Tag Archives: silicone

Plutarch: 148 Days until Halloween

Longtime readers of the blog will recall the first mention of Plutarch the parrot some time ago. To recap: I’m building an animatronic parrot as part of my recurrent pirate costume. I’ve had some success this weekend getting Plutarch’s proof-of-concept to the next level.

Plutarch 1.0 is not yet a robot: he currently lacks any way to percieve the world around him and relies entirely on a user with a remote control to direct his movements. Eventually he’ll get some sensors and some programming that will let him interact with the world, but for now he’s not much more than a remote control servo, an Arduino, and 4 AA batteries crammed inside a 3D printed body. One shudders to think of the wacky magnetic fields created by the rat’s nest of wiring inside his shell.

parts

I wrapped his RF reciever in a Ziploc bag and secured it with a rubber band. It works, but hoo doggies is it ugly.

rf

(The remote control is this nifty little guy from Adafruit.)

TODO: Stability and order! The purpose of this test was to ensure that Plutarch’s magnetic feet would be strong enough to keep him perched on my shoulder even with the torque created by whipping his head back and forth. He passes the test (barely) but it’d be nice to have a more reliable connection between man and parrot.

He’s got to stay on my shoulder for a couple of hours at a crowded Halloween party, which gets to be more and more precarious a proposition as the grog starts a-flowin’ and people are maybe not paying quite so much attention to where they’re going.

inside

Changing his batteries requires removing his head and digging out the Arduino and the battery case, which puts some physical strain on the electrical connections. One of them broke.

stress

Boooooooo.

The on/off switch on Plutarch’s back is also frustratingly flaky, a discovery which I of course made after epoxying it into place. I’ll have to get a new one in there before showtime.

Also it’d be really funny if he had a functional USB port in his cloaca.

While I’m waiting for some parts to arrive (I found a dozen replacement switches for the price of a latte) I can catch up on some much-neglected cosmetic additions to our hero. Plutarch’s body will mostly be covered in feathers someday, so there’s no need to worry about the layer lines created by 3d printing for most of his surface.

His beak is another matter entirely. Painting it directly will leave the print layers intact, which is going to look fugly. Instead, I masked out the beak with some painters’ tape and spread a thin layer of silicone caulk– the stuff you use to seal your bathtub– on the surfaces that will be exposed to outside observation.

silicone beak

Pro Tip: gently wipe down the caulk with a wet finger to get it really smooth.

I had some flourescent pink spray paint left over from painting Brenda the Tardigrade, so into the garage went Plutarch’s head for a couple of coats.

masked

Removing the tape reveals that our currently featherless friend is going to need a little touch-up before he’s fledged. Note the difference in texture between the coated beak and the raw plastic. Nice.

final beak

Once he’s stable, functional and unlikely to short himself out, I’ll start attaching feathers, and then Plutarch 1.0 will be done and I can move on to planning Plutarch 1.5 for Halloween 2017.