The Incredible Mechanical Artistry Of François Junod

The art of building purely mechanical automatons has dramatically declined with the arrival of electronics over the past century, but there are still a few craftsmen who keep the art form alive. [François Junod] is one of these masters, and the craftsmanship and intricacy on display in his automata is absolutely amazing.

[François]’ creations are all completely devoid of electronics, and are powered either by wound-up springs or weights. The mechanics of the automata are part of the display, and contain a vast array of gears, linkages, belts and tracks. Many of them also include their own soundtrack, which range from simple bells and chimes to complete melodies from mechanized wind instruments, as demonstrated in Le Champignonneur below. He also collaborates with craftsman like jewelers on works like La Fée Ondine, which we thought was CGI when we first saw it in the video after the break.

Very few people have the time, skill and patience to make these creations, but we are glad there are still a few around. Some builds, like [Patelo]’s flightless drone aren’t quite as complex, but are no less inspiring. If you don’t quite have the time and fabrication skills, you can still create mesmerizing automatons with 3D printing like [gzumwalt]. Continue reading “The Incredible Mechanical Artistry Of François Junod”

Mechanical 7-Segment Display Uses A Single Motor

Seven-segment displays have been around for a long time, and there is a seemingly endless number of ways to build them. The latest of is a mechanical seven-segment from a master of 3D printed mechanisms, [gzumwalt], and can use a single motor to cycle through all ten possible numbers.

The trick lies in a synchronized pair of rotating discs, one for the top four segments and another for the bottom three segments. Each disc has a series of concentric cam slots to drive followers that flip the red segments in and out of view. The display can cycle through all ten states in a single rotation of the discs, so the cam paths are divided in 36° increments. [gzumwalt] has shown us a completed physical version, but judging by CAD design and working prototype of a single segment, we are pretty confident it will. While it’s not shown in the design, we suspect it will be driven by a stepper motors and synchronized with a belt or intermediate gear.

Another 3D printed mechanical display we’ve seen recently is a DIY flip dot, array, which uses the same electromagnet system as the commercial versions. [gzumwalt] has a gift for designing fascinating mechanical automatons around a single motor, including an edge avoiding robot and a magnetic fridge crawler.

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Animatronics Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, May 20 at noon Pacific for the Animatronics  Hack Chat with Will Cogley!

While robots have only a made a comparatively recent appearance on the technology timeline, people have been building mechanical simulations of living organisms for a long time indeed. For proof, one needs only to look back at the automatons built by clever craftsmen to amuse and delight their kings and queens. The clockwork mechanisms that powered fanciful birds and animals gave way to the sophisticated dolls and mannequins that could perform complex tasks like writing and performing music, all with the goal of creating something that looked and acted like it was alive.

Once the age of electronics came around, the springs that drove the early automatons and the cams that programmed their actions were replaced by motors and control circuits. New materials made once-clunky mechanisms finer and more precise, sensors and servos made movements more lifelike, and the age of animatronics was born.

Animatronics have since become a huge business, mostly in the entertainment industry. From robotic presidents to anachronistic dinosaurs to singing rodents designed to sell pizza, animatronics have been alternately entertaining and terrifying us for decades. The fact that they’re not “real” robots doesn’t make the melding of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems into a convincing representation of a real being any less challenging. Will Cogley has more than a few amazing animatronic designs under his belt, some of which we’ve featured on Hackaday. From hearts to hands to slightly terrifying mouths, Will puts a ton of work into his mechanisms, and he’ll stop by the Hack Chat to tell us all about designing and building animatronics.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 20 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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Peep These Ultra-Real 3D-Printed Eyeballs

For humans, life is in the eyes. Same deal with automatons. The more realistic the eyes, the more lifelike (and potentially disturbing) the automaton is. [lkkalebob] knows this. [lkkalebob] is so dedicated to ocular realism in his ultra-real eyeballs that he’s perfected a way to make the minuscule veins from a whisper of cotton thread.

First he prints an eyeball blank out of ABS. Why ABS, you ask? It has a semi-translucence that makes it look that much more real. Also, it’s easier to sand than PLA. After vigorous sanding, it’s time to paint the iris and the apply the veins. [lkkalebob] shaves strands of lint from red cotton thread and applies it with tweezers to smears of super glue.

Here comes our favorite part. To make the whole process easier, [lkkalebob] designed a jig system that takes the eyeballs all the way through the stages of fabrication and into the sockets of the automaton. The hollow eye cups pressure fit on to prongs that hold it in place. This also gives the eyeball a shaft that can be chucked into a drill for easy airbrushing. In the build video after the break, he uses the eye-jig to cast a silicone mold, which he then uses to seal the eyes in resin.

Don’t have a printer or any desire to make human automata? It doesn’t take much to make mesmerizing mechanisms.

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Ink-Dipping Machine Saves Iotas Of Time

[Uri Tuchman] doesn’t always write with a dip pen. But when he does, he gets tired of re-inking it almost immediately. Now, convenience comes in many forms. He could make the switch to any number of modern writing instruments, sure. But that would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

[Uri] decided that old-timey problems call for old-timey solutions, and we couldn’t agree more. His machine is an amazingly well-crafted automaton that dips a handmade pen into ink and shakes off the excess with the turn of a crank and the nudging of cams. We love the hand-carved claw, which looks perfectly absurd as it moves about gracefully on custom brass hinges.

We were somewhat surprised that given all this work, [Uri] didn’t grind his own nib or make his own ink. But that would cut down on the time he has to write letters longhand in between waiting for a wet quill. Crank past the break to see [Uri]’s thoroughly entertaining build video for this awe-inspiring machine.

Mesmerized by automatons? This laser-cut water droplet wave should quench your thirst.

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Learning Through Play Hack Chat With Greg Zumwalt

Join us Wednesday at noon Pacific time for the Learning Through Play Hack Chat!

You may think you’ve never heard of Greg Zumwalt, but if you’ve spent any time on Instructables or Thingiverse, chances are pretty good you’ve seen some of his work. After a long career that ranged from avionics design and programming to video game development, Greg retired and found himself with the time to pursue pet projects that had always been on the back burner, including his intricate 3D-printed automata. His motto is “I fail when I decide to stop learning,” and from the number of projects he turns out and the different methods he incorporates, he has no intention of failing.

Please join us for this Hack Chat, where we’ll discuss:

  • Lifelong learning through play;
  • Toy-building as a means to skillset growth;
  • Sources of inspiration and getting new ideas; and
  • What sorts of projects Greg has in the pipeline.

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Learning Through Play Hack Chat and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 13, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Karakuri Kaizen: Hacks For The Factory Floor

Anyone who has an interest and/or career in manufacturing would have heard of Kaizen, generally a concept to continuously improve your process everywhere. Under that huge umbrella is Karakuri Kaizen, encouraging workers on the factory floor to adopt a hacker mentality and improve their own work stations. It is right up our alley, manufacturer or not, making this overview by Automotive News an entertaining read.

Karakuri could be translated as “mechanism”, but implies something novel in the vein of English words gadgets, gizmos, or dare we say it: hacks. Karakuri has a history dating back to centuries-old wind-up automatons all the way to modern Rube Goldberg contraptions. When applied to modern manufacturing (as part of factory training) it encourages everyone to devise simple improvements. Each might only shave seconds off assembly time, but savings add up in due time.

Modern global manufacturing is very competitive and survival requires producing more efficiently than your competitors. While spotlights of attention may be focused on technology, automation, and construction of “alien dreadnoughts”, that focus risks neglecting gains found at a smaller and simpler scale. Kaizen means always searching for improvements, and the answer is not always more technology.

Several points in these articles asserted purely mechanical karakuri are far less expensive than automated solutions, by comparing price tags which are obviously for industrial automation equipment. We’d be curious to see if our favorite low cost tools — AVR, PIC, ESP32, and friends — would make future inroads in this area. We’ve certainly seen hacks for production at a much smaller scale.

Embedded below the break is a short video from Toyota showing off a few karakuri on their factory floor.

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