My digifab final expands on the CNC assignment, using the joint that I created to make fully articulated cats, one with a screen for a face, the other with a camera that feeds the screen.  This turned out to be a pretty time consuming task.  The skeleton cat had 30 parts, plus about 15 dowels and 10 joints.  The fat cat had 20 parts and about 10 dowels and 1 joint.  The process was fairly involved, though I didn’t do much measuring or anything like that.  In the end my parts were very strange sizes and I should have done more precise measurements.  I drew the parts in my notebook and then imported them in Illustrator and live traced them, to get vectors for each drawing.

Then I imported the drawings into vector works where I added joints to the parts that needed them.

Then I exported each part as a DXF and imported them into Mastercam.  After drawing the paths for the CNC I exported NC files for the machine and cut the parts.  I spent probably between 12 and 15 hours on the CNC getting the 75 or so parts I needed.

Once I had the parts, after fixing some design problems, I beveled the edges of each part, including the dowels, which I cut on the miter saw, on the table router.  Then I sanded everything down and started putting them together.  This was tough because the piece of plywood I got was pretty janky and a lot of the pieces were not totally accurate, so some fit on the dowels perfectly, while others had to be sanded down to fit, or were too loose.  Overall, it was a bit unrealistic for the cats, which are quite large, to stand up on there own, on just the joints, because there are so many on them and they are all press fit (except for the the joints in the sides of the vertebrae pieces, which I glued and then put in a small screw to keep in place).

an early test

The electronics was actually the easiest part.  I ordered a small RCA camera and a small screen, which are both made to install in a car so you can see what’s behind you when you’re backing up.  I soldered the leads for each onto a small connection board and then soldered a 12v power adapter plug, so they can both be powered from one source, connected the RCA cables, and stuck them into place in the cat faces, where they press fit.

There isn’t a serious driving principle behind this work.  I had a strong aesthetic inspiration, that came to me after thinking a lot about the work I had been doing last semester, and my plans for a potential thesis, which could be an installation of cameras and screen embodied by animals and other creatures, all networked together.  I imagine filling the floor with my cats, with cameras and screens connected different spaces in different ways.  Not sure if that’s actually what it will look like, but it would be pretty cool.


Author: owen ribbit


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