Picture of Digital Sculpting, 3D Printing and Animatronics
This Instructable is going to show how to use digital sculpting software and a 3D printer to create a skin for an animatronic puppet. I am currently an art student studying entertainment/industrial design and have access quite a bit of high tech equipment, such as digital sculpting software, laser engravers and 3D printers. I was brainstorming ideas for my thesis project when I realized that there can be many advantages to using these tools to create animatronic characters. Digital sculptures are much easier to transport and use far less materials than traditional methods. Plus, it is very difficult to carry a sculpture and molds back and forth to school when riding a bicycle! They are also more accurate and (in my opinion) easier to change and refine. When paired with a 3D printer, one can be holding just about any model in a day or two. This process just one way to integrate digital and rapid prototyping tools into the design process and to eliminate some of the waste involved in bringing an animatronic creature to life, without limiting creative possibilities.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: The Traditional Method

Picture of The Traditional Method
I am using photos of an animatronic eel that I recently created to help illustrate how the traditional process works. The sculpture was first sculpted and detailed. It was then molded in Ultracal 30, which is a type of plaster that can withstand the heat necessary to bake the foam latex skin. A layer of clay that is the desired thickness of the final skin is placed inside along the inner wall of the mold and more plaster is then layered inside to fill the remaining space, creating the core. After the mold and core are finished, foam latex is mixed up and poured into the mold. The core is placed inside and the mold is closed. It is then baked and the foam skin is ready. I'm not going to go into too much detail as to how this process works since there is quite a bit of info on creating molds and foam latex pieces to be found in books and on the internet. But it is important to keep in mind these basic steps though, since the digital workflow differs in a few key ways.
hed4201 year ago
I wanted to see a video of it moving with the skin on. :(
chicopluma4 years ago
we also use rhino in my college, but i haven`t used the printer yet, i think it is for second year projects
Rob K6 years ago
Our University has one of these printers not sure what model. The cost for use to use it is $4.50in3.

I have a few things I need to print but I will keep it as a surprise till then. I think they will be interesting.
Wehrdo Rob K5 years ago
I know this is really old, but I'm going to reply anyway.

That's really expensive considering at Shapeways it's only $1.50 for their cheapest material, including shipping it to your front door.
Rob K Wehrdo5 years ago
Its per CM though.

The dial from my combo lock is around 38$
Wehrdo Rob K5 years ago
Oh, my bad.  I thought you said cm3.  I would love to have a 3d printer that I could use at my school, but for now I'll have to use Shapeways.
doktorvortexx (author)  Rob K6 years ago
Can't wait to see them!!!
SinAmos6 years ago
Your Zbrush works needs work, but I feel like you wasted this opportunity. I also feel like this instructable doesn't apply to the general audience, as we don't have a 20,000 dollar piece of equipment, so you really aren't helping us here.
There's an online service (name escapes me) where they rapid prototype with this exact printer. These pieces would set a person back less than 100 dollars, shipped within a few days. I think this is an incredibly detailed account of a really cool project. ...searching....
Again, an online service, which is cool, but not really DIY.
doktorvortexx (author)  SinAmos6 years ago
You could build your own printer if you had the time. I would like to build something like this that prints in plastacine clay though. The cost of the machines should inspire everyone to build one of their own.
a reprap or similar will only set you back about a thosuand these days, less if you already have parts. :)
Yeah reprapor fab@home are both fairly cheap options.

Fab@home costs around $2000
I think I saw somewhere that all of the RepRap parts can be bought for ~$600
getting a portion of your project manufactured doesnt preclude it from being 'diy' You DIY with metal tubing, thats manufactured. etc...
Interesting =)
waiting for a name/link
doktorvortexx (author)  Proteus6 years ago
You can contact me at:
doktorvortexx (author)  frollard6 years ago
Thanks!!! Check out my Blurb book I created for the process notebook if you want more info.
doktorvortexx (author)  SinAmos6 years ago
There are several 3D printing services that can print models in a variety of materials for a reasonable cost. One example is which does not require one to own a machine. Soon Desktop Factory will be offering a machine for around $5000 which is not unreasonable considering how prices continue to drop. The Zbrush model was specifically designed to be simple and since the level of finish was not as important as completing the process, I opted to spend more time on completing the rest of the work instead of creating a great digital model.
DragonX7776 years ago
good idea for building haunted house monsters
DainiusGB6 years ago
that is soo coool! if i had enough money i would totally get one of those 3d printersl!
frollard6 years ago
I uploaded your video to youtube with credits:

use that link to embed it! (much easier to use!)
doktorvortexx (author)  frollard6 years ago
Thanks again!
it's great! you have much experience on this!