Origami Busts A Move With Dancing Paper

Origami cranes are cool, but do you know what’s cooler? Origami cranes dancing to the beat. That’s the challenge [Basami Sentaku] took on when he created Dancing Paper (YouTube link). You might remember [Basami] from his 8 bit harmonica hack. In Dancing Paper, paper cranes seem to dance all on their own – even performing some crazy spinning moves. Of course, the “magic” is due to some carefully written code, and magnets, lots of magnets.

Using magnets to move objects from below isn’t a new concept. Many of us have seen the “ice skating pond” Christmas decoration which uses the same effect. Unlike the skating pond,Dancing Paper has moving parts (other than the cranes themselves). Under the plastic surface are a series of individually controlled electromagnets. Each of the supporting dancers has a line of four magnets, while the featured dancer in the center has a 5×5 matrix. The 41 electromagnets were wound around bolts with the help of a Tamiya motor and gearbox.

The actual dance moves are controlled by C code which appears to be running on an Atmel microcontroller. Of course a microcontroller wouldn’t be able to drive those big coils, so some beefy TO-220 case transistors were employed to switch the loads. The cranes themselves needed a bit of modification as well. Thin pieces of wire travel from the neodymium magnets on their feet up to the body of the crane. The wire provides just enough support to keep the paper from collapsing, while still being flexible enough to boogie down.

Click past the break to see Dancing Paper in action!

20 thoughts on “Origami Busts A Move With Dancing Paper

    1. Here is my breakdown on the hard costs for each electromagnet:

      bolt: 10 cents
      magnet wire: 50 cents
      BJT or MOSFET: 25 cents

      That’s less than a dollar, but we’ll round up to keep things safe and simple. I’m counting 41 elements, so that’s about $41 for the required bits.

      The remainder of the build depends entirely on what you happen to have on-hand, but even if you had to purchase everything new, I’m guessing you could do it for under $60.

      So I’d put the total build cost at under $100, and under $50 if you are creative and are well-stocked on scrap materials.

      Hardly a small fortune, and *well* worth it for the entertainment vale!

      For just a few $$$ more, some colored LEDs under the plexi would just push this over the top.

  1. Brilliant, and clever to keep costs down with only 4 electromagnets for each of the ‘backup cranes’. Puts this within the realm of doability for the average hacker rather than only being achievable in the MIT media lad or with some massive sponsor. Nice hack! :D

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