Picture of Electromechanical Insect or Flapping Oscillator


I've been following the development of robotics for about 10 years and my background is Biology and Videography. These interests have orbited my underlying passion, entomology (the study of insects). Insects are a big deal in many industries, and have been the source of a great deal of inspiration. Thankfully, biology and insects are gaining clout in robotics through biomimicry and synthetic biology. I am especially excited by the progress of insectothopters. The CIA created a flying insectothopter as early as the 1970's and insects will continue to play a large roll in influencing how problems in robotics are solved. I want to share an artistic method of building your own electromechanical insect sculpture.

One craft that has focused heavily on the properties of insects is the art of fly tying. Fly Tying is a method of creating lures for fly fishing. This craft employs a diverse palette of materials and tools, and requires careful attention to detail, while heavily relying on proper technique to complete beautiful designs.

I have not gotten too excited about 3D printing or Microcontrollers. I am making efforts to produce electromechanical creatures that use neither of these technologies. It seems that no matter what sensor or mechanical expression you want to explore, it all has to feed through a microcontroller. Lets take it back a bit and make our brain, an oscillator!

So what I propose to you is, we use fly tying tools, materials, and technique as a foundation for creating a beautiful, lightweight, unique, electromechanical insect. This BEAM-like kinetic sculpture will hopefully inspire your friends and family to appreciate insects and craftsmanship.

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Whoa! I'd love to see this in action! Would you consider offering a printable file for the wing designs?

Hope this helps!


Perfect! Thanks so much!

Incredible instructable! It is a piece of art. I especially love the fact that you avoid microcontrollers and moreover 3D printing.

I have to say that the wing are incredibly real-life alike :-) I once was an amateur entomologist myself but never got that far due to time and resources.

Thank you! Comments like yours prevent me from thinking I'm crazy (regarding the microcontroller / 3D printer perspective).

seamster1 year ago

Your photos are spectacular!

I've always considered tied flies to be impressive works of art, and this is a whole new twist on the form. I really like what you've done!

it doesn't fly


organicelectrics (author)  faycal.chaib1 year ago

No it doesn't fly. It flaps and vibrates.

boatingman1 year ago
This,,,THIS,,, is what Instructables are all about. You are amazing, my friend, and this is easily one of the best Instructables I have ever seen. It is brilliant and well done. I am in awe. Thank you for sharing.
fantastic job with this instructable, I appreciate the time you put into it.
I want to build one myself and have been able to find everything except for the non magnetic reed switch.
could you tell me where to source one?
organicelectrics (author)  breeddsm22 hours ago

Greetings breeddsm. I acquired the switch by taking apart the flash circuitry from a disposable camera. I got a bunch of them for free from a local drug store that developed photos by simple asking for the spent cameras they will throw away. Unfortunately, photo labs are pretty rare now. So, you could try a variety of different methods, one of which is popular amongst BEAM robot designers. A guitar string is quite springy, and could be inserted through a metal tube. The idea is that the string and tube don't touch until something deflects or bends the guitar string ("Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels" by Dave Hrynkiw and Mark Tilden). Or you could check out this instructable I found for another idea http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-a-Rob...

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you very much!
I actually happen to have a few disposable cameras sitting around so I'll gut one and see what I find.
Also thank you for the links and alternative suggestions, I really appreciate you taking the time!
ohoilett4 months ago

This looks awesome. Great job.

capsulecorp8 months ago
Oh, beautiful! ô_ô it reminds me of the artificial insect of the movie "Supergirl" ...from the 80s
Himers9 months ago

Nice "ible"!!! You should post a video.

novelchip11 months ago

beautiful ! looks almost as a real insect !

Neato! How about a pummer version with only intermittent motion... Love BEAM stuff.

organicelectrics (author)  stringstretcher11 months ago

Thank you for telling me about the Pummer. I would love to integrate this kind of behavior into a robot. I am working on another instructable to release soon.

mrlunna131 year ago

Absolutely amazing!!

About 8 years ago I found about a person in Texas, who was creating robotic insects with transistors; and were completely automated!! And the little robots were forming groups, and competing for light, and space with each other!!

Unfortunately, I had to have a heart surgery, and I lost all contact with that!!

Wonderful thing you are doing my friend!!

Thank you sincerely!!

organicelectrics (author)  mrlunna1311 months ago

Thank you! This person didn't happen to be Mark Tilden? Just joking.

I hope all is well now after your surgery. Thanks again for the support, and I will post another instructable soon!

excuse me sir.... i m interested in doing this electromechanical insect.
will this electromechanical insect can fly? can this insect fly by only
following the steps given by you? or is there is any additional things
that are needed to make this insect to fly? what things i has to do make
this to fly? can you please help and guide to do this project? reply and please
help me sir....

organicelectrics (author)  vigneshwaran459411 months ago

This instructable demonstrates the use of alternative tools and construction techniques to build an electromechanical creature. This particular unit does not fly. I adopted a process not product philosophy, seeking to give the impression of an insect more than create a flying machine.

In order to make a flying robot, I would suggest searching "ornithopter" online and look into projects like this one:


Ornithopters employ the use of a small motor and gears to flap lightweight wings. They also require a large tail, making them behave like a kite.

In order to make this unit fly, one would need to attach larger stiff lightweight wings and use a tail. Also, the maker should experiment with different weights of monofilament to optimize the flapping amplitude.

Good luck, and I would love to see what you make.

kbad101 year ago

does it fly?

No ;-)



davbbley11 year ago

Great project. I applaud one that forgoes the Arduino and the 3D printer so that there is some diversity in projects. I also happen to like crane flies and dragon flies. Please forgive me for nitpicking but the wire that connects the voice coil of the speaker to the solder terminals is called tinsel wire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinsel_wire rather than Litz.

organicelectrics (author)  davbbley11 year ago

I see, thank you for letting me know.

bro u still didnt send me yr contact in any social chatting apps. i need yr help in my new project i wanna take sugestions from u plz help me. u know that i am just a kib and i need guidence in this field. i did love to chat with u live in some chatting app. plz do send me yr contact. plz??
karl841 year ago
Something tells me that you had very little time to get it done. It is brilliant under the circumstances. I have absolutely no idea about this field but just out of curiosity, which component is the heaviest and how large a wing-span would be required to get it to fly?

23.19 centimeters ;-)

kbad101 year ago

does it fly?

No ;-)

dick551 year ago

The Introduction should say that it doesn't fly. As one who flies RC planes and helicopters, as well as being involved with robotics, I read through the steps eagerly awaiting the moment of truth. What a letdown! All it does is flap. However, the use of a voice coil as an actuator was interesting.

Great Instructable! For someone involved with RC planes and robotics is should have been obvious from the picture that it couldn't fly. Have you ever seen something that small fly with a battery that big?


Totally true that! That batterry just confirmed when I asked my self if it'd fly ;)

If it could carry that battery, that would be a real heavy duty one! Still long way to go....

Apart from that, excellent piece of art, really! Great project.

organicelectrics (author)  dick551 year ago

Since we're on the topic, the goal would be to fly one day, but I haven't reached those heights yet!

I'll keep posting my progress, and hopefully get it done. Until then, Harvard's Robobee (http://robobees.seas.harvard.edu/) is the best bet for a flapping insectothopter that actually flies. I think they are still tethered to the ground though.

I'll review my intro and see about emphasizing my interest in emulating insects, not just flying.

I appreciate you looking through my instructable!

My pleasure! Will be looking for your progression to flight. Best of luck!

mwisdom11 year ago
I LOVE that this doesn't require thousand dollar machinery! (3d printers) it's so doable!
very nice project i want to learn more projwcts like that so plz chat with me using comments contact me using kik or whatsapp. plz contact me
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