Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Steampunk Robot project almost anyone can build!

Anyone who has surfed the live steam videos on YouTube is familiar with the wonderfully eccentric working steampunk radio controlled machines of Crabfu. I have posted several videos of his work to this blog.

But this device of his stood out to me because it is something almost anyone with the inclination and some modest mechanical skills could replicate. A Steam Powered Armatron!


For those unfamiliar with the Armatron it was a plastic robotic arm made by the Tomy in the 80's that was sold through the Tandy Corporation's Radio Shack stores (Wikipedia). It is all mechanical and driven by a battery powered electric motor. Alas, this wonderful toy is no longer made but it was much beloved by geeks of yore (One of my coworkers has his on his desk, within range of the pencil holder). It was rather popular so working examples may still be found by dedicated scroungers.

Crabfu's modifications to run one on steam are straightforward. The electric motor is removed, an opening is cut into the side to allow for the drive belt/chain to pass though, a sprocket/pulley is attached to the drive shaft, and a mounted stationary steam engine is harnessed to drive the mechanism.

Given the relative simplicity of this mod I would think it possible to use a wide variety of alternative power sources, such as a Stirling engine or clockwork mechanism. Given that the Armatron is made of plastic potential power sources probably should be limited in power.

Also of interest is Crabfu's guide to drawing steampunk devices.

I hope you are as inspired by his site as I have been.

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