A while back, I was asked to make a floor-standing, animated brain, external hard drive. It was to 'light up' when the hard drive was accessed and 'look good'.

When idle, it has a red, throbbing 'pulse'. When the hard-drive is accessed, it has a number of animated LED effects which make it light-up like a Christmas tree!

This Instructable gives information about the build. I made a blog about the project, but have only had one comment in two years! Hence, I thought I would give the project more exposure.

In this Instructable you can see:

  • Sculpting a life-size clay brain and vacuum-forming a transparent version of it
  • Installing the numerous LEDs and modifying old hard-drives to form part of the sculpture
  • Creating the PIC microcontroller circuit boards which control the effects
  • Building the laser-cut, illuminated 'spine'
  • Building the black base and installing the real external hard-drive inside

It is not a full set of instructions to make something identical, more a set of ideas which might be of interest to others.

Step 1: Initial concepts and sculpting "The Brain"

Picture of Initial concepts and sculpting

Some Sketchup models were produced, so that a general idea of the project could be visualised.

Then the task of producing a clay mould to use on a vacuum-forming table was started. Full-size diagrams were printed out to show the X, Y and Z projections of the final brain. These were cut out in cardboard and the holes left in the cardboard were used as templates to get the basic shape of the clay roughly right.

Two pieces of thin MDF were sandwiched together to form an equatorial breaking line. They were cut out with a jigsaw and the clay was built up from them. In this way, a top-half of the brain was created and also a 'matching' bottom-half. A piece of threaded rod, was screwed into the bottom half and mounted on a temporary wooden base, so it would stand up properly. The top half simply rested on the bottom half.

The 'wrinkles' or 'grooves' were formed by eye with no particular basis. The only 'rule' for shaping them, was that they should not be too deep, or form shapes which would stop the brain mould from being extracted from the vacuum-formed plastic when that was done at a later stage. (A ridge is a gyrus. A groove is a sulcus. The ridges are called gyri and the crevices are called sulci).

polerix1 year ago

super great project

WRN1 year ago

Wow, what a nice thought! Pretty brilliant!!

lsagan1 year ago

Very, Very Cool! Would you by any chance be going to publish the Artwork for the PCBs? I can see using the design for many other projects!

qthurtle (author)  lsagan1 year ago

Yep, I will add them to step 11. Might take a bit of time though.

amulder11 year ago

looks awesome!

qthurtle (author)  amulder11 year ago

Thanks. I really enjoyed making it, came out better than I hoped!

Best wishes

OMG this is cool. Makes me think of a Kool Keith song.

qthurtle (author)  craftclarity1 year ago

Yep, it is a bit surreal - horrorcore?

Haha! Like from spy kids. "The third brain"...
qthurtle (author)  Fishyfish1231 year ago

Yep. The Third Brain lives!