Picture of Animatronic Penguin Torso

I had a dream of developing an animated Christmas Holiday Season display, potentially as a fund raiser for the arts. My original idea was to use puppets as characters, but reading and investigating made me curious as to whether I could build an animatronic penguin.

This instructable concentrates on the torso, which has four degrees of freedom, allowing the figure to move about in many directions. As a goal, I wanted a penguin that could "dance".

For more information, go to 18+

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Step 1: Parts and Tools

Picture of Parts and Tools
The body skeleton was made of model aircraft plywood, with homemade servo brackets of 1/2" square strip wood. I used the following items in the construction of the torso
  • 4 sheets of 12x24 3mm plywood
  • ? 24" lengths of 1/2" square poplar stripwood (I bought out the craft store's supply!)
  • 4 HITEC HS422 servos
  • 1 6" Servo extension cable
  • 2 10" Servo extension cables
  • 6" Ball 2/56 threaded rod
  • 4 pair Ball Link sets
  • 4 Aluminum servo horns
  • 8 3/4" RC aircraft Hinges
  • Scrap aluminum angle
  • Miscellaneous small screws, nuts and bolts.

The tools I used were:
  • Saber Saw
  • Flat head and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Cutoff Saw
  • Drill press
  • Portable drill
  • Gorilla glue
  • ACC glue (super glue)
  • small Spray bottle of water
  • Clothes pins

Step 2: Design Torso Pivot Points

I wanted the body to move left and right, front and back and to both lean as well as "shimmy". A shimmy motion would be a move to one side or the other, where the head remains up straight; a lean would be where the head would follow the direction of the torso.

I decided to divide the body into four sections. two sections would pivot front and back, while the remaining two would pivot left and right.
johniram4 years ago
Awesome robot Penguin. I would like to have one to amuse my kids.
janw4 years ago
freerunnin14 years ago
Nice! is it autonomous or remote controlled? also, how are you planing on doing to skin?
djsfantasi (author)  freerunnin14 years ago
Right now it is tethered to my laptop. I have developed software that will run 'scripts' for actions which include the capability of randomly generating moves so that the script is non-deterministic. In fact, the video is running that software, and his motions are pseudo-randomly generated.

He does 'talk' as well, with a circuit that synchronizes the mouth movements to audio input.

It can be controlled via an Internet connection as well, giving some remote control xapabilities. In fact, a friend and I are developing an iPhone application that will serve as a remote control device.

I have been in discussions with a Boston area puppeteer, who is planning on making the skin for me. This is supposed to be a cortoonish character. The skin will be foam-based with a cloth covering.
djsfantasi (author)  raja6814 years ago
I could supply the software, but I am not able to support it.

It requires first a knowledge of the FreeBASIC (FB) programming language. It will only work on a Windows system, in its current incarnation. Also in order to compile it, the FB network library for Windows needs to be customized...

Secondly, the actual program implements a new programming language in interpretive mode. This language is pre-processed into an intermediate token format. I call this language A-Code. So using the program would also entail learning A-code as well. There currently no documentation for A-Code, although I have not ruled out creating such in the future.

So my answer is that I am not supplying the software at this time, since it is not in a form such that it could be used by anyone.

My apologies,
ChrysN4 years ago
zazenergy4 years ago
That is insanely creative and awesome!
rikardom2 years ago
You are awesome!
tobune2 years ago
One word: Awesome!
merkuri23 years ago
We need more people like you in the world.
mattle merkuri22 years ago
Totally agree!
teniva3 years ago
This is really innovative. Nice work have you done.
djsfantasi (author)  teniva3 years ago
Thanks. There are more videos on my channel showing more development Check out the comments for more info.
begunia3 years ago
You are Einstein!
tokin3 years ago
This is AWESOME. How did you come by the idea?
lepar3 years ago
This is really awesome robot.
mazmi3 years ago
Uhh,how many servos do thee need for the whole penguin including eyes,eye lids,flippers,etc...BTW,do thou think it is a good idea for thee to change it into RC?
djsfantasi (author)  mazmi3 years ago
Total, there are 11 servos. Four in the torso; two for the flippers; one for the neck rotating ; two for the eyes and one for the eyelid (instructions in a separate Instructable) ; one for the mouth. As far as controlling via RC, it is entirely possible and people have asked me that. One warning is that the torso has several ways of moving, that may be difficult to control via RC alone. On a smaller scale, the eyes are independent and will take at least 3 channels and some coordination to move. Have you thought of dedicated servo controller circuits to a tethered cable?
torina23 years ago
Amazing !
djsfantasi (author)  torina23 years ago
djsfantasi (author)  torina23 years ago
Thank you
kokina23 years ago
Amazing piece of art!
djsfantasi (author)  kokina23 years ago
mazmi3 years ago
Uh,can you please give me an idea on how to make it smaller in size? By the way,how many servos do you need? Please reply because i have a science fair on thursday
djsfantasi (author)  mazmi3 years ago
This Thursday! Like yesterday now? It took me close to six months to build. It could be made smaller and there are smaller servos that could be used.
mazmi3 years ago
do i need any microcontrollers to build this? Or just servos?
djsfantasi (author)  mazmi3 years ago
You will need something to control the servos. If you are not familiar with hobby servos, they are a little more complicated than motors and require electronics to control. I used a commercial controller that my laptop talks to in order to control the Penguin.
sandra-13 years ago
All I can say is AWESOME!
ripsup3 years ago
Any update on your progress? I would love to see if you finally got it skinned and how that turned out.
pauli23 years ago
Awesome invention.
antonio233 years ago
This is truly a masterpiece!
tonyta23 years ago
Awesome work. Great instructable! Trying to make it right now :)....
djsfantasi (author)  tonyta23 years ago
Good luck. I updated one step this week, so don't miss it.
melisa23 years ago
Amazing work have you done. Creative and stunning.
djsfantasi (author)  melisa23 years ago
Thank you
himanshur93 years ago
Cool use of daily tools to build amazing Peter.
GrantLevy4 years ago
What part of the penguin's body is the piece of plywood screwed onto his front supposed to be?
djsfantasi (author)  GrantLevy4 years ago
I am not sure which piece you are referring to.

Do you mean the plywood tab I am using to mount the electronics? But that is contained within his body...
djsfantasi (author)  djsfantasi4 years ago
..or are you looking at the side-view picture above? That is one of his arms - the curved shape...
geekdude4 years ago
great now we can make it babble like a baby and pontificate on how it will one day take over the world. who needs the discovery channel?
micha3l874 years ago
awesome project!
Didn't see anything about how you did the head portion - eyes mouth
djsfantasi (author)  micha3l874 years ago
The eyes are covered in this Instructable:

I am thinking about creating an instructable for the head, covering the mouth movements as well as the neck where his head turns from side to side. but with encouragement from people like you, perhaps I will have to do it! 

The arms are straightforward to me; I may edit the torso Instructable to include them.
I did find the part about the eyes, creative idea. They look as though they came from a store in the pictures. This is way beyond what I could attempt but the eyes are more in my area...I think ;)
djsfantasi (author) 4 years ago
Thanks everyone for your kind and inspiring comments.

I am working on an update, to stiffen up some of the movements. Motion on the lower plate 'wobbles' some. The outer skin will dampen the effect, but the lowest two plates are subject to the most stress and I am designing a retro-fit brace to the riser plates... More to come!
Honus4 years ago
That is great!
PeckLauros4 years ago
Awesome! This is the best robot that i wil tri to buid!!! thanks to share it with us.
PKM4 years ago
Really needs whatever software works out the movements for this... an animatronic penguin is mightily cool as it is, but with the bonus of dancing to Spoon it would be even cooler :D
raja681 PKM4 years ago
i am going to do that make it randomly pick a move every time i could make it simple but who wants that?