Noodle Puberty


Sometime in April, Noodle started to change. He stopped hiding in his blankets and began spending his nights surfing through hardware catalogues alone in the darkness. He became curious about linkages, pivot joints, self lubricating thrust bearings and among other things, the prospect of being made of something harder. Noodle started dreaming of becoming metal.

As I mentioned in my previous post, just as I was about to tackle the conundrum of mechanical drooling… I went to JPL this June and met the mechanism that inspired Noodle’s gripping toes in person:


The LEMUR probe has easily a billion toes… all agile, long and barbed. You know by looking at them, that if it reaches for you, you aren’t getting away. I returned home feeling a tad inadequate. Noodle’s current apparatus with its 8 lonely toes did in fact look pretty sparse.

In the period of a weekend I managed to tweak my current design a tad and come up with this little wonder… which has exactly 16 toe filaments (that’s twice the toes!):

IMG_8715.jpgIn order to attach that density of toe tendons to the toe-ring, I had to eliminate the use of hardware (which was kind of a relief). As improvisation, I threaded some 3mm rubber hose through the loops of the toe tendons to hold everything in place.

Of course, after I built the improved, maxed-out hyper toe apparatus… I’d have to once again install a servo motor and some gears to make sure I could in fact still drive the thing… (now that there is twice as much material making surface contact)

It took some stronger springs, but it for the most part *does* still work. The stronger springs insure that the toes retract back into the sheath quickly enough not to hook onto the rim and get stuck on their way back in.

I finally had produced a solid working assembly towards the end of June. I invested in some light gray and white filament, as well as the appropriate red for use on accent pieces and Noodle’s tiny toe-zies. The thing I had been working on was finally starting to look like what it was suppose to be, and Noodle liked this:

IMG_8805.jpgWith one complete proof-of-concept to show, I set everything down and allowed myself to become very distracted with a whole slew of things (which is good). My life exploded momentarily and when everything settled back down about a month ago, I found myself looking at an opportunity to travel to Linz, Austria to exhibit something of mine at the ARS Electronica festival [!]

I’ve been wanting to venture to Europe for this festival my entire adult life, and wasn’t going to pass up the chance to bring my spawn with me to have a part in it. Even if he is weak and unprepared as an art exhibit, his presence was what mattered. With no time to stall, I made the executive decision to begin producing another 3 prototypes in order to complete a set of 4 tasting feet. I had a week and a half to do it; print close to sixty or so parts, make any needed design changes, assemble, test, and tweak code. bLAH. Looking back, I’m shocked I even attempted such a shit-storm of preparation when there was no wiggle room for the unexpected:

BUT… in that week and a half crunch, a lot of things got pushed through to completion. Nothing like a deadline to assist progress. (and) Luckily there were no surprises…

IMG_9541.jpgI’m grateful I had Mark and Tony to help wherever I needed aide picking up the slack. One glass of wine at a time, and one task after another, the new feet took shape and were installed on Noodle (mere hours before I would need to disassemble him completely for his long flight over to Linz in my suitcase).


The festival, ARS Electronica, was amazing. There is so very much I could say in regard to its content and scale- but to do so would fail to provide an appropriate picture. You should go yourself to experience it. If the median between science, technology, and art is your thing… you have nothing to lose. Not to mention, the city of Linz is a wonderful place to visit in itself!

For four days I left NoodleFeet alone at the mercy of families, Germanic engineers and machinists, to be poked and probed and boggled over as an oddity, robot, and art piece:

IMG_9672.jpgDuring this gauntlet he held his own, but Noodle did blow out a servo motor. Just as I was returning to my exhibit area to check in on Mark (who would periodically drop by to watch over the young one while I was away), I saw a nice white plume of smoke streaming forth from Noodle’s foot. Apparently they can’t quite handle hours of continuous use- so the toes are just that chafey.

But other than the initial matter of smokey toes, he didn’t catch fire, fall off the table, or get stolen. =] That for me was a success…

Now that it’s October… I can focus on the important matter of drooling. Drooling, leaking, salivating, moisture making… and the challenge of producing that special suck sound that has come to be synonymous with the NoodleBeast. The growing pains aren’t over Noodle. Be strong. Your day is coming❤


Tasting Feet : Gripping and Licking

In case this is your first time hearing about the project, I’d like to introduce you to the heir of all lint and space rocks, NoodleFeet:

img_8352Like his name suggests, Noodle is a “feet-based” mechanical life form who has been designed to taste objects (among many other things). Though Noodle has lofty aspirations for world domination, he is still a fledgling one-year-old… and his mommy (me) needs to work on equipping him with all the space exploration and world conquering super goodies he’ll need while on his journey. For that, he is in a state of perpetual growth.

My challenge to myself : I decree, each of Noodle’s robot feet must be able to grip onto surfaces with many small cherry-red toes so that a long central silicone tongue can dart forth and taste surfaces while expelling frothy wetness from a reservoir within. All three mechanical systems must work consistently, and fit collectively in the same 4″ x 9″ cylindrical space:


toes.jpgAbout a year ago last Fall, I stumbled upon a video of a space probe developed by JPL, that was designed to cling to the surface of asteroids while drilling out a sample of rock. The probe was able to grip onto stone surfaces with hundreds of tiny micro-spines which branched out radially around the central shaft that housed the drill.

I was very inspired by this… and it became an instant decision that Noodle must have gripping toes of his own. Up until this point, his feet were in fact white pool noodles (which is where his name comes from). They were soft and light, but completely passive and somewhat boring for a dominating robot’s appendages. This obviously needed to change.

If JPL could do all this with metal, I wanted to somehow design a working facsimile made completely of 3D printed parts (after all, that’s the only tool I had to work with).

The magic was in the design of the individual toes themselves. All of the tiny hook-like toes were attached to a common ring by long flexible filaments:

IMG_8296.jpgThe ring would need to be driven downward in order to force the toes through individual channels and out from slot-like sheaths. Finding a *good* way to drive the toes downward would become a bit of a challenge for me…

At first, I naively thought I might actually be able to use solenoids as a form of linear actuator:

IMG_0064 copy.jpgI did a lot of design and printing, only to realized the solenoids are in fact pretty weak, and not ever going to have the ability to press against the force of my springs; at least not ones as small as I would need in order to fit in Noodle’s feet:

I eventually devised of a rotating cam with ramps that would convert radial motion into linear movement and press the tiny gripping toes downward:

After I proofed out the mechanism, I had only to add a servo motor to the design in order to dive it. At this point I needed to find a strong enough motor and remove as much friction from the parts as I possibly could. 3D printed pieces tend to be a bit bumpy:

With the toes gliding in and out from their sheaths all on their own, I would still need to figure out how to cram the other two (licking and drooling) systems into the same 4″ x 9″ space. Since it would need to overlap in some ways with the already present toe assembly, I decided to tackle the tongue and its actuator next…

licking.jpgThe tongue piece is a silicone brush that I bought from Ali-Express China. It is some sort of baster that was originally attached to a squeezable bladder. The brush end is removable and has a single pore in the center for excreting fluid. PERFECT for when I add the salivating feature later on:

img_7285I tried for a day or so to come up with a rack and pinion system to push a spring tensioned tongue out the bottom of Noodle’s foot. Though it worked, it had a tendency to bind and wasn’t as reliable as I’d need it to be.

My mechanically inclined machinist friend, Tony is responsible for scrawling something down on a sheet of paper that I’d eventually design in CAD, and use in the final version of the foot. It’s a simple parallel linkage that fits nicely amidst the center of the toe mechanism and needs only a simple micro servo to actuate. Less is more:

At last, both the gripping and the licking happening in sync:

With the feet really starting to take shape, it was time to address the third and final function: DROOLING.

Just as I began thinking about how I was going to add the element of fluid to Noodle’s feet, I went backwards and once again became seduced by toes; the very toes that started this whole toe story.

At the start of summer, I ran off to Pasadena for JPL’s open house. There I saw the glorious multi-hooked gripping LEMUR apparatus in person… and I was reminded that though sometimes less is more, sometimes more is more– and in the case of toes, more is ferocious and mighty.

But… that is a story for another article. This detour of toes is a developmental universe in and of itself. I’ll be publishing the conclusion of this endeavor soon before giving a talk on all things tasting feet @ HackADay’s SuperCon this November! If you happen to find yourself there, say hello to Noodle and I. With any luck, he’ll be able to greet you with a sensation of wetness.


My PATREON for World Domination


So, I launched a PATREON page today. O_O

…I feel as though it was done sort of on a whim. I signed up on the Patreon site Sunday night, and I’m already rolling this thing out, video and all… just four days later. crazy!

If you don’t know what Patron is or how it works, it’s basically a crowd funding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, accept… its purpose is for content creators to raise a monthly income from their supporters instead of one larger lump sum. Where it is less appropriate for launching big projects or bringing products to market, it’s great for writers, artists, and makers who could use some support from their followers to take their passion to the next level.

I learned about Patreon when my favorite webcomic artist launched his campaign back a few months ago. His was quite successful and resulted in freeing him up to pretty much draw on stuff all the time. That’s heaven.

I had been mulling the idea of launching another Kickstarter to support my personal robotic projects, like NoodleFeet. But the nature of that sort of beast leads you into deadlines, promises, and ultimately a lot of time spent fulfilling… and not creating.

Where I do see Mark and I running another Kickstarter campaign in the future, this time I’m trying out something new. The Patreon platform seems pretty great so far, as it is low pressure in nature. You can edit your project page and your rewards even after its launched and you don’t have to ship anything out if you don’t want to. Additionally, there is no campaign period as with Kickstarter. Your Patreon just is. If people find you tomorrow, or in six months… the page will be there, and they can throw you some change!

Really, the worst thing that could happen is nothing.

My hope is to raise enough money per month that I can make larger purchases without cringing. Sometimes the next step in a project is to buy better motors, or have metal pieces cut at a fab shop… and I come to a screaming halt because I can’t afford to do so. In return, I’m going to continue doing what I’ve always done. I document the creation of everything and publish what I learn along the way. I’m happy to give advice about anything, to anyone- you just have to approach me. I’m trading my experience for support.

So, alas… this is the link to my virtual tip jar.

IMG_7322.jpgIf you enjoy the content on this blog and would like to see more of it… A LOT MORE of it, then consider checking out my Patreon. I made a firkin video of Noodle begging for money with cue cards, so at least give that a look… ;]



Assembling Carl the Flamingo

Sticking out from my toaster’s head like a crude antenna, is a classic lawn ornament, the flamingo I’ve come to call Carl. Unlike most of the other residents in the lab, he is not an electronic or robotic thing. It has been my intention since I brought him home last September, to liberate Carl from his static form to join the ranks with his mechanical compadres:

IMG_7221Carl’s fate is to become a ball-balancing robot… one with motors and wheels… that can balance… on a ball. If you’ve ever seen one, ball balancing robots are impressive as hell and fascinating to watch… because you almost can’t believe that they could work as well as they do! I mean, heck… I can’t even balance on the floor sometimes.

The first thing I learned upon researching these beasts, is that in order to build one of my own… I was going to need to locate some “omni” wheels to play with. Never having heard of an omni wheel before, I googled the term and found hundred of pictures of crazy looking shapes that reminded me of futuristic frisbees or saw blades:

IMG_2278So, they’re wheels with wheels. heh. They’re needed so the ball can glide freely in whatever direction the motors collectively force it to… like butter. Friction is bad. Binding is bad.

I ordered the smallest wheels I could find in two varieties. Surprisingly, for such complex looking shapes, they weren’t terribly expensive; about $5 on average a piece. While waiting for them to arrive in the mail, I started designing the “body” of the robot.

I came to learn that there are in fact a lot of similarities between the delta robots I’ve built in the past… at the three pronged balancing bot. At least, in that they both involve three motors working together mathematically to resolve a common point. Since they are both radial bots… I proceeded to use one of the delta robot’s acrylic bases as a mounting plate for Carl’s stepper motors.

Rather quickly, I printed some brackets on Monday:

IMG_2307Almost immediately after putting together this first base assembly, I drew what I thought I’d want the finished robot to look like… and saw in my own sketch that the assembly could be a lot more “talon-like” if the mounts of the motors branched out at 45 degree angles from a central point (instead of just being stuck to a big plate).

So… I started over. The hard part about making the new bracket design was taking into account while I modeled it, that one side must lay flat on the print bed >.< This threw my head in loops for a while, but I eventually hammered out a piece that worked…

IMG_2276By this time my omni wheels had arrived, so my next challenge was to figure out how to mount them to the gear shaft of the steppers. Sadly, the wheels came with no couplers of any sort, so I would have to print my own. =[

  • The shaft I designed would have to fit snugly in the center of the wheel
  • and also couple onto the gear shaft of the stepper motor by means of a set screw

IMG_2302This coupler took me fourteen- YES ( 14 ) ! revisions to get the tolerances juuuuuusssst right… the shaft inside the wheel fits tight but not too tight:

IMG_7248With the wheels mounted to the steppers, the assembly looks kind like a big chicken foot:

IMG_2318…which is what I wanted… BOCK!

IMG_2312At some point Thursday night… I pulled Carl from his metal legs and did the morbid task of marking his belly with a dotted line. Instead of doing the messy deed of severing his drum-sticks immediately, I got distracted and went to bed, leaving Carl nestled in Noodle’s blankie to suffer over night with thoughts of what would happen to him the following day.

IMG_7237Cutting the big oval around his little birdy nubs wasn’t at all hard… Once I drilled a starter hole, the thin blown plastic cut like paper with a pair of nippers. When I finished, I held Carl and told him everything was going to be alright…


Sarah soothes the legless Carl

I used Carl’s disembodied gams to measure how large the adaptor for his chest would need to be. The pipe which would act as Carl’s… leg… would mount at a 25 degree angle into his belly. Designing this part was not as difficult as I thought it would be. The actual pipe mount and belly adaptor ended up being two separate pieces (for ease of printing):

IMG_2285The screws that connected this fancy shape to Carl, went through his belly and met a plate of nuts set on the inside, clamping everything firmly in place (but this wasn’t easy to execute!):

IMG_2291There wasn’t anything to hold the plate on the inside of his body while I screwed into it… other than some tape, which kept coming loose and plopping down into the cavity of Carl… forcing me to start the process over again.

After a couple tries I got everything screwed on, and Carl felt a lot better about himself… so did my conscience:

IMG_2294On the opposite end of the pipe, I made another adaptor that connected to the motor assembly:

IMG_2321Once this was added, I put everything together and had this sexy looking bird before me. The essence of the flamingo:


Carl, el Robo Flamingo

Carl isn’t technically a “new” sibling… but now that he’s a moving robot, Noodle sees him as competition. Hopefully in the weeks to come they can learn to get along and share their living space.


Carl & Noodle, BFFs forever

The next step of the project is to wire up those steppers to some driver boards and start moving them. I anticipate that every piece of Carl will be redesigned and optimized in the near future to make way for the mounting of his brain… and power supply. I just couldn’t help myself from designing the robotic form first. To me that’s the fun part… =

Carl will also have his own presence on my personal site, So look for new bird art in the coming weeks as we dive deep into Maker Faire season.

Why I Love Blade Runner

Filename - BLADERUNNER_USA_00002.JPG -- Bladerunner -- USA Network -- Theatricals -- -- -- -- --FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY--NOT FOR RESALE/DO NOT ARCHIVE

When I was ten, my dad would bring me dinner on his way home from work, pick a movie for me to watch from their towering VHS collection… and then leave with my mom for a night out.

I had recently seen the Fifth Element in the theater and adored it. Having drawn visual similarities between the two, my dad decided to show me Blade Runner. One night, he put the tape on our big screen, brought me Chinese takeout and was gone for hours. Alone, I sat on the floor and paid careful attention to the film… but before long, fell asleep.

Admittedly, the story drags somewhat in the middle, and it would take me another four or so attempts that week until I finally finished the whole movie from start to finish.

Until then, four times I went on the journey to the smoggy marketplace, into that little neon refrigerator with the Chinese scientist, and then up to Tyrell’s antiquated perch where he’d be slaughtered in the most uncomfortable, jarring way by a white-haired character that was the embodiment of many qualities I didn’t like at that age.

Finally, on that fourth trip through the carefully sculpted dystopia, I found myself on the roof in the rain watching the villain sit in ribbons of his own blood as he uttered some gorgeous nonsense and then died with this unforgettable smirk on his face.

At that moment something happened in my mind that either broke me, or opened me. I didn’t understand it. I was ten… and I was perhaps a tad embarrassed to feel something that strongly. But that feeling lead me to make any excuse to watch the movie again and again for several months.

In spite of this feeling’s power, I didn’t try to understand it… A year later I was sitting with my dad in the living room, and we happen to stumble across the end of the movie on TV. Again, Roy died… and the same wave came and crushed me with overwhelming emotions. After it was over this time I went into my room and started writing (a story I’ve been working on for years called Zoness).

With a couple of decades behind me to meditate on the film, I’ve now seen many iterations several hundred times and I can say exactly what it is I love about it.

First however, I want to state that it isn’t just one aspect that causes me to declare this movie my all time favorite. There are several dozen qualities that I could gush about, like cinematography, soundtrack, special effects, costumes, setting, delivery, script, symbolism, or character development to name a few… but they aren’t what I wish to focus on. This little article is about Roy.


Roy Batty

For most other people, what the movie does is question your notion of humanity by slowly shifting your perspective. At the beginning, you’re completely content with the idea that the replicants must die for being soul-less pigfarts, and that the lamenting and vacant protagonist has every right to just get the chore of killing them over-with, so he can go back to his depleted existence.

By the end of the movie, you perhaps empathize with the replicants a little more than you’d expected… which makes their deaths feel progressively more tragic. After all, they are being hunted when they’re going to die anyway.

For me, the kicker was the smirking white-haired villain, Roy. There was something about him I related to when I was ten, but couldn’t put my finger on.

My whole life I’ve had this nagging need for the preservation of my ideas. This urge is literally what drives everything I do. It got me to begin writing my thoughts down as a kid and is why I’m an illustrator and artist now. I can’t stand the fact that one day, in spite of the universe that’s confined in my head… I’ll decay and all that I am will be gone.

In the movie, Roy confronts and murders his maker, risking his life in other acts of bloody brutality… so that he might find a way to live a little longer. But it’s not just the fact that Roy wants to live to save his experiences that I relate to him so much. Roy also knows he is capable of great things. He was made to be more than everyone and everything else. I would think to myself how terrible it would feel to knowingly have such potential, and be doomed to die aware of the life you might have had.

By the end… the half-naked animal running around in the rain became me. By this, I don’t mean I think I’m better than everybody, just that I understood Roy’s awareness of his own capacity to do things. This capacity being the motive for his survival.

This character I didn’t like very much grew into something I empathized with completely and in a sense, fell in love with.

The journey from one end of the “feels” spectrum to the other jogged everything I thought I knew and understood about myself (at the age of ten). It’s like someone grabbed the table-cloth of my being and yanked it out from all the things stacked on top of it. Once it all came crashing down, I was a completely different person.

Bottom line, the movie very effectively made me see myself in something that I otherwise would never have considered. That’s a pretty powerful transformation to go through… and perhaps that “change of heart” is the emotional journey I relive each time I watch the film.

Sure, it’s a beautifully shot movie. It’s cyber-punk. It’s a rainy-wet garbage pile wrapped in smoke and neon… and everyone adores it for being such a sensual setting. For me though, it’s about ending up on that roof and sitting with Roy as we come to terms with our mortality.

Blade Runner is the reason I tend to fall for everything I presume to hate.

Making an Anaglyph!


You know those cool images that become 3D when you put on the spiffy red and cyan glasses? This weekend I accidentally learned how to make them! They’re actually ridiculously simple to create… and extremely fun to layout once you get the hang of it!

I was adding the finishing touches to the next page of my webcomic. The subject needed to appear “glitchy” so I decided to mess with the registration of the RGB channels. Sure enough, this produced the appropriate effect I was going for.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 5.32.01 PM

By shifting the channel registers, I was trying to produce an anaglyph style, but I had no intention of the effect actually working. After all, I assumed those nifty dizzying images were hard as hell to make.

Out of our shared desire to figure out how things work, Mark dug up a pair of 3D glasses and we started fussing with the channel layers. As I shifted the channels to the left and right, I was able to make the panels retract and extend from the foreground. Eureka.

So I did a little bit of homework on the subject (which I’m surprised I’ve never done in the past). It turns out that with the help of Photoshop, it’s quite easy to create your own 3D anaglyphs. You just need to plan what it is you want your image to do.

Here’s How

FIRST and foremost, you’ll need an image editing program like Photoshop, and a pair of anaglyph shades.

Start thinking about how many levels of depth you want your image to have. You’ll also want to decide what parts will recede from the foreground and what you want to pop out at you.

For my example, I’m going to use this sketch of Noodle with his lint:


Foreground: His feet will pop out the most, sitting over his pile of lint

Middle-ground: the lint pile will be slightly under his feet

Background: the rest of his body will set slightly behind the pile

Each level of depth should be completely separate from the others. In other words, if you use many layers in Photoshop to create your image, just make sure none are shared between your levels. I separated all of my assets into folders to make sure this didn’t happen (and to make the process less confusing!) You can see the folders for my three levels of depth below:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.17.18 PM

Now with the foreground level at the top of your list and the background level at the bottom, go ahead and make a copy of each level. Add the tag “RED” to one and “CYAN” to the other:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.19.03 PM

Tweaking the channels

Open the layer options for each. If you’ve selected the copy which you’ve tagged “RED”, you’re going to want to uncheck the “blue” and “green” channel like this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.20.04 PM

Do the opposite for your “CYAN” layer:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.20.31 PM

Shifting the Register

The way you’re able to achieve the illusion of depth is by tricking your eyes into converging where you want them to with the magical glasses. In short, the farther the red and cyan channels are from one another, the more 3D they appear. Whether they retract back or pop out at you depends on which direction the colors are shifted from one another:


(NOTE: In the image above it appears that the colors are doing the opposite of what the text says. This is because the color channels will visually appear opposite of what they are)

Choosing Your Levels of Depth

For Noodle’s body (my background), I’ll select the move tool and nudge the CYAN channel twice to the LEFT, and the RED channel twice to the RIGHT:


For the middle ground, I’ll nudge the CYAN channel 5 to the LEFT, and the RED channel 5 to the right. Lastly, for Noodle’s feet in the foreground, I’ll move the red and cyan channels the furthest apart, at 8 strokes in either direction:


That is all there is to it. Crazy easy, huh??

Further Show Boating

I went ahead and drew an additional pile of lint and added it above the foreground over noodles feet for EXTREME depth. The cyan channel was moved ten hits to the left, and the red was moved ten to the right:


Lets not leave the background begging. I splayed some empty taco wrappers in Noodle’s wake (all robots love tacos). To put these BEHIND noodle, I nudged the CYAN channel to the RIGHT (not the left this time) four or so taps, and the RED channel to the LEFT:


You should see five separate levels, like a paper diorama or shadow box.

It’s completely up to you how your levels are parsed, so have fun with it! I will usually keep my glasses on and watch as I shift the channels to figure out what looks best.

From here, there are some fancier things you can do with the color channels to create angle effects, and even give your object sculptural dimension… but I haven’t figured out how yet. When I do I’ll surely share. Until then, expect to see some interesting anaglyph panels in my comic pages… because things are better in 3D.


Noodle’s Gripping Toes


For the past year, the four tawny stalks that NoodleFeet balances upon have remained common pool floaties, 2.5 inches in diameter, hollow, providing nothing more than the obvious support needed to function as legs… but Noodle longs for something greater.


When Noodle feels threatened, there is little he can do to defend himself. He can beep and perhaps canter away at a slow speed… but he is passive and therefore vulnerable. He isn’t equipped to handle the harrowing task of world domination::cough:: I mean, daily life. To fix this, I decided to add another layer of complexity to Noodle’s most important characteristic: RETRACTABLE GRIPPING TOES for his feet.

A while back, I came across a video of a rock drilling probe concept by JPL. This neat claw attaches itself to a surface by splaying out a hundred or so mini grappling hooks in all directions, which catch on the rock and help anchor the central cylindrical drill in place. I saw this and thought to myself… Noodle needs four of these, as shoes.

Like a good mother, I started brainstorming how to create said shoes. Originally I designed long claw-like toes that rotated out and back, sort of like switch-blades:

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 1.50.32 PM


They fit into Noodle’s original 2.5″ diameter noodle material, and even added stability… but there wasn’t enough area to actually install any motors to actuate things.

With a little bit of trial and error I rethought the whole design and came up with a solution that made use of 3D printed plastic’s flexibility. This new concept worked more like a cat’s retractable claw, and was similar to the drill from the video that had inspired me.


Each individual toe (in red) would be forced through a curved internal channel and out the side via two thin bendable “tendons”:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 2.23.46 PM

How The “Tendons” Work

An individual toe has two strands of tendon attached to the back. When the tendons are pulled in opposite directions, it causes the toe to torque upwards or downwards.

Why Do the Toes Need to Tilt Back and Forth?

If the toe goes straight back into the sheath the way it came out, it won’t unhook from whatever its currently gripping. Also, the tip of the toe will likely snag on the edge of the sheath on its way back in. To properly “detach”, the toe should arc upwards slightly as it retracts.

My first prototypes were designed to fit inside the 2.5” diameter noodle material. I was able to make it work, but it didn’t leave much room for the other future functions of his feet (his tongue):



In the end I really needed more space to fit moving parts and hardware. Luckily I have a noodle fairy living with me (Mark) who harvested a larger piece of noodle stock from a pile in his garage. It is 4” in diameter and offers me much more room to play around with! Plus, fatter feet will give Noodle more stability!



I tweaked my design for the new 4” material and printed my first prototype with a set of eight twinkling magenta toes (I haven’t ordered red filament yet).


The reason for the tendons being slightly different in length is so that when they are fixed next to one another, it creates the needed outward/upward tilt:


(so, this is what a toe flower looks like):


I originally planned to connect both tendons of each toe to a common ring piece (above). When the ring is pushed downward towards the sheath, it would force all of the toes through their channels and outward at the same time. I also added a spring and guide rod (a long screw) below the ring to push it up again once downward force is removed:

The first complete 4″ prototype worked more or less… It certainly passed the “carpet snagging” test:

I learned right away that I couldn’t actually connect both tendons to the same ring and run it through the inside of the sheath without it binding (which now seems pretty obvious). The only way I could get the above demonstration to work was if I left the longer set of tendons sticking out freely, attached to nothing… so that the toe has no preset angle bias as it attempts to travel through the channel:


However, in order to make it work at this point, all the little purple pieces sticking out had to be pressed down together at the same time first, or else everything would bind up and destroy itself.


Each tendon should be attached to its own independent ring…

…so that when the ring attached to the inner set of tendons is pressed downward, it causes the toes to tilt upward first as they begin to move down through the channels. Then the top ring hits the second ring below it which the outer tendons are attached to, and then the two travel together pushing the toes outward the rest of the way while maintaining the slight upward torque. This allows the toes to torque gradually as they travel through the channels, without binding up:


This second prototype (above) is more or less final. I’m going to fine tune it from here, but something very much like this will end up as Noodle’s toe-feet.

The greatest part about this design is that I have nearly 36mm wide of space in the middle to fit his secondary foot function! … ( ? ) … Which is tasting if you didn’t know!

Stay tuned for my next post on the development of Noodle’s TASTING FEET; small silicon wedges that will salivate and lick:

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As I typed that it just occurred to me that I’m pretty much making a tube that can grip onto something while licking and drooling on it. -heh- He’ll have four of these devices. Noodle will be feared by other robots his age.

The only downside to these new complex feet is that I’ll likely have to learn to knit him a pair of custom socks for Christmas. (and I think I actually will)❤

Read about my past progress on NoodleFeet on my website!

More to come soon!