Introduction: The Story, Santa's Shop 2016

Picture of The Story, Santa's Shop 2016

It began by talking about ideas--then a pencil sketch on a yellow pad.

This techno/art installation was constructed through the collaboration of Mike and Annelle Rigsby, a husband/wife team. Mike, an electrical engineer, and Annelle, an artist, spent over 2000 hours creating this display. Ten Arduino microcontrollers and dozens of motors were combined with hundreds of 3d printed parts to make this happen.

Mike and Annelle are both authors and this project was created for the community to enjoy. Using clay, Annelle formed models for the Elf heads (and Santa), smaller elves, dozens of animals (riding the ferris wheel) and other parts. The clay models were 3d scanned, adjusted in size (or adapted to fit motor shafts), then 3d printed.

Annelle painted the figures and made the clothing. Servo motors (controlled by Arduino microcontrollers) allow the characters to “act” in a planned fashion. The “story” acted by the characters lasts about 3 minutes and is repeated.

Santa’s Shop will be on display daily this December, operating from 5 P.M. to 9 P.M. in the window at:
Brightway Insurance Agency; 9127 SW 52nd Ave, Gainesville FL 32608

Step 1:

Picture of

The sketch was refined after considering what would fit and what we had the skills to construct.

Step 2:

Picture of

This is an elf head that Annelle made using clay. It is on a 3d scanner to be converted into a digital file. That file can be resized and hollowed out to make room for a motor attachment, then printed using a 3d printer.

Step 3:

Picture of

A body was printed, then motors were added.

Step 4:

Picture of

Motors were added for the arms and hands were attached at the end of the arms. Wires are brought out the back.

Step 5:

Picture of

The hollow part of an elf head (seen from the neck end) slides over a motor. The elf was dressed (custom made clothing) and wires brought out to an Arduino.

Step 6:

Picture of

Santa is similar to an elf, but he has longer legs, boots and a larger stomach.

Step 7:

Picture of

Drum sticks were 3d printed and assembled, as was the drum. Two electromagnets are hidden inside the drum.

Step 8:

Picture of

The drum is assembled, then painted.

Step 9:

Picture of

The boxes at the rear of the display are made using wood and a curved (3d printed) roof.

Step 10:

Picture of

The display is starting to shape up.

Step 11:

Picture of

On the left is my view (engineering perspective) of an elf head. The right side is Annelle's (artist) interpretation.

Step 12:

Picture of

This is an automated "Wheelo" using an Arduino microcontroller, servo motor and ultrasonic transducer.

Step 13:

Picture of

These are pieces assembled for the elf swing.

Step 14:

Picture of

The elf was formed in clay, scanned and 3d printed.

Step 15:

Picture of

The head was painted.

Step 16:

Picture of

Clothes were made, then arms and legs inserted in body holes (the body holes were designed in the digital file, then 3d printed).

Step 17:

Picture of

Finishing touches are added to the elf. There are twelve of these characters (each with a different face) in the display.

Step 18:

Picture of

One elf wound up on the swing.

Step 19:

Picture of

The display is progressing.

Step 20:

Picture of

Work tables that flip from a "work" to "play" mode were 3d printed.

Step 21:

Picture of

Elfis was assembled and wired up.

Step 22:

Picture of

The automated "Wheelo" gets a face and decorations.

Step 23:

Picture of

The "Naughty and Nice" list, signs, elves and props are assembled on a shelf.

Step 24:

Picture of

A wagon was designed, 3d printed and painted.

Step 25:

Picture of

A train track up in the air has been added.

Step 26:

Picture of

Santa is assembled, dressed and his controller wired.

Step 27:

Picture of

Drinking birds (without water) are made to bob by heating their posteriors.

Step 28:

Picture of

Tools formed from clay (baked and painted) were added to the table--food was added on the play side of the table.

Step 29:

Picture of

Wiring is getting more intense.

Step 30:

Picture of

The roof is starting to take shape.

Step 31:

Picture of

Lights are added to the ceiling.

Step 32:

Picture of

The fake stained glass was designed by Annelle, lead glued to glass then filled with colors. Lights were added around the inside edge of the frame, then it was powered up.

Step 33:

Picture of

Special mounts were designed and 3d printed for the bubble lights along the top rear of the display.

Step 34:

Picture of

A bear was designed in clay, 3d scanned, then printed hollow to accept a light. The bear was painted and placed on a specially designed, 3d printed stool.

Step 35:

Picture of

A reindeer in an airplane was designed in clay, scanned, sized and 3d printed--then painted. It was placed on a magnetic levitating platform so that it "floats" in the air.

Step 36:

Picture of

Mike is working on some of the wiring in the back.

Step 37:

Picture of

Mostly finished (something always gets changed) we are at the end.

For more details on the construction (3d files, software sketches, etc.) go to


ehsmaes (author)2016-12-01

Wow, impressive! That's dedication! And I thought I was crazy :-)

Build_it_Bob (author)2016-11-14

Standing ovation...hat's off to you both. I am amazed with your combined talents.

Happy Holidays to you both!


Cherzer (author)2016-11-12


About This Instructable




Bio: I am an author and a maker. My current project is Santa's Shop. I'm working on a science fiction type book--more later. @EngineerRigsby
More by MikeTheMaker:Santa's Shop 2017, the TrainSnowflake Gear WreathHappy Gear Table
Add instructable to: