The Zombiemachine



Introduction: The Zombiemachine

We are David, Janwit & Lisa and study at the West-Flanders High School (HOWEST) in Kortrijk. Our education is called industrial product design and together with My Machine International we made the zombiemachine.
We worked together with a primary school and a technical secondary school in Belgium and Slovenia. In both countries, the children draw their dream machine and after that we translated the winning drawing into a full working and realistich concept, together with the Slovenian students in Nova Gorica en Ljubljana.

If you are interested in the fantastich My Machine project or want to know something more about our zombiemachine, you can go to following links:

My Machine Global
Wordpress blog the zombiemachine

But what does the zombiemachine actually?

When the kids go to bed, they can't fall asleep because they're afraid of the burglars, scarys noises and monsters under their bed.
This zombie is the solution for their problem. The machine catches all monsters and burglars in a few steps to calm you down and go to sleep. It works like a pull-string-toy, attached to the ceiling. The zombie goes from the ground to the ceiling in a few steps. When the zombie hangs on the ground, it scans under the bed for zombies and burglars. Then it goes up to eyeheight, so the child can look into the zombie's mouth to see all the catched monsters. After that it rises a little bit again and the child can choose a music of a bedtime story to calm down. In the last step the zombie rises again and becomes a nightlight. Next to this individual protecting part, the zombie also is an interactive groupgame. The zombie can be disconnected from the ceiling-system and transforms into the circle game. <
The music starts and the children pass the zombie, when the music stops the child looks into the zombie and sees an image he/she needs to personate for the group. The other kids have to guess and then the game goes on.
Extra fun: flickering bouncing eye-balls & squeezy brain

Look at the movie above to see how it works!

Step 1: What Do You Need?


The brain:

  • stretchable fabricin 2 differenct pink colours
  • hardboard
  • steelwire
  • polystyrene plate
  • LED lights (christmaslights)
  • jambox
  • pink paint

The body:

  • styrofoam plate
  • plushy green fabric
  • 2 flickering bouncing balls
  • green slime
  • mint green & black paint
  • polypropylene rope
  • liquid polyester fiber glass
  • styrofoam (EPS) balls
  • wood glue

The palm top theater:

  • Beechwood plates


  • dremel
  • gloves
  • sandpaper
  • scissor
  • sewing machine
  • panel saw machine
  • belt saw machine
  • lasercutter
  • thermoform machine
  • bench clamp
  • tube (to wire the springs)
  • paintbrushes
  • needle and thread

Step 2: Foam Model & Fiberglass

The basic model for the Zombiemachine is made out of a block of styrofoam (EPS) . We make three layers of this standard roof insulation board glued together with wood glue.
When everything is dry, the inside op the top layer gets out and the block is sanded into model with sand paper.

Now we can start with the fiberglass to make the head strong. We start with the rough (non woven) fiberglass sheet and add 2 layers of that with liquid polyester glue & hardener. This 2 component adhesive needs to be mixed in proportion 0.97 polyester / 0.03 hardener. And very important: don't forget to wear gloves and a mond mask while adding the pieces fiberglass onto the model.
On top of that you need 2 layers of the fine fiberglass to finish up the model, again with the same glue and proportions.

When this was ready it needed to dry a day

Step 3: The Brainpan

The brain will consist out of 3 parts: The technical box, connected with the brainpan with steelwires and the braintubes.

Again, we take a piece of EPS foam and make a model into the form of a brainpan, with a diameter of +- 250 mm, as you can see in the first photo. The other dimensios you can choos freely.
After that we prepare the model for themorforming. The foam model is placed on a MDF plate with wood glue. After that we drill holes around the form, this is important for the thermoforming process. the whole thing can be placed in the thermoformer now, together with the polystyrene plate.
When the PS model is ready, we drill holes in the model, so later on we can attach the braintubes on to the pan.

Step 4: Holes in the Zombiehead

The zombie needs 2 holes for the eyes, one for the mouth en one for the nose.
We use a dremel to make the rough holes and finish it with sand paper.

We make a new nose with foam and fiberglass, in the same way we made the head model. When it's dry, we use a drill machine to make the noseholes, where the slime needs to get out.

The position and dimensions for this holes are placed in the last photo. The depht of the mouth needs to be 140 mm and the bouncing balls have to tension in the eye holes, so they can be put out to play with, but doesn't fall out.

Step 5: The Technical Box

In step 5 we make the technical box that is connected onto the brainpan and hides the music and lights.
It consists of 1 normal circle, 1 circle with 2 holes & 2 rectangles in hardboard made with the belt saw & in the middle is the jambox (music) hidden.

We make 2 slots in both of circles with the dremel, that the jambox can be placed in between. The rectangles will be placed in the slots and all parts are glued together with wood glue

Step 6: Painting

The brainpan and technical box is painted pink, the zombiehead is painted green and the mouth is painted black, to create a black box for the palm top theater.

Step 7: Sewing Work

Now we can start with the 12 braintubes, we have 4 long ones and 8 short ones, but this doesn't matter that much!

With the technical pattern on the last photo, you can cut out the tubes out of the pink fabric in 2 colours.
Every tube needs 2 of the same patterns that we sew together with the sewing machine. Afterwards we lace the LED lights (christmas lights) through the tubes and now we can fill this tubes with EPS foam balls.
Now we have to attach these tubes on to the brainpain, this happens with knots and lacing.

Step 8: The Palm Top Theater

Now that the zombie is finished, we will make the 3D palm top theater for in the mouth, where the kids can watch the catched monsters.

We start with cutting the beechwood plates in the right dimensions with the panel saw machine. The plates need tot be 3 x 400 x 600 mm to fit into the lasercut machine. The Adobe illustrator file with the drawing of the 4 parts are read in the computer and now the lasercutting can start ,as you see on photo 2.
The result are 4 parts that need to be glued together with wood glue.

The slots we made in the left and right side, are there to place in reflective translucent plates, so that the video on the phone will be reflected and create a 3D view of the video. We cut 3 little rectangles out of the PVC and slide them in the slots where the stars are placed. We made a lot more slots, so it would work with every phone placed in the palm top theater.

You can paint the whole thing (except the PVC rectangles) black, for extra effect.

The drawing of the parts can you find between the photos with all dimensions

If you wanna know how a palm top theater works, click on following link:
How a Palm Top Theater works

Step 9: The Finished Zombiemachine

Now you can use the zombiemachine, so your children have a good and fun night rest!

Enjoy !

Step 10: Making a More Standardised Version

Now, part of this project for the design students besides making a prototype is suggesting a more standardised design for the machine to the students at the technological secondary school. Following steps are explaining how we think it might work.

Step 11: Bottom Plate

In attachment you'll find a technical drawing of the steel bottom plate (on the right), it is used to attach the wireframe (spokes) of the zombie to it and of course the face of the zombie that'll contain his eyes and form a window to look through for when the technological part arrives from Slovenia.

It's made by cutting a circle out of a steel plate of 3mm thick and drilling 15 holes of about 3mm in diameter through it over a span of 270°, the remaining 90° will be used to attach the face of the zombie to.

Step 12: Wireframe

The wireframe is made by putting the spokes through their corresponding holes in the bottom plate and bending them into form. Afterwards the spokes will be hammered in the upper part of the zombie (the top plates).

In the wooden upper plates there are holes made that fit tightly around the spokes.

Step 13: Making the Upper Plates and Connecting Them

The upper plates are made out of two parts. The lower part is used to hold the technological inside of the zombie into place, and the upper part is used to lock it all together (using the brain box as well).

Step 14: Brain Box

This box will contain the thermoform on which the brain tubes will be attached. This is done by putting the lips of the thermoform through the slids in the brain box. The brain box is twisted & locked onto the upper part of the upper plate.

Step 15: Making the Brain Thermoform

Using a basic model made out of EPS-foam we made this brain form. Then you'll have to drill some holes into it so the brain tubes can be attached to it.

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