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.
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…