MountainBeest – A Theo Jansen Creature Comes Alive in My Garage

About a year ago, a member of my family sent me a video featuring [Theo Jansen's] StrandBeest, knowing that I was interested in all kinds of wacky and hackish inventions. My initial reaction was something to the effect of “wow that’s a neat device, but that guy is a little crazy.” For better or worse, the idea that this was an incredible invention turned over in my head for some time. Eventually, I decided that I needed to build one myself.  Apparently I’m a little crazy as well.

Theo’s original beest runs on a complicated linkage system powered by wind. He was nice enough to publish the linkage lengths or “eleven holy numbers,” as he calls him at the bottom of this page. He doesn’t, however, really explain how the connections on his PVC power transmission system work, so I was left to try to figure it out from his videos.  As you’ll see from build details and video to follow, this isn’t trivial. Keep reading past the jump to learn the adversity that I encountered, and how it was overcome in the end.

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Fixing Misaligned PVC With Kerf Bends

misalignment-coupler

Our old pal [Jeremy Cook] is doing his own remix of [Theo Jansen]‘s Strandbeest, and like the original, he’s using PVC pipe. Unlike the originals, he’s powering it with motors, not wind, and this has caused a few problems in transmitting mechanical power through a piece of PVC. Nothing is perfect, and in a few points in the legs movement the shaft shakes violently. One motor was lost and another nearly so before [Jeremy] came up with a flex coupler made from PVC.

The technique [Jeremy] is using has seen a lot of use with people building laser cut enclosures. It’s called kerf bending, and it works simply by cutting a few slits in a panel that allow it to bend slightly. This technique was replicated by [Jeremy] on a miter saw, cutting eight slots halfway through a one inch PVC pipe, with each successive cut offset 90 degrees.

The new design works well for transmitting power, and he’s not ruining motors any more. Check out the video below.

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Building The Mountainbeest

mounainbeest-pic

Builder extraordinaire and Hackaday alum [Jeremy] was asked by a friend about “doing something really crazy” for his local Makerfaire this year. That Makerfaire clock is ticking down, and not wanting to build awesome from scratch, referred his friend to a few of the temporarily shelved projects from the last year. The winning incomplete build was the Mountainbeest, a four-legged mechanical walker inspired by [Theo Jansen]‘s Strandbeest.

We’ve seen the beginnings of the Mountainbeest before, starting with [Jeremy] building the linkages for one leg. This build turned into two legs and now it’s a full-on quadruped, theoretically capable of rambling over the lush mountains in [Jeremy]‘s backyard.

The plan now is for [Jeremy] to get is Beest walking with the help of windshield wiper motors left over from a failed hexapod build. He’s not ging all the details yet, but it looks like the power train will be made out of bike parts. Video of the current state of the project below.

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