Ever since I can remember I have been intrigued with mechanical models that have gears. One of my first experiences with gears, that I remember, was of my cousin who had three Lego gears in sequence. I was fascinated by this simple gear chain where all three would turn together when one of them is turned.
Now I am a bit older and I am still fascinated by gears. When I ordered a laser cutter I knew that some mechanical models with levers, pulleys and gears will be made on it. And now the first model for a new line of items (Induku Wooden Models) has been completed and made into a kit format: The Strandbeest – a mechanical beast that has a very cool walking motion.
My interpretation of the Strandbeest:
The Strandbeest was developed by the Dutch artist, Theo Jansen using a evolutionary algorithm. While working as a scientist I wrote a few evolutionary algorithms and it is an extremely interesting and powerful method to solve very complex problems – I personally think it is underutilized (read more about genetic algorithms here). For the Strandbeest Theo Jansen used an “optimal walking motion” as the goal. Many different legs were evaluated and the best were used to make new variations until the leg that best fitted the motion was “found” (read more about it here). This is the essence of the Strandbeest motion and I used the leg parameter (scaled down) to develop a wooden interpretation.
Making a whole kit from a few leg parameters is a bit of work. The first thing I did was to test if I could make a leg that would actually work. This was reasonably easy and quickly afterwards the first model was born.
This first Strandbeest model was too small to have large enough gears to have a good gear ratio. The wind required to drive the small beast needed to be very strong for it to move (note: another solution would have been to make the small gear smaller and have more small teeth on the large gear BUT working with wood has some limits – and decreasing the teeth size would make them break to easily). I thus made a second version of the beast and it worked much better.
After a bit of tweaking, the third version was made and the parts were ready to be placed in kit format. I also made a jig to cut all the dowels required as connecting rods and axles.
Once this was done I spent quite some time on the packaging. This I found to be a whole science on its own. Luckily I can cut my own cardboard boxes on the laser and each Strandbeest kit, with all the parts, dowels and booklet ships in a box that fitts perfectly.
As mentioned, a booklet is included (digital version here). This contains the assembly instructions and I completely underestimated the work required for this part of the project. I thus spent almost as much time taking photos of each step in the assembly, editing the photos and writing the description, as developing the Strandbeest model. But finally it was completed and I am happy with how the whole project turned out.
The Strandbeest models are now for sale as kits (here).
But I am also working on the next model. It will be based on the whirligig that I made last year (see it here) and will also be sold as a kit. I am quite excited about this and it will have a few gears, crankshafts, levers and maybe even a shark!
Stay tuned to see how it turns out…