Mechanics, electronics, robotics or what?

I recently have become fascinated with what makes these moving stuffed toys work; like the Elmos and dogs that wag and walk, etc. I have my own stuffed creatures that I make and have an interest in animating them. But I don't know how to look up a book to start to teach myself. Are this toys considered mechanically powered, or electronically or what? Just what kind of motors are in them? Can I buy these motors? Would it be easy to adapt them to whatever types of movement I would want (according to the critter I was putting it in)? I don't think they would be considered robots; they're much too simple for that. Although I might consider doing something like that in the far off future. But I want to do something simple first; so what can someone recommend book-wise for me to teach myself the workings of these toys?

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westfw10 years ago
Toys are depressing. The sort of injection molding equipment most toy manufacturers have makes it really cheap for them to turn out the gears and cams and such that turn a raw electric motor into scale-like motion (slow) of toy-sized parts. But similar parts are expensive to buy (even surplus) and difficult to make with typical hobbyist equipment. It's so bad that its pretty common for people doing BEAM robotics (for example) to dissect toys to find gear motors...
biirrd (author)  westfw10 years ago
Yes, that's the one suggestion that seems to be the most plausible; to find toys on sale that have the movements I'm looking for and take them apart to use the motors inside. My boyfriend and I saw one of those alligators whose workings are enclosed in a wire mesh this weekend; Mike pointed out to me how the motor was hooked to various points to make the head and tail more. It was a good lesson in the mechanics of how they operate. I can see what you mean about how the manufacturer's can do this stuff so cheap; explains why I don't see this sort of thing done in my field of crafting. But just for that reason, I'm more determined not to give up on my idea. Thanks for your comment!
westfw biirrd10 years ago
Some of these toys are near-miracles of mechanical engineering, and nearly incomprehensible to us modern software and electronics types. Back in the day, for example, Radio shack sold an Armatron Robot Arm" that a lot of people bought hoping to connect to a computer, only to discover that all six axis of motion (AND a timer) were driven from a single motor, with the "joysticks" merely engaging different mechanical linkages.
jpqd westfw8 years ago
There was a magazine with an article that install 6 motor to the unit and controlled from the computer, but I don't remember the name of the magazine. If someone know something and help me with the name of the magazine I will be gratefully. The mag was some king of electronics in the 80's. Thank for any help.
biirrd (author)  westfw10 years ago
I'm beginning to realize my endeavor is more involved that I originally thought; but then that's typical for me. I can't dream up anything simple to do! Plus, I really don't have the knowledge that I should to be tackling this stuff. That's why I was asking for ideas about books that I could learn from. I have some electronics background, but I'm so rusty and probably out dated, it's virtually useless I suppose. I see that a couple of the other guys have suggestions for me; I'll have to check into those. Thanks again for your comments.
Patrik10 years ago
Make magazine actually sells a few items which might be useful for a beginning animatronics / mechatronics/ automaton enthusiast. Apart from all the microcontroller stuff (which I'm assuming you don't want to mess with yet), they also sell some cheap motors (4 different types, at $5.50 each), solar kits, etc. Most of this is in their Robotics section

In addition, they also sell a book on Cabaret Mechanical Movement, and a wooden Designing Automata Kit (which seems primarily focused on cam-shaft operated automata - no gears I could see).

There's plenty of more dedicated websites and online stores, but this is not a bad place to get you started.
biirrd (author)  Patrik10 years ago
Oops! I see you gave me a link to the mag! Duh.....sorry. I'm blonde you know. lol!!!
biirrd (author)  Patrik10 years ago
Where might I find "Make" magazine? That book sounds very good, thanks! Guess I can just google the mag and see if I can find it.
Goodhart10 years ago
These books are rather cool too, I have a few of them:

Robotics for the Evil Genius

Robot building, a beginner's guide...

The sources I give are for reference only, you can pick up the books where ever you want to.
Goodhart Goodhart10 years ago
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