Introduction: Automaton Driving Leds and an Office Employee

About: I'm a teacher (physics, grades 7 to 10), Maker and product designer. (Check out full of experiments, projects for Maker Education and kits for Bibberbeests!). Besides that, I write childre…
I made my first "automata" in the last couple of weeks. Because it was my first try to make something like this, I needed all my attention to the making, not leaving any space for documenting the process. So, I ended up with a working automaton, but not enough material to make an Instructable of.

However, I got some pictures and a video. And a list of do's and don'ts. So here you go...

  • Sketch and draw the design before making it. Try to have a picture as clear as possible of the automaton you want to make, before starting to build it.
  • Start with the mechanics underneath the figure. The moving parts are the hardest to make. Get those right first, before proceeding with the rest of the scene.
  • Be precise, have patience and DON'T PANIC.
    I remade almost *all* of the moving parts at least one time, just because things worked out differently than I expected. The first time that happened annoyed me, to put it mildly. But gradually I learned to accept to remake parts as a part of "I'm-making-an-automaton-and-remaking-parts-is-something-I-just-have-to-do-to-get-to-the-result"
  • Adapt the sizes / measures of parts while building. Although I made sketches / drawings beforehenad of what I wanted to make, I decided on the size of parts while building the automaton, comparing new parts to ecisting oparts to determine the size. I hardly used a ruler or caliper.

  • Do not use cardboard for supporting movings parts, or for parts which measures are critical. Cardboard has a tendency to bend and deform, especially when painted. Computer Hans is made of cardboard, which I regretted in the end.
  • Don't try to figure out the exact measures of parts beforehand. It will turn out differently anyway :-s.

Links, if you (like me) want to bang your head against a wall out of sheer frustration, or if you're just looking for inspiration from the experts...
- The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, home of a whole people of automata-builders...
- Website of Keith Newstead, a miraculous automata-builder
- Website of Kazu Harada, wonderful and minimalistic automata's
- The uncrowned King of everything that is beautiful...