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Open Animatronics

A modular, parametric and extensible Animatronics cad generation framework

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I have used BowerStudio to design a series of animatronic robot heads. The heads all have 2 forward facing eyes and one mouth, but besides that, most everything else is parametric. From doll head with micro servos up through huge wearable anamatronic heads! Long noses or short, Wide heads, 2 different sized eyes even!

in BowlerStudio, run:

https://gist.github.com/madhephaestus/e67b5f75f23c134af5d5054106e3ec40


For the maker, there is no specific servo, bolt or material thickness needed. You set parameters with slide bars and drop downs right in the 3d model your material thickness (as you measure what you have laying around), whatever servo you actually have, and whatever bolts ar handy.

All hardware measurements are pulled from here:

https://github.com/madhephaestus/Hardware-Dimensions

Help support me so I can keep doing things like this!


I built this script as part of a summer camp i taught this summer. We had 2 weeks with 18 kids and i want them to walk away with an awesome project. I also wanted them to be able to customize their robots and make them unique. I also had less than a month to make 18 of the kits, and design it, i knew i had to work fast.

I started in BowlerStudio and created a new groovy script. In the script i created LenghtParameters for all of the measurements i wanted to be able to change on the fly. I then used those measurements, and constants based on them, to construct all of the geometry of the head. I made the pieces one plate at a time, using the interconnection pieces as cutouts for the next plate. This ensured that each plate would make the exact fitting hole in the corresponding plate in exactly the same place.

I minimized the 3d printed parts to just the eye mechanism. It is a delightful mechanism. It is a 3d printed ball socket, that once assembled, prevents the ball from popping back out with no friction, and no friction to assemble. It als prevents z rotation using a radial axis pin constraint.

The whole pair of eyes worth of 3d printed parts takes about an hour to print, and a bed full of 12 eyes and ball sockets prints in 12 hours. The laser cut parts take about 11 mins to cut out of 3mm luan.

For Halloween this year, Technocopia Makerspace held a weekly event for the month of October. Over 5 weeks we would have one build day a week, and the plan was to do a set of Where The Wild Things are costumes. Another member showed up and wanted to do an Ork from Warhammer 40k, so I said "close enough!" and we added him to the group build. In addition i have been working on a hand puppet sized one so my other hand could have a mini one. The goal is to complete 3 wearable animatronic costumes, one mini one, and have them all done over 5, 8 hour days. Lets see how it goes!

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  • Make Costume Competition winners announced

    Kevin Harrington02/24/2017 at 16:02 0 comments
  • Assembling a head from the printed and laser cut parts

    Kevin Harrington12/29/2016 at 14:55 0 comments

    Here is a step-by step of the assembly of the animatronics part of the head. To get the printed pieces from bowler studio, right click on them and export to stl. NOTE! the two different color eye stocks are mirror images of each other and you need 2 of each! The connector cup however is universal and you need 4 of the same part. You need to print 10 pieces in total, and they all can be printed by a standard FDM printer during the period of time it takes to assemble the wooden sections. (which is why the printed pieces don't show up until the end ;)

    You can also get a glimpse of the first production prototype of the animatronics backpack for the NodeMCU that powers the system. It has screw terminals for the battery and 2 dc signals connected each to an h-bridge. The wiimote connects with a simple PCB connector and does not need to be modified for use with this kit. The servos all have thier own connectors, one per IO pin on the NodeMCU, although some conflict with the h-bridge, so when using it, you get a limited number of servos. It is quite frankly the most useful hacking tool i have ever used... Awesome Job Alex Camilo for designing, manufacturing, and assembling the whole backpack!

  • Morice's Day 6, Finished Build!

    Kevin Harrington10/31/2016 at 23:19 0 comments

    I finished Morice last night and he looks great!

    I started by draping the fur over the body foam to test the outline. It's a little skinny, but it's the last day, so i guess i'll just roll with it :/

    next I made a pattern using this floral print that we have a huge spool of.

    next I cut the fur pieces: for the body

    Next made sleeves and a set of claws to poke through the suit. These claws are terrible, but i guess thats the point?

    Next I added the arm to the body :

    And one more arm!

  • Morice's Day 5

    Kevin Harrington10/31/2016 at 23:05 0 comments

    On Day 5 i did all the fur work for Morice. I started with making the foam understructure of the body.

    Next I added loops to support the taller shoulders i will be building

    Next I added loops to make tall shoulders that match the profile of the head

    next I added a rough nosed foam to the frame, since it's secured to the frame,, you can wiggle it and it jiggles.

    next I added wider ribs to bulk him out. I think these were not stiff enough, and i would go with retal like Adam Savage's Totoro next time.

    next I started the fur, laying it down strip by strip, gluing it to the frame underneath. The face is a short tight curled brown, and the rest is a shag faux yak fur that a friend had laying around. Here I am forming the nostril by stitching from the corner of the nose to the center of the nostril.

    Next I add more fur

    Next I added the shag fu to the outside and draped it back to see how it looked

    Next i trimmed the fur and attached it to the frame

    Finally i added loops of fur strips below the bottom teeth to make s jawline:

  • Alexs Wild Thing Lawrence

    Kevin Harrington10/31/2016 at 22:43 0 comments

    Alex blocked out his own frame and is a much better puppeteer than me!

    Here he is laying out his face and awesome nose!

    He has a Face!

    And all put together in the group

  • Corys Warhammer 40k Ork Claw update

    Kevin Harrington10/31/2016 at 22:36 0 comments

    Cory worked on the Proper Claw

  • Finishing Rupert!

    Kevin Harrington10/31/2016 at 21:37 0 comments

    I started with bending wire in the shape of hands then gluing black short fur to it. On the back I glued fur to the back of the hand to cover the wire.

    Next i sewed tubes to make the arms:

    And sewed them to the body fur:

    And finally i sewed a flap at the end of the arm and glued it to the hand:


  • A little context: I'm automating engineering!

    Kevin Harrington10/24/2016 at 03:14 0 comments

    So the big-picture point I want to make with this project is that BowlerStudio is a tool to build automated engineering.

    The engineer making scripts can take all the possible constraints, the possible components and build methodologies, and embed them into parametrics. What this means is that you can take engineering knowledge, and automate access to it. I am not just *modeling* a head in software, the process of modeling it, creates it, and ensures that parts fit through parametric mutations. All of the cutouts made between two parts were made using the part that needed to fit there. Parametrics are presented to users as options, inputs to measure off what you have in front of you.

    The 3d printer tells the design its nozzle diameter, the laser cutter tells the design how thick the wood actually is. THEN the parts are sent off to manufacture. It's not a manufacturing pipeline anymore, it's a conversation between manufacturing machine, vitamins, designs and the user's preferences. BowlerStudio automates that conversation, and lets the user simple get what they want with what they have laying around.

  • Kevins wearable head day 4

    Kevin Harrington10/24/2016 at 02:55 0 comments

    Today i split my time between Ruperts body and my animatronic head.

    First i added the eyes:

    Next i cut a strip of foal the make the matching top and bottom teeth:

    the attached the top:

    And nearly decided to stop there and make him have an overbite. Instead i decided to add the bottom teeth anyway. I also added horns made from a floral foam ring:

    Next i used strips of foam to shape out his head. I used the binder clips to hold the edge of the foam while the hot glue cools. It helps keep the seem tight.

    And the blocked out head:

    Next i added wires to hold the eyelids. If i had a bit more bandwidth i'd add parametric blinking lids to the script. I should add it soon for a class i'm teaching though...

    Finally i added the black veal. It is glued along the brim of the hard hat on the inside. It drapes through the mouth acring as the blackout and i can see through the mouth when its open, and through the neck when it's closed. i have nealy unobstructed vision with the mouth open and totally unobstructed when its closed.

  • Kevins Progress on Rupert

    Kevin Harrington10/24/2016 at 02:42 0 comments

    Today i split my time between Rupert and my wearable head.

    First I added Rupert's head to the stick and glued the controller to the bottom.

    next I glued up some foam to make a body:

    Next i cut a hole in his side for my hand to access the wiimote:

    Finally a sewed up a body covering with darts at the top to sit underneath the head fur.

    Next up, arms and legs!

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Alex Martin wrote 11/12/2016 at 23:00 point

I always viewed animatronics as totally out of reach for the average maker, but you've made it seem much simpler. I am definitely interested in making my own now. Great job!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kevin Harrington wrote 11/12/2016 at 23:03 point

Please do! If you take a swing at it DEFIANTLY message me if you have any questions. It would totally make my day to see someone else make one!!

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