When I lent my services to a collegue who was working on a film about 12 years ago, I was introduced to the world of cnc. I remember watching this huge machining centre milling out a slab of mdf and turning it into a fantastic set of gears. I knew that it would have taken me hours to achieve the same thing with traditional power tools. I decided then that I would invest in a cnc router for my own business Oxenham Design. At that time I could turn on a computer, but even to check email seemed like a crazy set of operations. I persevered and learned every piece of relevant software I could get my hands on. I am now fortunate enough to be using Vectric's ASPIRE software, and Techno cnc routers, which has helped us to create some amazing projects, both in part, or in full. I thought that this blog would be a great place to share "behind the scenes" adventures with the software, materials and equipment we use, as well as the projects we build.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

These Guys are Fly!

I spent most of today designing the mini fly guy skydancer template. This went through many, many revisions. I had drawn the original template in Aspire and cut it from 1/8" mdf. The slow part was cutting and seem welding the very thin material, trying it out, observing how it behaved, then adjusting the Aspire file and cut a new one. We went through 6 revisions before finding one that worked the way we wanted.

This was the final design. His arms had to be raised quite a bit more than the real one, as the arms wouldn't fill with air at any other angle.

On the real Fly Guy, the arms aren't sealed off, letting the air whip out and shake the finger streamers. Even though the plastic we are using is VERY thin, it still scales out to be WAY thicker than the real material. All this means is that we had to close the arms off so they would fill with air, otherwise they just stay flat and fold on themselves. We welded a separate piece to the end with the finger streamers attached. The tests looked pretty good.

The other piece to this crazy puzzle is the base. In real life, the bases vary from being just a fan to an actual road case. As we needed to hide the small hair dryer in the bottom, I opted for the road case look!
Over the weekend I experimented with a whole assortment of different fans. But what makes the miniature fly guy successful is the introduction of heat. Without heat, the thin plastic is still quite stiff, but heating the air softens this problem away. A hair dryer it was. However, this was a bit of an experiment as well! We needed the high setting of the fan, but the heat setting on high melts the fly guy. This led to hacking the hair dryer. Every hair dryer manufacturer makes them in their own special way. Some have separate heat and fan settings, some have the heat and the fan tied together, etc. As we went with a travel sized hair dryer for it's size, this proved the worst one to hack. Even though it's a 110v dryer, the fan motor is 12 volts. The resistance of the heater element reduces the voltage to the motor. This means that removing 1 heater coil significantly overloads the little motor. Half a day later, we now have 2 dryers that operate on high speed/ low heat. I know this sort of rambles on a bit, but it just goes to show the amount of work that can end up going into what is a relatively "simple" idea.
The base was made from 1/4" white PVC. I drew it up in Aspire, carefully considering everything it needed to accomplish. The hair dryer we're using has a small clip-on diffuser with it. I measured up the diffuser and it's clips, then cut a ring allowing our hair dryer to "clip-in" to the inside of the base. We're keeping everything as simple as we can. We have a spare hair dryer, and 10 total flyguys. You never want to hold up anything as expensive as a production team because you came ill-prepared. After it was all assembled, I sprayed it out in a black satin color and added aluminum tape to all the edges. This really makes it look like a road case. This base will only appear for a second or two, so going overboard on the detail is a bit crazy. The last thing I wanted to do was add a texture to the black, like a real case kind of has. I masked off the aluminum, sprayed it with a rubberized texture coat, and when that dried, I sprayed it out agian with the satin black topcoat.

Very subtle, but I love it! Tomorrow I am finishing up putting the smiley face on the fly-guys and it should be ready to roll.

On the porthole side of things for the studio, I have decided to make 3 small bubble walls that will go behind the portholes. This will be kinda cool, seeing the bubbles rise in the windows all day. It's gonna rock!

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