Carls first sign of life

I finally got around to finishing the eye mechanism so here is the dude looking around for the first time!

It’s currently controlled manually by 2 potentiometers driving an Arduino Diecimila and 2 standard servos. Maybe one day it will be procedurally controlled or something.

Eyebrows are shit and probably needs redesign before I get more into that, but I’m still proud of him!


Carl The Tronic – Final Product of my Animatronics course

After 3 weeks of intense focus and little sleep, here’s the final product. I’ve called him Carl the animatronic but since he’s not really actuated yet, the ‘anim’ part is left out for now.

3-week Animatronics 1 3-week Animatronics 2

I think he ended up looking quite silly, but I guess that could be a good thing 🙂

I didn’t manage to add actuators yet, so nothing moves unless you push it. However, I’ve been asked by my University as well as DTU Fablab (Workplace) to continue working on it during the next semester and possibly longer, so there’s a good chance that it’ll start moving. Currently the eyes and eyebrows are made so that they’re able to move by pulling/pushing some strings or rods and it should only be a matter of adding the servos, control and connectors. Not right now though. I’ve finished my 2nd. semester at Uni and it’s exactly how I’d hope it would be. Now celebrations and summer holiday.

For those of you interested, I’ve uploaded the STL parts at It’s only the STL’s though, as thingiverse doesn’t seem to accept solidworks files. If anyone should be interested it getting the Solidworks work files and assemblies as well, you can get them below… but don’t expect clean files.

Given that this was a Uni course I had to write an assignment about it as well. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s there as well. Read it if you please and don’t hold back on comments. I’m here to learn!

Solidworks workfiles collection
Project Assignment

Have a great summer!


First draft of 3D-printed animatronic face

I’m now just about 2 weeks into my 3-week course of doing a 3D-printed animatronic head and it’s progressing in a nice direction… not too quick though but progressing nonetheless.

It’s a whole lotta fun to work with despite having verified that I know nothing on this subject 🙂 but then again that’s what studying is for.
I’ve certainly learned a quite significant amount about mechanical design and 3D-printing in a very short time.

Anyway. As I only hinted at this project last I wrote, I’d better explain it a bit.

Basically it’s what the subjet says. It’s a 3D-printed animatronic face that I’m working on.
It’s a school project where and my supervisors are the two guys managing the Fablab at DTU (where I work as well)
I wanted to do stuff that moves and I wanted to use 3D-printing for it. They wanted a mascot for their Fablab to showcase what they’re capable of. We started chatting and suddenly we were setting up a custom course on just that.

The deal was to spend 3 weeks building as much of an actuated face as possible, using as many different printing techniques as possible.
Obviously it’s a fairly complex game to play, especially with so little time and so little knowledge, but I’m beginning to understand now, slowly. Initially I wanted to find a good design to go for, so that I could have a nice 3D model shell and place whatever mechanics inside of it, just like I’ve seen on so many animatronic showreel.

The primary design ended up being based on an old model I had lying around from a speed modeling challenge. this dude:


After cleaning up the mesh a bit, I managed to convert it to IGES and import it into Solidworks, where I intended to do the mechanical design.
I’ve now sliced up the model into different bits and pieces, hollowed it out and started building new parts that can be 3D-printed.
I’ve done quite a few different tests and gone through a lot of iterations on many ideas as I felt I had to reinvent the wheel a bit, in order to understand it.

I finished up a working prototype of an eyeball yesterday, which you can see below. I’ve mounted a 2-axial gimbal on the inside which is all printed in 1 piece on an Objet 30 Pro 3D printer. It’s amazing to be able to print hinges that couldn’t otherwise be assembled like that and I’m trying my best to make use of it, but it’s not easy. As the Objet can’t do color, I’ve printed the Iris on a different printer – ZPrinter 650 – which prints in plaster. The eyeball is designed with a little indent on the front, where the Iris part slips into and sticks.

As for the other piece on the image below, that’s the eyebrow. It’s quit difficult to show it’s full potential on film like that, but the more I play with it, the more I realise how it can be used.
It’s a basic design that’s been used a lot in animatronics – and probably also many other places – but I find it quite amazing how much motion you can get out of it, only using 2 strings. Also, depending on how you thread it, you can get a lot of different results. The thread can change distance from the centerline along the length of the part and it can skip through the centerline, suddenly pulling in a different direction on part of the length. You can also put stops on it (You can see 2 on this part) where the structure can only bend a certain amount for that particular joint, and so on.
Currently I’m trying to get an overview of brow movements, what’s required, what I can live without and how best to achieve it.

2013-06-20 20.05.30


Finally, here’s a preview of the current state of my design. There’s still much to be done, many features to test, design, implement, print etc. but I love it!
Almost before I started these 3 weeks, I conlucded that I probably wouldn’t be able to produce anything fully functional in 3 weeks time. Luckily, my supervisors agree, so the point of this is simply to get a better understanding of the process and establish a few basics. Before next friday I’ll have to hand in a 4-5 p assignment describing the process, what I learned, what it can be used for and so on, but I do hope to have something moving by that time as well.

The assignment is going to contain a section with related research along with a discussion on the usefulness of the subject. Currently I’m digging into the research conducted by Paul Ekman, who’s an american pshycologist and a pioneer in the study of emotions related to facial expressions (His research was a key factor in the development of the facial animation system for Gollum in Lord of The Rings).
Furthermore I’m looking into the field of Human-Robot interaction, where the ability for robots to convey emotions through facial features is a big factor in how willing humans are to interact with Robots.
I think the assignment may end up slightly longer than 5 pages…


Animatronic Head Draft 1

New Job – 3D printing assistant

After about a year into my new studies I’ve now managed to sneak in and get a job at a newly started 3D-printing facility at the University where I study (DTU – Fablab).

This not only supports me financially but I get to spend time in the lab, helping out with printing, setting up stuff, fixing, launching new prints and generally just learning loads about 3D printing. Even better still is that I’m allowed to print whatever I feel like on some pretty amazing printers… whole new world is opening up now 🙂

Obviously my first print isn’t gonna be amazing or anything but it’s a great feeling to see a model all the way through from design to print. I decided to try my luck on an old model of a girl. For the sake of simplicity and the otherwise NSFW print I only printed her arm but it turned out great! Fingers need a little extra love but the surface on the arm itself is really good.

Arm from an old model made many years ago

First 3D-print. Modeled in Maya, printed on an Ultimaker

Further advancement will follow.

As a side note I may be spending 3 whole weeks in June on a really exciting Uni project involving animatronics and 3D-print. More info on that later.

First products of University

After finishing my first semester at DTU I had a 3 week introductory course to production technology.
This was basically 3 weeks of hanging out in the workshop and learning about welding, injection molding, casting in iron and plastics, milling/turning both manually and CNC-style and last but not least, 3D printing.

I’ve always wanted to learn about building stuff, but hadn’t considered that University would be where I’d get hands on practice. It was great getting a hold of some of the techniques for manufacturing stuff in the workshop and I’m hoping to put them all to good use very soon!
Here are 2 samples of what I made during the course. All supervised and guided by the teachers but I made it from scratch nonetheless and I’m proud of that.
1 piece of clamp and a barbecue:

Barbecue made out of 1 single sheet of metal, bent into shape for the body. 4 smaller sheets for the legs and a cast-iron grill.
Clamp took a little more work. The main body is initially cast in iron then milled into shape. Spindle is manually turned from a single rod. Handle and bushing are CNC turned. Some measurements with tollerances as low as 5mu











As for being introduced to 3D printing, this was something I had been looking forward to in particular. Partly because it’s an area that spans across both my profession as an animator and my studies, but also due to it’s vast potential in moving ahead with animatronics and prototyping. Turns out the guy in charge of 3D printing at DTU is looking for students eager to take the technology to the next level and dig into some new ideas.
Currently they have a lot of ideas that needs testing and they’re looking for students who wants to get involved. I think I may just do that 🙂

The more I learn about the life as a student, the more I like it. At least the parts that are not concerned with spare time and money… 🙂

On top of that DTU is establishing a new student workshop. It’s supposed to give the students the ability to produce prototypes of stuff, develop and play around with tech in their spare time and working on personal projects. All of which is again supervised and guided. As far as I understand, even materials are provided.. possibly for a small price, but at least I wont have to head out and buy single entities of this and that.

I, for one, have about a billion ideas of how to use all of this. It’s only a matter of getting on top of my homework and get going… ‘only’…

And now University

I have recently been accepted at The Danish Technical University (DTU) where I’ll be studying Mechanical Engineering for the next 5-years.

At least the course is called Mechanical Engineering, but due to the fact that DTU is extremely flexible in customizing courses, I will be mixing in as much electronics as possible to gain a more Mechatronic-minded skillset. I’ve consciously chosen the most technical education I could find in order to free myself from limitations due to ignorance.

The goal is robots, animatronics and electro-mechanic objects of all sorts with a focus on motion and movement.
I’m hoping to end up being able to take the process all the way from design through construction to the final electronics, but I’ll probably never be a specialist in all of it 🙂

As I’m writing I’ve just finished my first week of Physics, Math and general engineering work and I love it!
It’s great to be taught again and feel like I’m going somewhere.

Useless in function

Yet rather entertaining if you consider it a challenge.

My latest creation is inspired by ‘The Most Useless Machine, Ever!’ as seen on youtube.

Having had this kind of machine on my todo list for a while and being invited to a wedding where I knew the newlyweds would appreciate such device I decided to go for it.

It’s a silly device and utterly useless but it was most certainly fun to build and I learned quite a few things from it, despite it’s simplicity.
First and foremost I got to feel a bit more confident in constructing something out of wood/metal to hold different electronic components. That’s one thing I’ve been a bit anxious about as it has been ages since I made anything from scratch. Secondly I had to open up a Servo motor and resolder a few wires to enable a different type of control and as a result of that, I now know how I can hack it further to get actual position feedback directly from a standard servo. This is something I only thought possible (or at least with my skills) through using servos with such a feature already built in, like the Robotis Dynamixel servos that I’ve been using before, but being able to get position feedback from normal (And cheap) servos definitely opens up for some goodies 🙂

A how-to on creating one of these can be found everyone on the web so I wont explain the specifics.
Only thing different from theirs to mine is that I used this wooden hand carved box from ebay and the brass rim covering the cut through the lid was only put there to cover up for my lacking wood-cutting skills. Wasn’t planned for initially 🙂

Here are a few stills:

I had quite a good time shaping the finger as well but I forgot to document it by stills before I handed over the present, so you’ll have to check it out in the video instead, which is here:

First autonomous being

As a statement of actually getting somewhere with my life, here’s another robot I’ve been working on.

It’s based on the Start Here robot from which I thought would be a reasonable project for broadening my knowledge on electronics, expanding my repertoire of microprocessors – this one using Picaxe – and getting a bit puzzled by the usage of BASIC programming language in modern technology.

Getting it going wasn’t really a big challenge with the fairly thorough walkthrough on letsmakerobots but I learned heaps and feel confident that next project will be more of a push

Without further ado, here’s the beast. First autonomous dude with several to follow. This guy’s a simpleton but manages through slow and safe progress.

Rise of the Dynamixel

Right. First go at robotics to go online.

As I happen to be quite a big fan of animatronics, animation, building things and programming I’ve been playing around with a couple of Robotis Dynamixel actuators during the last month to see what they can and cannot do, and have now managed to set up my base for something that I see a bit of potential in.

Feeling so very comfortable in my favourite (and most hated) animation software Maya, my initial setup is by hooking up the actuators directly to Maya through a python-based server and a USB2Dynamixel which works as a close-to realtime connection allowing me to pose/animate/playback from Maya and seeing the result on the actuators while doing so, pretty neat hey?

The learning curve has been rather steep getting into bits and bytes when communicating with the hardware but I’m starting to get a hang of it now and my interest in the field is growing exponentially.

Video shows a preanimated motion that’s being played back from Maya on the laptop in the background.

The motion is currently being written as a goal angle at about 25fps with a static speed so my next big job is to get rid of as much jitter as possible by analysing the motion a bit tho I do have a hunch that the resolution is too small.

OMToolbox – Open Maya Toolbox

OMToolbox is a project I started a loooong time ago as is an extension of the first sculpting tools I made for Maya, also the first tools I ever wrote.

It started around my initial entry into the animation industry as a modelor, by frustration towards Mayas modeling toolset.
I had plenty of ideas for how to speed up my workflow with different tools but I couldn’t find the available online so I had to do my own, leading to my introduction to MEL.

After finishing the initial couple of tools I released them to the public under the name JWToolbox which by public demand later got turned into Open Maya Toolbox, meaning a community-based and maintained opensource toolbox for everything Maya. This caught the attention of Alias (Who owned Maya at that point) who featured the toolbox on their developers corner, however the community sadly died out when I no longer had the time to organize everything and couldn’t find a replacement, returning OMToolbox to a compilation of opensource Maya tools maintained by me… and I haven’t done a very good job at that lately with priorities not really pulling in that direction any longer. I’ll still update it occasionally tho, when I see fit.

Open Maya Toolbox @ Creative Crash