Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The "wrist-rotate" function never worked at Burning Man, and the "wrist-fold" function didn't work too well. Luckily, there was enough time before shipping the Hand off to Australia to get the wrist functions sorted out. This video shows one of the first successful tests of these motions, as well as the brand new control station (which, like the Hand, runs off the main hydraulic power unit.)

Toby and I will drive the Hand to Los Angeles next week to transfer it into a shipping container bound for Brisbane, Australia! (I think I'm going to have separation anxiety....)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Hand of Man did end up attending Burning Man after all. There were a few challenges along the way, but we overcame them all just in time.

I've put up a link (just a few inches to the right from where you are reading right now) with an excellent video of the Hand done by Current TV. Have a look!

There were many amazing pictures taken of the Hand out there at Burning Man. Most of them are on Flickr, and if you simply click here, you can see most of them.

Here are two of my favorites, taken by an obviously talented photographer who goes by "Extramatic."

There are also a few videos of the Hand on Youtube... clicking here will get you most of them.

After its successful debut at Burning Man, the exciting news is.....

The Hand of Man (and its excellent crew) are going to Australia!!

Yes, that's right. All six of us will chaperone the Hand on a trip around Australia in January in connection with the Big Day Out music festival. Over a span of just 2 weeks we will perform 5 dates all over the continent. Stay tuned for more info.....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Well, with the infrequency of my posting, one could hardly call this a "blog," but what the hell.... I'm BUSY!

Actually, I probably wouldn't be blogging today at all if my friend Justin hadn't made me feel like such a slacker, so this update is thanks to him.

It's been something like ELEVEN WEEKS since I blogged last, and a lot has happened.

This is a view of the arm, photographed a half-hour ago. (Actually, all these photos were taken 30 minutes ago... how's that for up-to-the-minute reporting!!!) You can see that things have progressed dramatically since the last post. The main pivot, including the hydraulics to power it, is done. The arm up/down hydraulics are in as well. The main arm is pretty much done, and the wrist rotate assembly (the parts of the arm in the foreground) is also done.

In this view from above/behind the entire assembly you can see that the forward outriggers are done. You also get a pretty good view of the right/left hydraulic cylinders.

This view is looking down the arm towards the wrist-rotate assembly. The hydraulic cylinders hanging from the arm in the sub-assembly just to the left of the red cylinders will control the rotation of the wrist.

A bunch of finger parts. the pieces standing upright are, from left to right, the last joint of the thumb, the middle finger, and the pointer and ring fingers. As you can see, they have been slightly tapered to replicate the natural tapering of human fingers. Pretty soon, they will be cut into individual segments and jointed to move like actual fingers. The finger on the ground, the pinkie, has already been jointed and fitted with two hydraulic cylinders. The last joint, as well as its cylinder, has not yet been attached.

The power unit. We have been building this simultaneously with the rest of the hand. All the major components are in place. The Perkins diesel engine is at the upper left part of the frame, the hydraulic reservoir sits below it, the diesel fuel tank is at the lower right, and all the hydraulic plumbing and valves are at the upper right.

The other side of the power unit. You can see the home-made exhaust, made from various shades of green pipe. Most of what remains to do on the power unit is plumbing-related; a few more hydraulic connections and then all the fuel connections to the engine. The engine has not yet been tested.... I really hope it works.....

The HAND is obviously priority number one for me before Burning Man. But just so that I can be assured of a highly stressful few weeks, here are the other things I might try to get done, in descending order of importance: #1: put a new clutch in my big truck (highly critical; I need this truck to transport the HAND, and the clutch just went out.... great timing!) #2: refurbish the Scoutch (that's the Scoutch in the picture above.... not critically important but would be a lot of fun. So far the various people who have promised to come help with the Scoutch have not yet shown up [except for Adam and Wendy - thanks guys!]) And lastly #3: Transplant the high MPG Cummins 4BT engine in the Frito Lay van I just got into the awesome 4X4 van I just got! That's the van in the pic below. (Not critically important at all.... but it sure would be an awesome ride and home for Burning Man. This will only get done if I have lots of extra time on my hands in August..... yeah right!)

Nice van, huh?

(P.S. Many thanks to the awesome and committed Toby Rickabaugh for all the help he's been giving me lately... couldn't do it without you buddy!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The main pivot, or the axis upon which the arm will both pan and tilt, is very close to done. The entire base, actually, is inching closer to completion.

So far, the person who has helped me the most is our 13 year old neighbor Matt Drake. Here he strikes a dramatic pose with the Power Hacksaw. Running these machines doesn't pose much of a challenge for Matt.... he already operates back-hoes, skid-loaders, and is working on finding a Cummins diesel engine to transplant into one of his two pickup trucks!

Christina and Matt making metal magic happen!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The rear outriggers are mostly done. That's them attached to the base core in the background.

Now on to the main pivot!!!

Another post to follow shortly.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ugggh. I'm turning into a computer zombie. Sketchup is a bit addictive. I've been sitting in front of this little screen for 5 or 6 hours. Ugggh.I've modeled the forearm skin (I'm not really super committed to this geometry or anything, just wanted to see what it would look like with some "meat") and thickened the palm "bones" (or metacarpals). And, this image is shown with "x-ray" faces, so you can see inside. Neato!

Also, Justin did get the Perkins diesel. Cool. I'll be picking it up at Maker Faire in May.

Time to rest the eyes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been working on nothing other than this hand for most of this week. I usually do one or two hours of design in Vellum and Sketchup in the morning, and then crank all day in the shop. The main reason I'm going so hard is that I am trying to get some momentum going on this thing before things get crazy for me this spring. I just learned that I'll be attending the Maker Faire in San Mateo in May, and I have a possible TV show brewing too which might take me away from Taos for lots of time if it ends up happening.... so you can see why I am cramming in the welding hours now, while I have them.

The Sketchup model is progressing. I try to stay a few steps ahead of actual fabrication with the digital model, so I can be sure of what I am doing before I start butchering steel. One thing you may notice in this image (besides the obvious fact that I've drawn most of the Hand) is that I reversed the arcs in the forward outriggers, so they now look like the rear ones. I did that because I felt that the outriggers, in their first design, took too much visual attention away from the Hand itself. The ability to view the whole sculpture in 3D digitally before building, which alerted me to this issue, has proved to be an outstanding advantage to working with Sketchup.

I spent all day today making the forward outriggers. Here you can see the arced top-member, which I arced by making lots of cuts ALMOST all the way through, and then pulling the material together, closing all the cuts, and then welding them closed.

I finished one forward outrigger. Well, almost finished... there's more stuff that will happen in the future, but it's finished for now.

I'm beat, so now I'm gonna watch LOST and fall asleep.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Things are starting to happen......

This first picture illustrates a few things.... First, I've rearranged the shop somewhat to make a big open space in which to build the hand. I've laid tape measures down on the floor to show the approximate placement of the core of the base (illustrated in the first Google Sketchup drawing posted earlier), the forward outriggers, and the arm (extending into the distance). Also, near the top center of the picture you can see a manual chain-fall type hoist, which I installed on a 40-foot i-beam running down the spine of the shop. This will be very handy for picking up and moving the incredibly heavy pieces of the hand. So basically, I've made some significant changes to the shop to accommodate the exciting work to come!

I should also mention that there are two ways in which this image is a meaningful continuation of the last blog, Robots in the Dust. First off, this is really the first good image I;ve posted of the inside of the shop, which was never seen in Robots. And second, I've reverted to my old favorite habit of stitching images together to get a bigger image, only this time I'm experimenting with a pretty cool, free image stitching software called Hugin. I think it worked pretty damn well.

Now this photo is from a few days later.... Here you can see I've actually begun meaningful fabrication!!! This is the beginning of the base core. Even with all my calculating and drawing, this element turned out to be somehow significantly bigger than I imagined it would! Believe it or not, I think that what this means is that the Hand is going to be even bigger than previously intended... probably 28 or 30 feet from elbow to fingertips, instead of 25 feet as previously designed.

The round stock that I need for the main pivot elements should arrive by truck Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

Stay tuned....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Google Sketchup shenanigans continue unabated! The model has come a long way since the last post. I will hopefully be modeling the actual hand soon.

I finally got the first steel delivery! That's a bundle of 20-foot material on the forklift, and a stack of 40-foot material in the foreground.... (yes, 40 feet! Twice as long as what's on the lift!)

I must say that although life in rural New Mexico really does kick ass over life in LA in most ways... getting one's hands on materials is definitely NOT one of those ways. This material was delivered a day late, and some other things I'm still waiting for are going to be several days late!!

Oh well, at least I don't have any neighbors to complain about noise!

Actual fabrication to begin this afternoon!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've been playing around in Google SketchUp (a very cool, free, program) and beginning to model the Hand.

So far I have only modeled the central core of the base section, as this is the part that I am going to start working on first.

Although SketchUp is an inherently 3D program (which means the models are all in 3D - you can zoom around and view them from whatever side you like) the best I can do on this here blog is to post a snapshot..... so here:

Also, my good friend and co-conspirator Justin Gray may very well have found the engine that will run the Power Unit. It is a Perkins 1104C-44T four cylinder Turbo Diesel, with somewhere around 80-90 HP.

Here's a pic:Keen observers will notice that this already has a hydraulic pump attached, so.... if everything checks out on this unit (and we are able to find a starter motor for the engine to replace the one that is mysteriously absent...) this could be a very sweet find.

It's Sunday afternoon, and I am going to make some lists of the steel I will be ordering tomorrow so I can start building later this week (!!!!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Hand of Man to begin soon!!!

I guess I just can't keep away from blogging....

The last blog, the epic and engrossing Robots In The Dust, has pretty much served its purpose, and now it's time for something new.

Every year the Burning Man festival funds a relatively small number of art installations for display out on the playa for that year's event. Sometime in February I assembled a proposal called "The Hand Of Man" to be considered for this funding.

To my surprise and great joy, even amid stiff competition, my proposal was selected as one of 40 funded projects!

This will be a colossal undertaking, and I think I will be spending pretty much every minute between now and approximately August 18th designing, building, or thinking about this project.

In short, The Hand Of Man will be an enormous (25 feet long) human right hand and forearm, hydraulically actuated, and made of steel. It will be controllable from an ergonomically accurate "glove" controller which ANYONE can stick their right hand into. Anything this lucky person does with their flesh-and-blood hand will be accurately and quickly reproduced (but with thousands of times the amount of force) by the giant hand. (If this quick description was not enough for your hungry mind, click here for the text of the full proposal.)

I will begin materials acquisition the week of March 17th, and should actually be beginning to cut and weld this monstrosity together late that week (that's NEXT week!!!! I'm so EXCITED!!!) If you're reading this, and you have a burning desire to cut, grind, and weld gigantic pieces of steel together... in other words if you want to help on this epic art journey, well, don't be shy. Email me (crobox@gmail.com) or just come on over!!!

At this point there are obviously no pictures to show, but I can show the latest drawings, which I've been working on feverishly.

I think that just like Robots In The Dust, this blog will probably incorporate other exciting happenings that don't strictly fit into the stated topic, so if you are just dying to know what is going on with Christina and me (and I know you are!) you might just find out here!

Next blog entry: The TV piece that will be done about the Hand, (sorry, I just can't tell you any more right now!) and the beginnings of the Hand, including the custom-built Hydraulic Power Unit!! (Oooh, don't Hydraulic Power Units just get you all excited?!?!?)