully functional after a number of sensor reworks. The sample device now includes two Halo tunings and two Original Hanpan* tunings, supplied by Soniccouture.
* Unfortunately the real name of the Original Handpan cannot be used for trade mark reasons
Met with Paul Boyter - the man who initially inspired this whole journey - and a friend of his to get some feedback on the new prototype. I was blown away by his response. Listening to such talented artists play the Lumen, and then to say that they want one, was more than I could have hoped for.
The next step will be the crowd funding campaign, as the Lumen is ready to head into full product development. The platform of choice is Indiegogo due to their support of international projects.