Flight of Imagination




Introduction: Flight of Imagination

This was my final year artwork for high school.

It was also my first Arduino project. I was somewhat over confident. 

That being said I really love these wings. The thumbnail will give you some idea of the scale.

The process is too long, as well as definitely not being the best way to make a project like this, to post a complete step-by-step at this point (I might do so during the holidays). But as there really isn't much information on the internet regarding how to make wings that move without pneumatics, I thought I would post it, just to show anyone as crazy as me that it can be done. I will however take a look at the code and set up of the servos.

The frame, though it did go through a couple of iterations, is from Rachel's instructable:  https://www.instructables.com/id/Articulated-Wing-Framework/

Step 1: What You Need

For the servos:
2 Servos
Lots of hookup wire
A power adapter

For the actual wings:
Fabric - I used canvas, do not use canvas
Adhesive - I used spray adhesive, do not use spray adhesive
Balsa wood cylindrical sticks - I used aluminium tubes, again don't use these
​Thin Aluminium slats
Thousands of bolts in two or three sizes
At least twice as many nuts and washers in the same size
Drill press
Springs - the type that can't be compressed
Big wood stump
Angled joint thing
Aluminium beams
Paint brush
Calligraphy pen angled holder
Gillet 404 nib
Brown ink
Thin Al

Step 2: The Code

For the wings to work I needed two servos to move in opposite directions at exactly the same time and at the same degrees from zero.

I know almost nothing about how to code, although I did get really good at adding buttons to code.To get around this I just modified the Arduino library code for ServoSweep. For anyone just learning how to code I recommend this excellent website which is responsible for my button coding prowess:  http://www.ladyada.net/learn/arduino/

This is the code I used:


Servo Left;    // create servo object to control a servo 
Servo Right;   // a maximum of eight servo objects can be created 
int pos = 0;   // variable to store the servo position 

void setup() 

  Right.attach(9);  // attaches the servo on pin 9 to the servo object 

void loop() 

  for(pos = 0; pos < 180; pos = 1)  // goes from 0 degrees to 180 degrees 
  {                                  // in steps of 1 degree 
    Left.write(pos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos' 
    Right.write(180 - (pos));
    delay(25);                       // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position 
  for(pos = 180; pos>=1; pos-=1)     // goes from 180 degrees to 0 degrees 
    Left.write(pos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos' 
    delay(25);                       // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position 

Anyone count how many times I wrote code just then?

Step 3: Setting Up Your Servos

Please learn from my mistakes. I did not do this correctly and ended up with a singed hand, two broken servos and a desperate dash to a far away hardware store because my piece was due the next day.

First of all, do not have the power running to the servos through the Arduino. I was using pretty heavy duty servos and they required more than the voltage supplied by the battery attached to the Arduino. So we ran 9 volts from an adapter plugged into the wall. This was a very bad idea. The Arduino heated up and burnt my hand. Please set up a circuit like in my image on a breadboard. I found the circuit I used on this wonderfully helpful site:  http://www.robotoid.com/appnotes/arduino-operating-two-servos.html

The second thing to do: Please get a proper AC to 9 Volt DC wall adapter. I did not and consequently ran a lot of AC through my servos, hence the trip to the far distant store. It was a miracle I didn't destroy the Arduino as well. 

Step 4: And Making the Wings

And just in case you are still with me, here are a bunch of process shots of making the wings. The main problem with my wings were they were too heavy so if someone else were to make them, use the lightest materials possible and forget putting wire in the feathers, turns out you don't need it.

All the calligraphy is done by hand and the words are taken from some of my favourite novels. Here is a link to the complete list of quotes:  http://studio-arts-2013-digital-folio.tumblr.com/post/65027924790/the-list-of-quotes-i-wrote-on-my-wings-artwork

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    13 Discussions

    This looks great! The effect of unfolding wings came out beautifully. From your instructable, I gather you made this in a hurry to meet a deadline and fried your servos, but it doesn't show at all in the final version.

    Love these wings, and I agree, they need to be wearable... The next step, of course, would be to make them actually working...

    Thanks for sharing! On a side-note, though, the video tells me it is private and does not let me watch...

    Dominic Bender
    Dominic Bender

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for fixing it, you really need to see it in motion. I like how the feathers move and twist, it looks very natural. And poetic, of course.

    How much time did you spend writing down the quotes?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Writing on the feathers took around 12 hours of work. There were over 60 feathers and I eventually got the writing time down to 25-ish minutes a feather for the big one.
    The feathers were the hardest part to engineer, I am still thinking about how to improve them.

    Thank you


    6 years ago on Introduction

    ... and your first project at college or university is to make them portable!

    That's an awesome project - thanks for sharing what went wrong as well as what went right.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Unfortunately I have already started making plans - no rest for the wicked.

    Thank you very much for your kind comment.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Nothing unfortunate about plans!

    (Just make sure you take plenty of pictures, and post an instructable.)


    6 years ago

    Wonderfully imaginative project!