Introduction: Feather Automaton

About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.

Ostrich feathers are lovely things. They catch the slightest breeze in a beautiful way. So I figured that a machine that could move a bunch of ostrich feathers at once would be even better.

And so, the feather automaton. Turn the crank and watch the feathers undulate!

Step 1: What You Need

    The files here aren't too big and should be able to fit on almost every bed. A bigger build space will let you print more at a time, though.

    Step 2: Core Mechanic

    The basic movement here was inspired by Movement 89 from 507 Mechanical Movements. A rod turns a central circular piece. That circular piece is inside of another circular piece with an arm extending off of it.

    When it turns, the arm goes up and down as well as left to right. All I want here is the left to right motion so this will need to be modified.

    Step 3: Removing Some Movement

    By creating a feather holder that acts as a sleeve for the arm the up and down motion has been removed. Now the feather holder is just moving left to right.

    Step 4: Print the Pieces

    You'll need to print one handle and one set of disc_arm and holder for each feather you want in your automaton.

    The disc_arm may require some extra work as there is only a .3mm gap between the inner and outer rings. If these fuse together, you might need to tweak the settings or do some extra post-processing work.

    Note: the picture has the hole for the insert facing away from the arm. This is bad as it made it harder to add the threaded inserts at a right angle. A few of my inserts were off by several degrees because of this. It still worked, but it's not the best.

    The attached file has this moved to the side. I haven't tested this yet, but it should be better for adding the inserts as well as the bolts.

    Step 5: Add the Inserts

    The inserts can be added to the hole in the dowel holder part of the inner ring with the help of the soldering iron. I heated my iron up to 450F, placed the insert on the tip, waited a few seconds, and slowly pushed it into place.

    This is my first time using these inserts and it was very easy to do. The temperature control probably helped a lot. I chose the 450F temperature as that's just a little hotter than the temperature the PLA is extruded at (215C / 419F).

    When you add the inserts you might push some of the melted PLA into the central area where the dowel goes. This is fine since we'll clean that up in the next step.

    Step 6: Cleaning Up

    Adding the inserts can push some PLA into the dowel-holder area. The inner diameter might also be a bit off. Both of these can lead to the dowel not sliding through the dowel-holder. You'll want the dowel to slide through easily so that aligning all of the pieces will go a lot faster and get you better results. Let the bolts do the work of holding the disc to the dowel.

    To do this, use a 1/4" bit in your drill to clear it out. I'm using my hand to hold it here, but a vice would be better. I should get a vice. They seem cheaper than hands.

    Step 7: Prep Your Enclosure

    Each enclosure will need two holes on either end for the dowel and holes along the top for each feather.

    How close you put the holes on top will depend on the feathers and the look you're going for. My original layout had these 1" apart which was mostly fine, but led to some feathers rubbing against each other. If I did it again, I'd probably go for 1.5" - 2" apart and get a much longer enclosure.

    Step 8: Adding All the Pieces

    Insert the disc_arm pieces into the enclosure first, then slide the dowel through them.

    Once again, if there's friction you may need to drill out the printed pieces.

    Arrange the pieces on the dowel and start securing them from front to back with the bolts going through the inserts.

    Test after each piece is secured to make sure that they are aligned correctly.

    Finally, add the handle to the end of the dowel sticking out the front with another bolt.

    Step 9: Turn It!

    I spraypainted the box here for a cleaner look, but you may not need that. If I was to redo this, I'd likely make it out of wood to make it more stable and give it more weight. The light plastic box here worked, but since it's so light it needs to be secured to the table to prevent it from moving around.

    And when you're done, turn the crank! Make the feathers move!

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