My partner Shayna and I decided to attend the NYC Resistor Halloween party as The Lone Wanderer and Hancock from Fallout 4. She went all-out to create an exceptional spandex costume, and I wanted to build something that would at least prevent me from looking like a schlub in comparison.
I haven’t sculpted by hand in a while, let alone made an FX prop, but this felt like a manageable chunk to bite off. I started with a face casting, which Shayna built up out of alginate. From there, I made a plaster positive of that casting, and began sculpting a ghoul nose that made it look like my actual nose had fallen off due to intense mutating radiation.
Once I had the sculpture laid out, I added a gutter around the sculpture, waxed the prop, and made a mold box around it to pour a 1-part casting. Then, I removed the sculpture from the silicone, broke down the sculpture to get the original plaster casting back, and mixed up some silicone pigment to match my skin tone as much as possible.
From there, I ran a few castings to try and get something as bubble-free as possible (with mixed success). If I tried this all again, I’d definitely plan around paths for bubbles exiting the mold in a more robust way. However, vacuum casting and the general forgiving nature of zombie makeup ended up pulling this prosthetic through.
I mixed up some silicone with a thixotropic to create a sculpting putty, patched the prosthetic, and then went on to detailing it with some tinted silicone adhesive. I applied the prosthetic using that same adhesive as well and added some basic makeup. I’d intended to stick the bald cap down too, but it was already uncomfortably hot in my lab, and I wanted to avoid becoming a hot sweaty mess during the dance party.
I’ve been wanting an extra set of hands to hold a camera while I document projects for a long time. Kari and I are writing a book for MAKE all about soft robotics, and I figure there’s probably not going to be a better time to have a serious documentation setup than when someone’s paying me to do a good job at it. Since NYC Resistor just got a ShopBot and I’ve been meaning to get back into plywood fab for years, it seemed like a pretty auspicious syzygy. If you’d like to replicate this design for yourself, you can find the source files and project notes here. You can also see my photos from the cutting and assembly of the project here. Continue reading →
In 2013, I was splitting my time between running Sleek and Destroy out of my apartment in Brooklyn, and getting absolutely covered in 3d printing dust at Dr. Jim Bredt’s lab while hacking on my first experiments in soft robotics. While one one of those journeys up to Somerville to print, Tess Aquarium pinged to see whether I’d be available to teach a class on digital fabrication and toys at NUVU. I was excited about the opportunity. Also, I was terrified that I’d be creating a summer’s worth of curriculum and teaching a group of eleven students ranging between age 11 and 16 in just a couple of weeks.
The plan I came up with was to start with deconstructing toys, teach some CAD tools, give the students the basics for prototyping with digital tools, and end up with a pretty well resolved final project that was a toy of their own creation. That plan broadly worked, but I also had to do a lot of learning and bootstrapping along the way. Continue reading →
A few years back a couple of friends bought a house in SF (no small feat) and started making it their own. I thought they might like a family crest to adorn the walls of their new abode. I went for a Mignola kind of thing, and I think I’d like a print of this one day.
A couple of months ago Kari Love connected me up with Jeff Rubin to do an interview on his podcast. I highly recommend listening to the episode that I’m on, as well as every other episode of the show. Seriously, he finds amazing guests like Matt Chapman (the voice of Strong Bad and Homestar Runner), A professional pizza tour guide, and a professor who’s subject of expertise is the board game Monopoly.
In this interview we discuss how I got my start in movie SFX, some workshop shenanigans, and where my current track of soft robotics research is headed.
Yesterday I gave a talk about incorporating soft robotics, compliant mechanisms, and biomimetic structures into your engineering toolbox at NYU. I’ve been interested in how compliant mechanisms can reduce the computational complexity of tasks like manipulation and locomotion and this talk was a good opportunity to share some of my ideas on the subject.
The general thesis is that biology presents a huge trove of solutions to problems in robotics especially directed at optimizing the amount of sensing you’re devoting to understanding an environment and the amount of computation you’re devoting to navigating that environment. Compliance is an essential tool for creating systems that reduce a wide range of potential inputs into a simplified space of positive outputs.
Case in point:
You can find my slides here. If an audio/video copy becomes available I will update this post with a link.
This project involves AC power, high amperage, and high temperatures. Although this project is simple in principle replicating it on your own offers a lot of opportunities to hurt yourself. Proceed with caution.
Microwaves are treasure troves of useful electronic components. They’ve usually got some nice microswitches, a big transformer, a magnetron, and some smaller transformers and rectifiers to drive the display. I found a decent sized microwave hanging out on the street and transformed it into a shop tool I’d been wanting for a while – a spot welder.
Why Spot Welders are Useful
Spot welders are handy to have around the shop. They can tack together wire for quick brazing, and permanently weld sheet metal for durable enclosures. If you want a thorough guide on what you can do with a spot welder, Dan Gelbart has all the answers. I’ve been looking to up my prototyping game and have more freedom to build custom components when off the shelf parts won’t suit. Unfortunately my workshop is in Brooklyn and space is at a premium. I spent a lot of time fabricating structures out of steel wire in school and have found that it’s a good replacement for bent sheet metal and structural framing if you play your cards right. Wire is easy to store in a small shop, doesn’t take much equipment to manipulate, and can hold good tolerances in various dimensions as its behavior is very predictable. You can still find the manual I follow for a lot of my techniques on Amazon. Continue reading →
I’m fond of giving people gifts, but often shy away from just giving people stuff. There’s a complex dance of figuring out if it’ll be useful, if the quality’s any good, if they’ve already got one around, that muddies the water. I prefer to make something that doesn’t take up much space and has the chance of getting used up rather than living out the rest of its existence in storage. I’ve found that infusions work pretty perfectly for this job.
I’ve gone through a lot of recipes and variations over the years (they’ll likely show up on this blog eventually) but I was especially fond of this batch made in 2013. I made 5 infusions as christmas gifts to send to friends and family. The mixes were black pepper vodka, pumpkin vodka, lady grey tea gin, raw honey vodka, and red pepper tequila. Continue reading →
I’m trying to get more people playing with soft robots. I’m releasing open source design files, tutorials, and now teaching classes. They’re a useful tool to add to any roboticist’s engineering toolbox, and if they were more widely known I think we’d see them outside the research lab and applied to practical problems.