Hello WALL-E!

I’ve been working on a robotics project (off and on) for the past 5 years, specifically this little guy here. It has proven to be quite a challenge because the animators that designed WALL-E weren’t really concerned with silly details like the laws of physics or that law that says you can’t be in two places at once. Some of WALL-E’s movements and his appendage/apparatus juxtapositions would require TARDIS-like capabilities to achieve. Undaunted, I launched headlong into my pet project.

Being a long-time R/C model airplane enthusiast, I naturally started fabricating WALL-E using model airplane building techniques; balsawood, plywood and glue. Some rust paint and metal effects, then throw in a bunch of servos and linkages, and this is the result:

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Ta-daa! as WALL-E would say. The completed head assembly is about 35cm long and weighs nearly 2Kg. Besides the six servos that control his eyebrows, head droop, head nod and turn, the head contains a PIR motion sensor and milliwatt laser. I figured the laser would be great fun for driving the family cat crazy.

Of course I had to be able to move the head up and down, just like the “real thing” but fabricating the lift mechanism and finding a servo powerful enough to move the whole thing, would prove to be a challenge.

Instead I decided to focus on building the body. Since my goal is to make WALL-E move just like the “real thing”, the arms had to be able to slide forwards and backwards and up/down. I decided that front to back sliding arms would be sufficiently like the “real thing” and didn’t include up/down sliders – that would just complicate things too much and stretch out the project timeline which was already way behind.

You can also see the sliders for the neck assembly at the top of the body. These may or may not be in the final version depending on how massive the head and neck assembly are. I’m afraid if I try to slide the head back and forth the whole thing may just topple over – we’ll see…

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