Lean, Mean, Machine


Original Design Notes on Weight

Through this entire process, we have had to keep one crucial thing in mind; how much weight can a person can carry for 15-20 minutes at a time. This was one of our original guiding thoughts and has particularly stuck with me through this whole process. These raptors needed to be able to do more than just function, they needed to be wearable. So, through discovering how materials worked and prototyping, we always thought “How can we make this lighter?”.

By the end of the class, I believe we achieved this goal. As of this post, the first raptor was weighing in at about 26 pounds; That is including the electrics and the head. This was better than some of us guessed with many guessing around 35 pounds, while I myself missed it by a mile with a guess of 50 pounds. I think of the loads that some of us students lug around campus on our backs, backpacks filled with books and computers, and I know that many of them are heavier than our entire raptor puppet. We to started with a rather heavy backpack and worked our way to the lighter finished product we now have.

Prototype 2

Some of the things we were able to do structure wise was replace heavier materials with lighter ones. In the picture above, you can see how an earlier prototype used thicker, heavier plywood to create the tail circles and electronics panel.  We had also used rattan to create the wrapped style lines. The plywood would be replaced by 1/4″ luan for the electrics and 1/2″ plywood for the tail supports while the rattan would be replaced by foam in the finished product.

Finished Structure

Other things became unnecessary with time. The cross supports we had used to push out the ribcage became obsolete when the designer found she liked the look of a slimmer shape. The hip support bar, which had been made of steel, was not needed once we added the PVC spine down the center as a “structural spine” to go under the “design spine”. Finally, the harness itself was too long for the performer’s bodies and had to be trimmed down 8″ to fit. All these things, combined with the artistry team’s use of foam and thin latex for the finished outer layers gave us, what is in my opinion, the lightest version of a raptor. So looking back on our challenges from so long ago at the beginning of this class, I would say challenge accepted, tackled, and completed! Congratulations team!

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2 comments on “Lean, Mean, Machine
  1. Zoe Morsette says:

    Did you ever consider Gator board instead of ply?

    • J. E. Johnson says:

      Yes, I think we would go to something like that for our next prototype. I bet we could get another 5 lbs out without spending too much more money. Might even be able to cut out 10 lbs with a few thousand dollars more. That would be fun!