SOZOTRON: Part One
Updated: Mar 22
Being an artist and toy collector, I've always had a major appreciation for sculptors and model makers despite not necessarily having those abilities in my skill set. I've always had ideas in my head and daydreamed about making stuff, but never thought I had the skill nor took the time to learn how, until now. I began my career after graduating from San Jose State University in 1989 as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Little did I know I'd be working with computers, let alone learning to model in 3D and working in the video game industry. Fast forward a few decades, technology as come so far that I am able to leverage my digital skills to accomplish what I was not able to before. Being able to have a laser cutter/engraver and 3D printer in my own home is a game changer!
The Sozotron project is my very first attempt at making a designer/art toy. It came about due to my life long fascination with transparent materials. This stems from my love of Japanese toys as a kid, particularly the Henshin Cyborg and Microman (Micronauts/USA) lines made by Takara. They were humanoid characters with transparent bodies and chrome robotic parts both inside and outside. Its something that's been a huge influence on my aesthetics and I intend to continue to explore. One day while shopping, I came across some colorful clear plastic containers made by AMAC Plastics (apparently they've been around since the 60's). I’m always thinking of making things and the thought of turning these clear boxes into robots of some kind popped into my head. Their simplicity also reminded me of vintage tin robots that I also love. Taking that as inspiration as well, my journey began. Little did I know, what was intended to be a simple and relatively easy project, ended up being far more complicated and difficult to produce than I could imagine, lol!
Initially Sozotron was going to be series of simple robots with different designs all within the same form factor. But the creative part in me started to think about other possibilities, so I ended up going down a never ending road of iterating prototypes. I attempted to add features such as limited articulation, swappable limbs and bodies (cores) using neodymium magnets, and lights. Not everything worked or was feasible, but after many iterations I finally had a set of designs I was happy with. Despite being very difficult to make and experiencing many failures and set backs, I was able to finish what I started. It took a lot longer than I expected and the end result is few, but I am happy with what I was able to accomplish for my first project. It was definitely a learning experience!
I have many other ideas within this series I’d like to explore, but moving forward, I need to rethink my designs and production methods to make them easier and more affordable to produce. Until then, I’ll be sharing my prototype and work in progress pictures that have brought me to this point.
For those that are interested in the tools and materials I use…
I use this to explore designs as well as creating final vectors for the Glowforge (laser).
Maya is what I use for polygonal modeling for video game work, so its what I initially used to block out some of my designs in 3D. Its a good way to visualize my ideas before I start cutting materials.
I’m still really new to this, but I used this to visualize my ideas as well. Its really geared towards designing for manufacturing. It has some great features that I hope to learn that will come in handy for 3D printing and production.
40W CO2 “desktop” laser cutter and engraver
- AMAC plastic containers (The Contaner Store)
- Cast Acrylic Sheet (fluorescent/Glowforge Store/Piedmont Plastics)
1/8” and 1/4” thickness
Weld-On 3 acrylic solvent (Amazon)
“Touch-N-Flow” solvent applicator (Amazon)
- Draftboard (Glowforge Store)
Glowforge brand MDF/particle board like material
1/8” and 1/4” thickness
- Neodymium (rare earth) magnets (KJ Magnetics)
- Slow fade color changing 5mm LEDs (eBay)
- 12mm CR1220 Coin Cell Breakout w/ On-Off switch (Adafruit)