Introduction: 3 Feet Huge Butterfly - Art Installation

About: I'm Utkarsh Kumar Gupta, an engineer, artist, inventor, focused on sustainability issues. My true passion is creating functional products integrated with technology. I'm interested in new technologies and the …

Everyone is like a butterfly, they start out ugly and awkward and then morph into beautiful graceful butterflies that everyone loves. ...

Wings of Life is an art installation in motion, a jumbo butterfly moving its wings using basic automaton mechanism.

This build is pretty amazing but there is more than meets the eye and that is it's video. For this project I made a stop motion video for which I clicked about 5000 Images 3300 of which are used in the video to make a 2 minutes & 22 seconds clip. So it won't be wrong to say that I literally made it move. This project took me 2 months to make from ideation to fabrication to video editing.
It turned out very nice and its a treat to eyes :)

You can watch the video on my Youtube channel - Canvas of Dreams.
I keep on experimenting with projects & videos. You can subscribe to my channel and stay updated.

Step 1: Materials & Tools Used


  • 10 mm Plywood Sheet
  • 6 mm Plywood Sheet
  • 2mm Acrylic Sheet Gold Mirror
  • 2mm Acrylic Sheet Silver Mirror
  • 10mm Acrylic Sheet
  • Hinge x 4
  • Screws & Nut Bolts


  • 12V RGB LED Strip
  • RGB LED Controller
  • 12V 2A Power Supply
  • 2 Channel RF Module
  • AC Synchronous Motor
  • BLDC Fan
  • 50'C Thermostat
  • Connecting Wires

Machine & Tools

  • Pliers
  • Scisers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Soldering Station
  • Laser Cutter

Step 2: Mechanism

All parts of mechanism are made out of 6mm thick plywood using laser cutter.

The mechanism gears are made using 10mm acrylic sheet for smoother operation of the mechanism.

Mechanism is simple.

  • A small gear is fixed on the shaft of motor which turns a bigger gear reducing its speed and increasing the torque.
  • Bigger or Driven gear is fixed on another shaft which is rotating on two 608 ball bearings.
  • On the ends of the driven shaft are fixed circular discs. So when motor turns, the rotation is transferred to gears to these.
  • On the disc, an iron nail is fixed off centred to the disc to which an iron strip is connected.
  • When the wheel turns the iron strip moves back and fourth end of which is connected to wing resulting same motion of the wings.

Note : Avoid making gears out of plywood as with time it will split from the gear tooth and hinder smooth movement of the gears.

The file for the wing mechanism that I made is uploaded here.
Now if you have never used a laser cutter before let me tell you its the most amazing tool for the makers and very easy to use too. You can sign up for Instructables Laser Cutting Class. Its very well designed with lots of information and projects.
I placed the ply-board on the platform, exported the file to the laser cutter with appropriate settings. It took about 15 minutes to process all parts in laser cutter.

Step 3: Wings

Butterfly wings are made using two layers of 6mm plywood.

One is the base and second is the top layer with wing design inset. I downloaded a vector file from internet and and tweaked it accordingly for the setup.

Both the layers are glued together and fixed on the mechanism with nuts and bolts. These are easily removable if required.

In the insets I used golden and silver mirrored acrylic which are cut using laser cutter and fixed in the insets using glue.

Wings are painted in black enamel paint mixed with golden finish using a paint brush. Two coats have been done to give it a dark but shiny look to go along with the butterfly.

Step 4: Base Wall

Base wall is a 10mm plywood on which 6mm plywood tiles are fixed in brick pattern. These are glued on to the base using Fevicol (synthetic resin).

Dimensions of Base wall:

  • Width - 110 cm
  • Height - 75 cm
  • Thickness - 1.6 cm

Step 5: Lights & Electronics

Fixing LEDs

LED strips are self adhesive so its easy to fix them on a surface. I used RGB LEDs which can form many colours by a small controller with an IR remote to control its colours and light effects.

To fix LED strips I cut it to desired length, removed its back-tape and fixed it near to the edges of the back of the wings.

Note : Make sure you cut at one of the cut marks with contacts on them or you will end up damaging the LED Strip.

After fixing the LED strip I connected the LED strips together by copper wires with soldering iron. I then connected the 12v DC power supply with the LED and using hot glue to secured the connections.


Motor that is used to drive the mechanism is an AC Synchronous Motor. Its commonly used in air conditioners and coolers for air direction auto swing. It runs on domestic supply and requires no driver.
A small BLDC fan is also fixed to prevent the motor from heating up. Still if the temperature goes high there is one thermostat equipped with motor which cuts down the supply if the temperature goes above 50'c.

Switching of Lights and Wing movement mechanism is controlled using a two channel RF module sitting behind the wings.

Step 6: And Action!!!

Now that everything is fixed, connections are done, controls are tested, all left to do is just press the buttons on the remote control and admire the beauty.

As the wings are fixed with golden and silver mirrored acrylic, it reflects a beautiful moving pattern of lights on the wall in front of the butterfly and LEDs fixed behind gives it a new look every time you change it.

I have tried to put all of the build details still if I missed something I will be happy to answer all of the queries in comment section :)

I am now working on a new installation and soon will come up with another Instrutables post.

Do Subscribe to my Youtube Channel - Canvas of Dreams to stay updated.

I hope you guys like this project and if you do....please vote for this project... :)
Happy Making!!

Make It Move Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Make It Move Contest 2017

Furniture Contest 2017

Participated in the
Furniture Contest 2017

Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017