Introduction: Automata

An automata is a moving mechanical device that moves in a predetermined manor. They are often designed to look like humans but can take take the shape of anything.


For this project I used cardboard for the general construction of the Automata, hot glue to join the pieces, wire for the linkages, a LEGO Thenic axle for the shaft along with various bushs to keep the axle in place, and 3d printed cams the fit onto the LEGO axle. You don't have 3d print the cams, they can be made of cardboard or even LEGO.

You will also need a pair of scissors and exact-o knife to cut the cardboard to shape. A hot glue gun to join the pieces together. A pair of pliers to help bend and cut the wire.

Step 1: Designing the Automata

The first thing to do is to figure out how big you want your automata to be and what it will look like. Once you have an idea of what it will be you should draw a sketch of the design. Something to keep in mind is what parts will move and how you will achieve that. For my automata I made a dog whose ear, tail and tongue move.

Step 2: Building the Frame

Next is to assemble the main body of the automata. This is a simple box with four sides, leaving the front and back open to allow you to see the mechanism.

Cut out four pieces of cardboard, two for the top and bottom and two for the sides. Next glue the sides and bottom together (leave the top off for now). I put small triangular pieces in the corners to add some rigidity to the frame but they are optional. Once the frame was put together, poke holes for the axle to run through on either side of the box. I did this by first taking a small needle and then enlarging the hole with the axle.

Step 3: Making the Figure

The next step is to cut what what ever shape you have decided on. I started by drawing a figure of a dog on to a sheet of cardboard. I decided to have the legs, head, and body be cut out of separate sheets of cardboard and glued together to give a sense of depth to the model. Next I cut the body of the dog out leaving the neck longer than needed to allow for the head to glued on. After the body was complete I cut out the legs and the feet, then glued them on the back of the body. Finlay I and cut the head out and glued it to the front of the neck.

Step 4: Mounting the Figure

Once the dog was assembled I cut out small triangular pieces and glued them to the back of the feet. This is to provide support for the figure so it does not flop over. Next I Glued the figure to the top part of the box making sure that the point where I want the connecting rods for the cams could reach the axle. Once the Dog has been mounted you can then glue the top on to the rest of the box.

Step 5: Making the Cams

I modeled the cams in Fusion 360 and then 3D printed them but you easily use cardboard or a LEGO piece to accomplished the same thing. They are designed to fit onto a standard LEGO axle. Mine measured 30mm wide, with the hole being 5 mm from the center of the circle.

Step 6: Making the Tail and Tongue

I am grouping these two together because the process for mounting them is the same.

The first thing to do is cut out the shape of tail you want. The second thing to do is to glue a small piece of wire were you want the tail to sit. Next is to poke a small hole in the tail part so it can rotate freely on the piece of wire. Next you should poke a hole in the base that is lined up with the Tail. Once the that is done, the next thing to do is to attach the cam follower to the tail. To do this take a piece of wire and measure it so that it will reach the cam from the tail. Next take the wire and glue a piece of cardboard on the end, this fill ride on the cam. On the other end of the wire bend the it at a 90 degree angle. Finally pass the wire through the hole in the base, align the cam with the follower, and hook the other end into the tail.

You should do the same thing for the tongue, keeping in mind the alignment of the hole, the cam and the tongue.

Once they are finished they should move freely up and down when you rotate the shaft. if they do not then you should either make the hole in the based slightly larger by wiggling the rod around or by making the hole and the ear or tail larger by doing the same thing.

Step 7: Making the Ear

The ear is a little different from the other two because it moves in perpendicular to the body of the dog. This means that the way it is a little trickery to get right.

The first thing to do is to cut two small pieces of wire that will attach to the ear and a piece of cardboard for the ear itself. Next is two insert the wires into the ear piece and bend them. don't worry about the angle, it can be adjusted later. On the head of the dog poke two holes for the wires to fit through. Make sure the spacing is the same as on the ears. Once the ear is in place wiggle it up and down in the holes until it moves freely. Cut on of the wires shorter so it. Take the other wire and bend it 180 degrees towards the head. Make a third cam follower and hole. Insert the follower wire through the hole and line it up. the last part is to bend the follower wire so that it make a small loop just big enough for an other wire to move freely and hook it on to the ear.

Step 8: You're Finished

Congrats! you have finished building your automota.