Creating a lifelike animatronic eye that moves and tracks is one of the most sought after skills of beginning animatronics builders. After all, the human eye and eyes of most creatures are a true masterpiece. Their design is well beyond what humans can currently create. The trick is to make an eye look and move as realistic as possible. It will not have the functionality of a real eye, but it must move like one.
Here are step by step instructions to build a pair of animatronic eyes. The materials and control are kept simple in order to show how easy it is to create an animatronic eye mechanism. The instructions show how to make glowing eyes that can be used for an animatornic figure or Halloween prop. Rubber eyes with a diameter of 1-7/16" are used in the example project.
1. Cut two thin slices of 1-1/2" diameter PVC. PVC is typically marked with a "rounded-up" inside diameter. For the example project, the PVC that was marked 1-1/2". It was actually 1-9/16" inside diameter. Use a bench vise to safely hold the PVC conduit in place. Use a hack saw to cut the pvc, resulting in two rings.
2. Mark the quarter points around the circumference of the rings. Use a pencil to mark 4 equally spaced lines around the edge of each ring.
3. Use a Dremel tool or drill with a small bit to drill 4 small holes at the quarter points around the outside of each ring.
4. Push a 2 inch nail through the outside of the ring all the way to the hole on the other side. The nail should fit snug. Pull the nail back out of the ring.
5. Find a plastic insert tube, slightly larger than the nail. Drill a hole through the center of the animatronic eyeball large enough to push the plastic insert through. The insert should be slightly larger than the nail so it will rotate easily. Push the insert though the eyeball, leaving a little extra on both ends. The extra insert tubing is used to center the eyeball inside the ring.
6. Hold the eyeball in the center of the ring and push the nail through the drilled holes, passing through the center of the eye into the opposite side of the ring. Slide the eyeball up or down to center it inside the ring. Repeat this procedure for the second eye.
Part 2: Making the eyes move (coming soon)