Animatronic Mechanical Design
Much of the skill of building an animatronic figure is in the design and construction of the figure's mechanical components. The joints, cables, pneumatic cylinder rods, servos, and internal structure are the components that allow the life-like movement of an animatronic figure. Most who attempt to build an animatronic figure soon realize the skills and tools owned by a machinist are in high demand. Practically every part that is needed is a custom made piece. Internal space in a figure is very limited, which can result in complex mechanical design. In addition, access to internal mechanical parts like cables, linkage, cylinders, and servos is needed for future maintenance.
For the most part, new technology does not provide a solution when actual mechanical parts of a figure are made. Many of the traditional sources of how to design and build levers, pulleys, hinges, and other moving parts are as relevant today as they were the day they were printed. A machinist reference book is very helpful for building animatronic figures. There are also several older books that are a great resource for building things that move.
When developing the mechanical design of a figure designers typically need to review the following tools to make their figure move:
- Gimbal - Eye and neck movement
- Cables - Transfer servo or pneumatic movement into specific figure movement
- Rotating Joint - Elbow, finger, tail, wrist, ankle, or knee
- Springs - Tension or compression to assist motors or return to a position
- Sliding - Pop up
- Winch - Curtains or stage setup