Animatronic eye mechanism

by Micropuller, published

Animatronic eye mechanism by Micropuller Oct 27, 2013


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35891Views 5380Downloads Found in Robotics


I built this to see if I could create an affordable but "professional" animatronic eye mechanism.
It uses 6 Turnigy servo's (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=31574), an LM8UU linear bearing (http://reprapworld.com/?products_details&products_id=151&cPath=1655), a piece of 8mm smooth rod, some push rods and ball links, some M3 hex cap screws, a four channel radio system (minimum) and the printed parts.
All in all, anybody with access to a 3d printer could build this for less than 150 dollars.
Here's a video of the end product: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVtr4UqFMRY

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So, I'm making a 1:1 dummy using my head. Can I easily change the size of the mechanism so that it will fit inside the head?

No. You'd have to change a lot of things to get it to fit. Basically, you'd have to do a complete redesign.
It can be done though, it would look something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Eb2fKwQFsE

hi. can anyone explain or post a video if the eyes globes are rotating both up-down and left-right. While the original video is all printed in white it is hard to deduct and I see only up-down movements.

great model, thanks a lot - ready to print :-)

I have printed all the parts now and I like the setup, but I am not sure of the setup for the inside of the eyeballs and the universal joints hope you
can help

ditto. did you get this answered?

Do you still have the file for the base that is cut into two to print on smaller beds?

Do you still have the file for the base that is cut into two to print on smaller beds?

Thanks for the ideas. I have changed it and created more parts, the final result is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUM1gSby8ew

Thanks for the model!
great inspiration!

I would also be interested in the cad files, do you have the available anywhere?

I particularly like the elegance of moving the eye control motor to blink the eyes.
Would you be willing to share the design files so my Explorers Post can size the design- we are animating stuffed animals and some are smaller - I tried sizing your parts in Repetier but as you can imagine, when working with STL it sizes everything including the mounting holes. You can contact me at [email protected] or I will check if you posted them. Thanks

Hey Micropuller,

Great design! I am implementing it in a robotic dragon I am building! One question, what join did you use to connect the central shaft to the tops of the eye lids?

Apr 2, 2015 - Modified Apr 2, 2015

Hi There!

This is excellent material! Would you happen to have a Bill of Materials for this project please? I mean specifically with the different rods and misc plastic connections that are visible or implicit in the pictures. If not no worries, I can figure it out by trial and error!


Where did you get the ball joints that attach to the servos?

You can buy them in most hobbystores that sell radio controled models.

Mar 31, 2015 - Modified Mar 31, 2015
rachciav - in reply to Micropuller

Sorry I meant, where did you get those specific ball links.
I wasn't sure if there a size/type I should use. They seem to come in a few varieties.
Also, thanks for posting this file it's great!

bah i spent a fair while designing a mechanism almost the same but based on a stan winston tutorial, was really proud of it but yours is so well done i may have to go with that insted of mine, well done

Feb 24, 2015 - Modified Feb 24, 2015
Micropuller - in reply to tankboyben

Thanks for the compliment! Funny thing is: I designed this, wondering why nobody was using a 3D printer to make these. About one month later the Stan Winston tutorial came out!
To be fair, I have to say that the scale of their mechanism is more human-like. I'm currently working on a mechanism that has more natural proportions.

Absolutely brilliant. This is a excellent contribution to the open source robotics community. Thank you.

Dec 11, 2014 - Modified Dec 11, 2014

Hi Micropuller,

Would it be too much to ask if you have a diagram for connecting the electronics? I am in a high school robotics class and a really liked your design so I made an attempt at making one to put inside of a silicone face mask. Sadly, I have very little experience with animatronics, so I was wondering if you would be willing to share your wiring design.


A quick internet search for animatronic eye mechanisms will give you a ton of good info and design options. Best of luck with your project.

In the movie I have the servo's connected to an rc transmitter. You'd have to consult the manual to see in what order they should be hooked up.

Hi micropuller,

Are you a fellow dutch man ?, ( watch your you tube channel)
I must say very nice work on Animatronic eye mechanism, looks realy nice, and i whanne use it to build a complete head.

What size is are the eyes ? and between the center to center of eyes, it is a bit bigger than human scale or not ?
when not human scal, is there a way to scale down to human size /

Thanks, john oomen

Hi John,

Yes, I'm from the Netherlands.
The eyes are about 50mm in diameter, the whole mechanism is oversized (wasn't really paying attention to that, I just wanted to see if it would work)
Downscaling could work to some degree. All the holes for the servo's, bearings and screws would be too small, so you'd have to redesign them. Also, if you scale it down too far, you'd probably have trouble getting enough freedom of motion.

I'd like to ask - at what position did you print the eyeballs? I've tried "open side up" and couldn't get the internal wire attachment points to work with turning on supports - with the supports on, the outer surface was too rough. Tried open side down, but lost out on the inner detail. Hope I'm missing something simple. Nice project, by the way.

I printed the eyeballs open side down. I had to experiment with support until it only printed a "pillar" in the middle (beneath the flat surface to which the U-joint connects) and some support beneath the attachment points you mentioned.
Thanks for the compliment and good luck printing it!

Gotcha - I tried that, but the u-joint surface gave me problems. Then, I printed open side up, used Simplify3D to put custom supports around the bottom and then under the two attachment points. That worked, but left some rough texture around the center of the eye due to the supports - Now that I'm into custom supports, I'll try again open side down. How did you attach the u-joint to the platform inside the eye? I see the holes, but don't know how to attach - I can glue, but I think you had another idea.

Thanks again,


I used cut-offs from the steering rods and cyanoacrylate glue. First I glued two pieces of rod (about 6-8mm long) into the holes in the U-joint. Then I put some glue on the base of the U-joint (and the part of pins sticking out of it) and glued it inside the eyeball. The pins are there to act as guides and get the U-joint positioned exactly on center.

Aug 3, 2014 - Modified Aug 3, 2014

I designed some new eyelids that make the mechanism look more realistic. The STL can be found in the downloadable files.
The mechanism can be controlled using a 4 channel transmitter/receiver, a microcontroller or a computer running a program like Visual Show Automation by Brookshire software.

To be sure I'm seeing it right: the servo in the middle on the rail is used for rotating both the top and bottom eyelids up and down with the eyes movement. The one in the back moving the rail itself is for the blinking and surprise actions, forcing both top and bottom eyelids together.
The two servos with the arms on top move the eyes left and right while the two with arms on bottom move the eye up and down.
Do I have this correct?

Also, is the programming for this available? (or have a recommendation on how to set it up for a non-programmer person?)

Congratulation! Nice work!

I did get it figured out!
Thanks so much! I am looking forward to making this!

Hi. Could you please share any hints on how you were able to view the eyelids file? Mine shows as 0kb and when I try to open it with my STL Viewer program, it says "Index was outside the bounds of the array". Seems that the file should not be 0kb. Thanks for any help on this! :)

Altough there's no preview for the file, it downloads just fine (I tested it by opening directly with Netfabb and downloading it and opening it with Repetier Host) Please try again and let me know if you still have problems.

Howdy! This looks great.. I would love to print it.. but the eyelid file is blank :(
If there is anyway for you to re-add the eyelids to the thing file - it would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for putting together such a great project!

The base just fit the build platform of my MendelMax. If yours is smaller, you might try using Welwell's remix: http://www.thingiverse.com/make:52700http://www.thingiverse.com/mak...

Animatronic eye mechanism
by welwell

how did you print the base ?

I love this! I want to get into doing puppets, and this is awesome! I hope to have something cool for next Halloween.

A totally professional-looking job - well done indeed!

semplicemente fantastico! complimenti!

="thingiverse-b8350cc348bb078b75742d7cc09f5b25:disqus" href="http://disqus.com/thingiverse-b8350cc348bb078b75742d7cc09f5b25/Citystars; it would be possible to make it for just 1 eye by just cutting the baseplate down the middle. But it would mean relocating the servo that moves the bearing/servo assembly.
="thingiverse-fb6813b7c7387e4e8a9ee0448c0f6a17:disqus" href="http://disqus.com/thingiverse-fb6813b7c7387e4e8a9ee0448c0f6a17/nero32; I used an rc transmitter/reciever, as it allowed me to mix the servo that provides the up/down movement with the servo that controls the blinking.
="thingiverse-781a5b9b1037727527423ddb406a47a7:disqus" href="http://disqus.com/thingiverse-781a5b9b1037727527423ddb406a47a7/Oldmicah; the eyelids are controlled by 2 servo's. One moves both sets of eyelids up and down and is mixed with the servo that moves the eyeballs up and down. That way, if the eyeballs move up, the eyelids follow automatically. The second servo moves the servo that controls the eyelids, thus creating the blinking motion. I used separate servo's for the left and right eye for ease of assembly. If you wanted, you could link both eyes and use only 2 servos for the up/down and left/right motion.

Very cool!!! What RC transmitter/receiver did you use?

You pulled this of with amazingly few parts and I think I'm going to do one for next Halloween! Ignorant question though (and our party was last night so I'm still a little fuzzy minded) but why are you using separate motors for the upper and lower eyelids? The video looks like they are moving in concert, so I'm not quite getting it.

Again, many many thanks for posting. Very inspirational!

great work. do you use a arduino for the servos ?

Very nice. Would it also be possible if you could make a smaller version only for one eye?