In recent years, Cosplay as a hobby has seen improvement in the props department by leaps and bounds. Thanks in part due to the rise of the Maker culture and the easy availability of design and manufacturing tools and processes. Case in point is this awesome set of Animatronic Wings that programmer [Nelson Stoldt] built for his daughter who wanted to be Nightmare Moon.
[Nelson] had no idea what he’d gotten himself in to when he answered “Sure, I can do that”. Making motorized cosplay wings that open up to 8 feet wide and close again at the flick of a switch without weighing a ton is not a trivial project. The final rig did end up tipping the scales at just over 9 kgs, but we guess that’s a load that Cosplayers are used to hauling around.
Using a nifty program called Linkage, he played around with a few different design approaches until he found a mechanism that worked well. If you ever want to build one of [Theo Jansen]’s Strandbeest, give this program a spin. Armed with this information, and a spreadsheet to help determine the exact length of each linkage element, he modelled the project in Sketchup. The wings are operated by a scissor mechanism that is driven by a motorized screw operated sliding carriage. Wing position is measured by a potentiometer coupled to one of the wing elements. Basically, he just built a huge, powerful servo.
The linkage mechanism was built out of Aluminum bars. This part of his blog — measuring, marking, cutting, drilling, tapping, sanding, sawing — sounds like a Harbour Freight advert, but we’ll let that pass. He cut an acrylic sheet, heated it in an oven, and then bent it to shape to fit the back of the cosplay dress. Attached to the body using straps, this acrylic backpack has a kind of hook mechanism that allows the main wings to be easily clipped in and removed. Handy since they weigh a lot.
Unfortunately, after adding all of the skin and feathers to the wings, the original motor turned out to be underpowered. A cordless drill was then hacked to help power the wings (maybe he didn’t get the memo about Harbor Freight chainsaws?). The electronics are pretty simple, an Arduino Uno with two input switches and a DPDT relay for controlling the motor direction. A beefy FET recovered from the cordless drill helped drive the new motor. The dual switches helped ensure safety. With the master switch pressed, click slave switch once to raise, or twice to lower. While the motor was moving, a click on any switch would stop it immediately.
There were some last minute hiccups with the wings not opening fully, but some quick code edits solved the problem. His daughter showed off her animatronic wings and went on to win the Best in Show prize, so the effort totally paid off.