Hands skin

For hands skin, skin team tried to use stretch fabric to be the foundation, and added latex skin with foam on to the stretch fabric.

 We copy the shape of hand, and add thickness to where the hand needs.

Cut the paper pattern down, and cut 2 pieces in stretch fabric which have to be symmetry.

It means that once you chosen one side of pattern to cut, then when you cut the second piece, you have to turn the pattern to other side to cut.


For the aim of the skin gloves could be wearable, we also add zipper on to stretch fabric.






According this hand is blocky, particular the part of finger turn to the other finger, so I cut 2 strips of stretch fabric, this part we called gusset, to create the turning shape and give the fingers thickness.

Cut the latex skin of palm, put it on to the stretch fabric, and sew both two sides of palm, connect the latex skin and stretch fabric together.

And sew the zipper edge again, secure all materials attach together where is around the zipper.

And cut the latex skin at the top and middle of the zipper.



Prepare different oval size of latex skin to create the texture and knuckles. Use Barge to glue together.




After class meeting, we all think the latex skin is to heavy, so that caused the hand lost the flowing movement. Right now, we would not cover whole hand to decrease the weight from covering materials.


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The Road Ahead

As deadlines creep closer and the school year gets rougher, progress in the Raptor lab is chugging along at a reasonable pace. The guest artist Zoë Morsette came in to present My Life in Art, as well as to assist with foot molding. As a member of the electronics team, she mostly assisted other sub-teams but voiced her approval of our progress.

In the electronics world, lots of new toys came in this week. Our new super inverter arrived, capable of driving up to 50m of the desired EL wire. Unfortunately, the start up process requires one too many button presses, and steps are being made to circumvent this button. A special order super inverter is already on its way, one that hopefully will not have this issue.

Special Order Inverter

In addition to the new inverter, the lab has also received the new Lithium ion battery for power. This monstrosity is rated for 6000 milliAmp hours, and is able to power our system for twice as long as the previous battery.

6000 mAh LiOn Battery

All six raptor eyes have been printed, soldered, and tested. Wiring these eyes may prove to be a challenge, but that is a bridge to be crossed in the near future.

Raptor Eyes

Lastly, the integration of all the systems was completed this week. The Arduino stack that controls the EL wire and wireless communication was combined with the addressable LEDs and passed the initial tests.

Full Integration

All in all, the electronics team is steaming along, with progress running smoothly. While keeping my head buried in various power equations and 3D models of Arduino cases, I occasionally picked up some conversation and observations in other subteams.

The body team managed to build and configure all three raptor backpacks for the three performer sizes. The foot team has used our guest artist’s advice and upgraded their boot. The hands team has started to ramp up manufacturing, and the head team has modified the look of the head, but primarily has redirected their focus onto the tendons of the raptor.

Things are heating up in the Raptor Lab, and the manufacturing rush will continue to escalate. However, I am confident that we will meet our deadline with enough hard work and dedication.

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Wire Surface Treatment

Cabling Effect, EVA Tube Foam

WIRE SURFACE (Explorations)

  1. ABS Rod and Zip Ties
  2. Masking tape ¼ inch even weave
  3. Tan EVA 1inch foam Outlining wire frame
  4. Fill will fabric (scrim)
  5. EVA Flat Foam curved shapes
  6. Red “Licorice” small tube lining
  7. Grey EVA tube foam outlining ABS Rod
  8. Grey EVA tube Foam woven like a basket (Single strand)
  9. Grey EVA tube Foam in flat clusters (4-6 pcs like Muscle/Tendons)

LIGHT SURFACE (Explorations)

  1. EL Wire following wire frame (Head)
  2. EL Wire Following ribs
  3. EL Wire Following Tendons (Distribution drawing/ map?
  4. LED Lights (Outside)
  5. LED Lights (Inside Structure)

First off, we had to clarify our story telling. These raptors are supposed to look like “new computer technology of 1999/2000’s” We had to make this raptor look like computer hardware and not a scrap metal monster. Because each team had to use such varying materials to create certain functions for this dinosaur I knew we would need to add more consistent visual transitions to the surface finish to unify the overall design. In addition, we needed to allow enough variation to show all 3 dinosaurs are not only versions of each other but show progression in amount detail in skin, wire and lights on each.

Wire Frame

Originally I was hoping our ABS and Rattan structure would be skeletal enough to serve as our first raptor but the masses of each appendage were so varying on places like the neck and foot that it needed the surface to coalesce with another material. Also, places like our head had so many small line details that when looking through the hollow structure – it was difficult to understand what this creature was even supposed to be.

Small Red Tubing

Outlining in 1″ EVA Foam








I started with varying dimensions of materials – leaning towards smaller more intricate designs but the lines just became more confusing. Ultimately, I was able to see that the scale of the line work needed to increase not only in diameter but in bundled width. By creating flat arrangements of EVA tube foam we gave more visual planes of the raptors body by alluding to muscle/tendons. This larger surface coverage and length of line made it feel like a more solid menacing creature.

When we played with lights the EL wire followed the ligaments naturally and highlighted the wire webbing. At first we laid the chasing LED lights on the outside – as they have a nice detail with graphic on the tape but as JE mentioned, anyone who knows what LED wire is – will just see it as that. Cristina had a brilliant idea of putting the LED chasing lights on the inside of the structure and magic was made. We stood there gawking at the giant beast, which had these moving lights inside of it like an animatronic demon and I couldn’t stop smiling. It now looked like it had a pulse a heartbeat and living presence. The chasing lights on the interior gave it a more organic and mysterious electronic vibe that the lights show of it being on the outside.

Our next goal will be figuring out how we polish all of our style lines and shapes. The head has been the trickiest for me as it’s so important for the face to read as menacing and the style lines have to be just right with the layers of EVA tube foam in the proper direction. I don’t think it’s quite there yet and the nose/snout has been the most puzzling attribute. I’m really excited and relieved to see some elements of the finished ideas for us to move forward on and can’t wait to continue playing with the shapes to enhance our fierce friend. Working on it is super addicting and reviewing the lists of how many ways I’ve tried to apply a wire surface only reminds me how important it is to have TIME for exploration. These raptors would never have made it this far without the time to explore and refine our ideas, tools and materials.

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Week 8 Update – Raptor Report

The Raptor Team is quickly approaching the end of out prototyping phase and entering the final build. We have come a long way. Here is an update on the class happenings this week.

We were so fortunate to be able to host Zoe Morsette, a theatre artist that masterfully fabricates specialty costumes and props for screen and stage. Some of her brilliant work can be seen in Hamilton, the broadway musical Shrek, 30 Rock, and SNL,  just to name a few. We were so thankful to be able to pick her brain and get her feedback in class.

The skin team continues to cast skin and pattern parts for various areas of the body. They have specifically made progress with skin on the neck underneath the head and have further refined the patterned head shape.

The hands team has found a successful way to control the fingers with a glove/thimble system, and continues to make progress with the cosmetic details. The hands have more dexterity than ever this week.

Performer testing out raptor


The structure has been able to make great strides in moving from skeletal elements to aesthetic ones. This week they had painted silver ribs and tail with design weaves throughout the structure. The foot and leg teams have developed a very successful hinge system that moves with the actor as they step. The foot stays attached the ankle well and no longer pops up as the actor transitions their weight from the heel to the ball of their feet. The knees and ankle have a great natural turn out that echoes the position of our little raptor model. This has been a challenge the past few weeks, so kudos to them for all of the work and creative problem solving they’ve put into this.

The lights team showing off their hard work

The light team continues to refine control of the modules via laptop and
have implemented LED stripes along with the EL wire. They are in talks with the costume designer regarding the aesthetic placement of the wires and are developing a plan to make and place an electric mount in the body.




11/13 Finger Sample

11/20 All skin cast (no paint)


11/13 Add fabric and cosmetic weave structure to hand

11/13 Arm sock

11/13 Start teeth and claws

11/13 Assemble 2 hand prototypes


11/13 Address back corners

11/13 Add rings on tail to assist skin team with dressing

11/13 Assemble 3 harnesses with ribs


11/13 Tackle mounting electric box in body

11/13 Three Raptor System


11/13 Spray effect on eyes


11/13 Shoulder wrap and light source


11/13 Build 3 raptor holders


11/3 Contact performers for measurements

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Week7 Update

Already halfway through the semester! Our meeting on Monday morning mainly focused on adjusting foot and leg placement.


Our major problem with the leg and foot is that: the feet team made their foot before the leg team finish their work. The final angle of foot was unexpected due to the connection between the two. If the foot remained as planned, the thigh would be too high; and if the leg remained as planned, the foot would land on the ground with the whole sole, instead of toes as in real life.


We spent a lot of time together to figure out which part was off and the way to adjust it. Finally, Chun suggested the feet team to just trim part of their model and move the connection with the rod to the leg little bit forward.



Accomplishments and goals:

Structure Team


  • Attaching from tail to performer’s arms to control tail movement
  • Replacing the tail parts with black materials to fit in the rest of the raptor


  • Cutting and fitting other 2 harnesses
  • Starting to cut materials


Leg Team


  • Scaling down the leg to fit the harness
  • Finishing 2D design
  • Limiting the movability of thigh, and performer’s control over the leg


  • Coordinating with feet team for better attachments between leg and foot
  • Finishing 3D design with more rods build in between


Feet Team


  • Carving foot out of foam
  • Finishing better attachment to performer’s leg & foot


  • Cooperating with leg team to come up with better connection between leg and foot
  • Exploring claws for feet


Hand Team


  • Figuring out better connection between glove and raptor hand
  • Changing the design lines to fit into the whole raptor structure aesthetically
  • Getting the hand painted!


  • Replacing some pieces with thicker material to make it look “strong”
  • Scaling up the hand a little
  • Measuring the correct length of the springs for ordering
  • Making the hand to a triangular shape



Head Team


  • Developing a better transition from head to the body


Skin Team


  • Making skins “tube” for raptor’s finger!


  • Figuring out better connection, maybe making the tube a little shorter
  • Putting a thin layer of foam to the hand
  • Figuring out skin attachment around the knee joints


Electric Team


  • Making & programming LED lights for the 3rd raptor
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How’s it Going?

It’s been practically 2 months, dozens of prototypes, and so much stress. We’ve fallen into the routine of creation; that is we have figured out how both create and solve problems. We’ve learned what materials we want, and what materials we need. All teams have moved forward and continued to perfect their pieces.

In the past few weeks we finally put our first performer into our prototype and it was wonderful. There was a life that none of us could have imagined in the Raptor.  There were, of course, a few problems with the structure itself that we realized as the performer was placed into the suit. The rib cage was too big. The harness didn’t sit where the weight was distributed to maximize the performer’s comfort. There wasn’t enough room for electrics to easily mount their units into the cage. It seemed like everything was coming together and everything was falling apart.

Raptor Harness #3

We immediately saw the problems and began to address them.

We grabbed a harness and began to create the new body. This one became sleeker, cleaner, more agile. The raptor grew to look, in my opinion, more like an extension of the wearer and less like a giant backpack. Not to mention, it became immensely lighter. We became sparing with our materials, ensuring we kept only the necessities. We kept our previous tail, and continued moving forward into the new raptor. We wet and wrapped our rattan around a tube so it would have the nice circular arc of the back. We worked the most efficiently we have.

Then, during our weekly presentation last week, it was mentioned by Ron, last week’s guest artist, that we could create a way for our tail to be controlled by the performer. Sam and I jumped on this immediately. We grabbed some string, tied it through the tail, and to some elastic that the performers could put on their arms. It worked wonderfully. As the performer moves her arm forward, the tail moves with her.


Sam wearing our new Raptor harness.


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The Problem with AC/DC

No, I’m not talking about the rock band. I’m talking about actual alternating current and direct current. The EL wires used on the raptor bodies are AC-powered, while the LEDs used in the raptor eyes are DC-powered. Both EL wires and LEDs are necessary for the lighting design because, while EL wires are easier to use for the glowing lines on the bodies of the raptors, they cannot fade on and off. Through conversations with the designers of Enron, we determined that the raptors would be more expressive if their eyes could fade in and out, so we decided to use LEDs (which are easily programmed to fade) in the eyes. In the earlier stages of research, the other members of the electronics team and I were considering using the Sparkfun EL Sequencer (which you can read about in Justin’s blog post here) for all of our raptor needs, but we ran into a problem: the sequencer was only capable of powering EL wire with alternating current, not LEDs with direct current. It would be cumbersome to have two different microcontrollers in each raptor (one for the EL wire and one for the LEDs), so we did some research, adapted our plans, and decided to use an Arduino Uno microcontroller with the Sparkfun EL Escudo Dos shield. The Escudo Dos plugs into the pins on the Arduino and has an input for AC current from an inverter (a device that converts DC to AC current) to power up to 8 strands of EL wire. Each strand of EL wire corresponds to a pin on the Arduino, but there are a few pins that aren’t connected to the shield which we use for powering the LEDs in the raptor eyes with regular old DC current. However, we still had the problem of wirelessly communicating with the electronics. We are using Digi XBee wireless modules for wireless communication, but in order to connect the XBee to the Arduino, we had to stack the Sparkfun XBee shield on top of the EL Escudo Dos. Unfortunately, the Escudo Dos was already using the pins required by the XBee shield to communicate with the Arduino, so we had to improvise. We used two jumper cables to reroute the input and output of the XBee to pins not necessary for the operation of the Escudo Dos. Now we are able to wirelessly control both EL wire and LEDs from one microcontroller!

The leaning tower of shields. From top to bottom, you can see the XBee shield, then the EL Escudo Dos shield, then the Arduino Uno microcontroller. Note the two red jumper wires used to reroute the pins used to communicate between the XBee and the Arduino.


The whole system in action. The two black boxes in the bottom left are the inverter and its battery. The XBee Explorer dongle connected to the laptop communicates with the XBee on the Arduino via the XCTU software.

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Failing Better – Part 2

Well, I am continuing to fail successfully at this project. Here are some updates.

Through a rough series of failures, Xindi and I are learning more and more that the CNC is not the best tool for this specific project. This week, we finally got access to a laser cutter! It is so satisfying to watch this machine cut out our fingers the way they were meant to be. Plus, way less sanding or drilling. We implemented cut outs in the fingers to improve the weight. Bonus, it gives us more access to the inside of the joints for the spring adjustment. Although we plan on painting them with a metallic finish, the burnt wood aesthetic is really lovely. We still have a long way to go, though. Our file needs a lot of cleaning and better precision with dimensions.

Laser cut parts with plastic, lightweight hardware.

Another huge challenge we face is the attachment of a human hand to this thing. Rings slip out. Gloves slip out We struggle with stabilizing the actor’s palm.

We tried to implement an adjustable system to attach any sized hand using little chains and hooks at the end of the fingers. Didn’t work out. This week, we’re attempting a hybrid with rings and a glove to see if we can get more dexterity. I think next week we’ll try thimbles.

What I would like to specifically point out in this post is the value of having a space like we do to fail. The raptor lab is a mess; there are mechanical body part failures everywhere. But we have a place, a safe place to mess up. It’s ok to make something that doesn’t work. When you present a prototype each week, there are a flurry of constructive criticism and helpful suggestions. This kind of feedback is circulating constantly.

Class mantra

We also have a plethora of resources to learn off of. We have access to maker spaces with laser cutters and 3D printers, and an entire scene shop equipped with tools and resources. Additionally, we have professionals to vet ideas off of. This includes all of the faculty and staff of the theatre department, plus some amazing guest artists,

We also have time to fail. Don’t get me wrong, we are definitely working in a crunched timeline, but Karen and J.E. have blocked out so much time to fail and make mistakes. That’s the point of prototyping. I know its crazy, but I had never thought to give myself that time while working on a project. I just calculated how long it would take me to build a thing. That’s it.

Obviously from my last post, failure is an important, albeit sometimes painful, part of the creating process. What is equally important though, is giving yourself plenty of room, and time, to fail.

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Week 6 Update

We are nearly halfway through the semester! That means it’s almost time to begin the transition from prototyping to producing final products. Check out this video for a preview of this week’s raptor happenings:

This week the raptor team had the privilege of working with Ron Pardini, a special effects artist with 29 years of experience. The class spent Sunday working in the lab with Ron, and enjoyed a presentation on Ron’s life and career on Monday.

Here’s a recap of this week’s major accomplishments and goals for the future:

Electronics Team


  • controlling two wireless modules separately from one laptop
  • working with Cait to establish wire placement on raptors


  • 3D print a new case to hold the Arduino with EL and wireless shields
  • develop a system to relieve strain on wires to avoid anything getting pulled out of place
  • have entire three-raptor system working by November 13

Skin Team


  • developing a pattern for the skin on the heads and feet of the raptors
  • experimenting with incorporating lights into the skin


  • continue developing skin texture
  • work with EVA foam to refine skin patterns
  • have all skin ready by November 20

Feet Team


  • carving the foot’s shape out of foam
  • exploring integration of foot with performer’s shoe


  • attach feet to legs
  • develop claws for feet
  • have final foot model ready by November 13

Hand Team


  • refining mechanism for performer to control finger articulation
  • improved finger articulation by integrating springs into hand
  • picking up objects with raptor hands


  • improve integration of performer’s glove and raptor hand
  • experiment with using magnets to aid in picking up objects
  • have final hand model ready by November 13

Structure Team


  • scaling down the raptor’s body frame
  • adding a foam spine to the frame


  • fit harnesses to two other performers
  • work on transition between raptor body and head
  • experiment with using attachments from tail to performer’s arms to control tail movement
  • have complete structure model ready by November 13

Leg Team


  • establishing more solid joint connections
  • developing a kneecap prototype


  • attach legs to feet
  • shorten length of thigh and increase thickness of foam rods
  • have final leg model ready by November 13

Head Team


  • improved mechanism for attaching raptor head to performer’s head


  • improve mechanism for attaching raptor head to raptor body
  • have final head model ready by November 13

Of course there’s still a lot of work to be done, so stay tuned for the second half of the semester!

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Using patterns to create the silhouette

According the 3rd raptor will be covered by latex skin for head, paws, legs, tail and part of  torso. The question is how to cover these pieces of skins on to each parts and keep each parts of silhouette. For me, the quick way is “draping”,“draping” is to place, cover or hang cloth or other fabric so as to surround, into graceful folds, attractive lines etc, and is a useful method/conception when you making some craft things.


Generally the process is:

You can sculpt the small model first, or you already have the model which is you want to enlarge the size. And use small plastic sheets, tapes, or cling wrap to cover the model, and tape paste around the plastic sheets or cling wrap. Draw the cutting line, and use the blade to separate all the patterns. Lay the pattern’s size out to what you need.And cut the foam then glue together. The final step is to cover the material what you want.


 This time, I lay the muslin on to the ABS head frame, so the cutting line will follow the ABS path.

At this moment, you can think about how many pieces of patterns to build this head.

Because this is a symmetrical shape, so I will set the center line at middle of the head. Right now you have left and right side can do draping, but chose one side to drape that is fine.

And draw the line on to muslin.


And flat your pieces of muslin patterns on the table, using ruler and curve ruler to truing patterns.

And copy/transfer your patterns to brown paper or any hard paper.

And match each cutting line, re-truing again, mark notches on to patterns.

Cut the patterns down. prepared for cutting EVA(clothed cell foam)

And put your paper patterns on to EVA, draw the out line including notches.

This is important time when you using blade to cut your foam. You have to think about the cutting angle for each patterns edge, because the thickness of the foam is there. If there is a seam went through a flat surface, so the cutting angle will be straight/right angle to keep the surface flat. If there is a seam went through a protruding surface, so the cutting angle will be narrow angle to keep the protruding angle. This cutting angle I used to create the cheek bone and eye bone silhouette.

We used Barge to glue all EVA patterns together. Before you pasting together, keep the surface clean which will be glued, and use a small brush, which is fitted the foam width(this time used 1/2″) or chopsticks brush a thin layer of glue on to the seam, which means cutting surface, both two sides for one seam.





And let the glue dried until there is no watering luster on the glue. This moment is the glue of viscosity is the most stronger. So you can put your two pieces of EVA patterns together immediately.

If you want to have a flat or smooth finished surface, you need to do the paste movement on a table or somewhere has flat surface to do this thing. Do as possible as you can avoid to hands hold to paste on.


The picture is showing the top of head was pasting.



The upper head and jaw.







This is the process we applied the “draping” skill to create the head foundation. And there are more process need to do after built a foundation. We are still working on how to connect all limbs and head, and a lot of sculpting to do. Have fun!!

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