These Clever Papercraft Critters Offer Robotic Movement — Through the Power of Air

Inspired by plastic kids' toys, the papercraft animals can walk and "bark" on demand — with the squeeze of a pump.

Gareth Halfacree
12 days agoRobotics / Art

Semi-pseudonymous maker "xX_christopher_Xx" — hereafter simply "Christopher" — has been building papercraft models with a difference: these models move, thanks to the power of air.

"I like making 3D paper figures," Christopher explains by way of introduction to the project. "Rather than just make simple stationary models, I wanted to create 3D paper figures that could move without electricity. I had some old air-powered toys [and thought] maybe I could use this method to power my cardboard models!"

Not your standard papercraft, this wolf has a trick up its sleeve: air-powered locomotion. (📹: xX_christopher_Xx)

The air-powered toys in question are simple affairs, using a compact squashable pump and a length of hose to push air into a reservoir hidden within a plastic figure which then leaps forward. Using the pumps and hoses as a power source, Christopher set about modifying existing papercraft animal models to offer air-based motion — primarily by splitting them in half.

"We discovered that we need our 3D model to meet a couple of criteria," Christopher explains. "The front and rear parts must be balanced to allow for easy movement. It must be easy to cut the 3D model into two sections (front and rear)."

Any model that can be split into two balanced parts can be animated using the approach. (📹: xX_christopher_Xx)

Inside the modified model is a cardboard pump mechanism that surrounds the inflatable reservoir taken from an off-the-shelf toy. When air pressure is applied through the pump, the mechanism causes the two halves to push apart — making a model walk across the desk, or lift its head to bark.

A full guide, with printable models, is available on Christopher's Instructables post.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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