Eyeball Monster Mask

Had such a blast making my spider queen mask last year. This year, I really want to try and see if I can incorporate some movement effects, so I'm hoping to learn a lot from the 3d printed eye animatronic course. Not gonna do all of the eyes, obviously, but one or two would be so damn cool. Guess we'll see what's possible before Halloween gets here. 

Concept art is done at least. 


  • Awesome concept!   Eye movement would be super cool as well.

  • edited October 2019
    Been working very hard and feeling the pressure of Halloween being almost here! Down to the wire, lol. Thought I'd share some updates, though...

    I started by watching How To Make An Eye Mechanism - Design, 3D Printing & Assembly and taking lots of notes. 

    Started working on some prototypes and ideas, figuring out which direction I might want to go, and how to make things work for my needs. Enjoyed the ping pong prototype suggestion, ha!

    So after some sketching and thinking and rewatching some chapters, looking at what is out there in terms of hobby stores and RC supplies... I started working on my design. My background is in 3D animation/modeling, actually, but not much CAD (more of the Maya, Max, Zbrush, Lightwave, Blender route), so I decided to work in Blender because it's what I use the most right now. 

    Now, unfortunately, Blender 2.8 is not the most CAD-like (although some out there are making such extensions). So, doing bevels and finding midpoints and such is a bit more annoying, but I made it work. Probably took 5x as long as it would have in CAD, but oh well, I went with what I knew. 

    I knew that I only wanted 1 eye, not 2, and that I wanted it to use as few servos as I could and be as small of a footprint as I could get away with. I decided on using micro ball links instead of fishing line- so that I could do both push AND pull with one link, and came up with a design using just three HS-55 servos, which were tiny like I needed, at only about 8g each, but powerful little buggers. 

    The hardest part was trying to make it all compact, yet still have room to move, and figuring out how to arrange the ball links so that they could have some range of motion. As suggested in the class, I made models of all my linkages and servos for reference. Definitely put the digital calipers to use!

    The blink linkage was the hardest to figure out, but I eventually ended up soldering some pushrods together into a 2-prong fork and attaching to ball links and an EZ link. Aaaaand... my soldering skills are embarrassingly bad! 

    As far as printing, that went mostly okay. There were a few things I discovered along the way- such as which areas were weaker and prone to breaking, which areas needed some adjusting. Different parts needed different infill settings. It was a game of balancing print time vs print settings. There were a few that got trashed, but in the end, I had what I needed. I still had to parts that broke, which I've updated in my 3D design, but rather than print again, I just took a shortcut and used some JBWeld. The printer I have is a Creality Ender 3. I think the longest print time (for the base) was about 18 hours. (Tip: Ring cameras are great for keeping track of a print remotely. LOL).

    Once I had the prints, everything had to be put together. I learned a lot from the class, once again. I had no idea what a tap or die was before watching the video! So I dutifully prepared all the holes and parts and pieces and tiny bits I needed and assembled. The majority of my supplies come from my local hobby store, which I'm very lucky to have! I think they find me amusing, since their focus is mostly model trains and RC cars/planes... so I'm not the typical customer. :) (Another tip: be careful working with pushrods. They will pierce your fingertips like butter. I think I had 3 injuries by the end, trying to push things into place, or put pushrods into links).

    (Funny note: the main post for the swashplate.... it's a jewelry barbell. So... if you ever need a rod with a ball on the end... look at body jewelry. You can order whatever mm diameter post or ball you need).

    Then came the hard stuff. I don't want to use radio control, I need it to be autonomous. So, time to learn how to do Arduino. So I picked up an Uno first, then ended up getting a Nano for size consideration. I found learning all of this challenging, I won't lie. I don't really have any electronics experience and it's been a LONG time since highschool physics. I had to relearn a lot- Ohms law, and trying to understand voltage and amps and current, and what the Arduino needs and provides, vs powering the servos. Thankfully, I haven't burned up any of my boards or stripped any servos. So, after maybe a week of all this, I got a working breadboard setup. Thankfully, coding a sketch for Arduino is pretty straightforward (even though my programming abilities aren't the strongest). If you can handle basic functions and loops, though, it's not too bad at all. I ended up programming it to randomly look around and blink on its own- random delays, speeds, and distance.

    I hooked it up just last night, and never in my life have I felt so relieved and excited about a project ACTUALLY working, whew! *wipes forehead*


    The arduino will run off a little 5V pack via mini B usb, and the servos have a 4AA battery pack just for them. The next thing I hope to do is transfer it all to a perma-proto board and solder it all up, so I don't have to worry about anything coming lose. I'm thinking I will 3D print some kind of slim enclosure for all the guts.

    I also need to figure out next how I'm going to get all this set up inside of the mask? So, if there are any classes that someone could recommend- for positioning animatronics in the space between actor and mask- please let me know!

    The other part I've worked on- the eyes. I've made a whole bunch in two different sizes, all kinds of eyes. Made the eyes out of epoxy and then mod-podged printed eyes on the back (found online and did a bit of photoshopping to them). I found the Making Eyes For Puppets Masks and Makeup class to be useful. 

    So, that leaves me with needing to get the animatronic eye iris/cornea made (or maybe painted), sculpt the mask, mold it, cast the latex, airbrush it.... AAAAH. It's gonna be a close one! 
    Post edited by Chris Ellerby on
  • Wow, awesome work!  The video of your 3D printed eye mech looks fantastic.  It's great to see your first dive into the world of Arduino went well, it's such a powerful resource!  Glad you were able to get blender to work for designing your parts.  I know it's often easier to go with what you know, especially when you want to get your project finished quickly, but I would recommend learning CAD (like Fusion 360) at some point in the future.  CAD lets you design precisely (super important with mechanical stuff) and also makes changing parts to iterate through design versions a lot faster/easier.  You mentioned having an issue with a part that had a structural weakness.  That is super common with 3D printing, and that issue highlights one of the amazing benefits of CAD & 3D printing as it allows you to rapidly iterate through design changes by testing parts in the real world and replacing them as improvements are made.

    Using the jewelry barbell is an awesome idea.  I would never have thought of that, but it's perfect!  Is the threading on those metric?

    We don't have any lessons that specifically cover fitting an animatronic between a performer and a mask.  That's usually such a character specific challenge.  If you have any examples of what your mask looks like and how it might fit the performer and mechanism I would be happy to help with suggestions.

    Can't wait to see the finished mask!

  • edited October 2019
    Thanks Chris!

    Body jewelery, afaik, does metric for threads, too. Manufacturers don't always list it, but you can usually find out with an email. Some companies do provide charts, though.. Here's one example for threads.

    A lot of them will offer wholesale options, too, If a studio needed a lot, and you can usually purchase balls and shafts separately, too. You just want to look for companies that can service tattoo and piercing shops, not just the standard consumer. I've ordered 4nm balls on Amazon, even, for replacements. 

    As far as the mask. Right now I'm toying with perhaps 3D printing a piece that could serve as an anchor for everything, and then  use some foam and/or fabric to hold that and attach it to the mask, whilst having some structure and support on my head for it, too. 

    Afa CAD, I def need to relearn it! Last time I did any was probably 15 years ago, so I'm sure I'd be pretty rough around the edges picking it back up now. I'm sure there are some good resources out there, though, to learn. 
  • Awesome, I'll keep that in mind next time I need a threaded ball.  I usually use all metric hardware, so that works out perfect. 

    3D printing brackets or frames for your mech should work great.

Sign In or Register to comment.