DIY SCIENCE TOY – BALANCING DRAGONFLY

By Yu-Wen Zhang

Origin

Working on children’s toys and finding out the science behind the design has always been the ideas for designs by Wen Create Maker Room. One of our favorites are balancing toys.

This type of children’s play often comes in designs such as bird, eagle, dragonfly, butterfly type, and equilibrium figure. The materials used are often paper, bamboo, plastic, and copper, which is pretty much everything.

Bird made with paper:

Eagle made with plastic:

Equilibrium figure made with metal( http://museu.fis.uc.pt/8ingig.htm):

The following are models found on the Internet and those by Wen Create Maker Room.

Idea for design

Balancing toys are designed using leverage, moment, and shifting of the center of gravity. Among various materials and designs, our favorite is the bamboo balancing dragonfly purchased at a souvenir shop from an old street a long time ago. ( http://museu.fis.uc.pt/8ingig.htm)

As we were thinking about revisiting the store recently, we found that toys today are made using plastic instead of natural materials as in the early days. The plastic ones are designed with steel balls to keep balance, so there are often bulky shapes and angles that stand out too much, which are not that good-looking either.

We did some research and found that there are Makers sharing on the Internet that they made similar models using bamboo chopsticks and popsicle sticks.(https://blog.xuite.net/jinwen/blog/318053323-%E6%89%8B%E4%BD%9C%E5%B9%B3%E8%A1%A1%E8%9C%BB%E8%9C%93)

Inspired by that, we thought about whether similar models of this kinds could be built using laser cutting. The best part is that there is no need for gluing or post-processing with laser-cut project. The toy can go straight into assembly and work out just fine.

Design in practice

The fastest way to get started is to measure the model size based on real objects. The purpose is to have a rough idea of the size, so the specs are not too precise, as listed below:

Once we have the specs, we need to have all the numbers rounded and work on the design that allows easy disassembly and assembly. After some thought, we separated parts for wings and bodies.

A tenon added makes the assembly so much easier.

Modeling preview

If you are worried about having wrong specs or design details, it is recommended to use 3D-modeling software to run simulation first.

With successful simulation and a double-check on the specs, it is time to go with laser-cutting.

 

Assembly test

The parts made using laser cutting, as shown in the picture below, could be assembled without a manual.

 

At our first trial, some parts were a bit lighter than intended, so a magnet was added to increase the weight.

At the second trial, where the length of the wings was extended a bit, and the stability was increased at the center of gravity, and voila!

The original model v.s. the laser-cut version

Conclusion

Wen Create Maker Room is hoping that people can understand the science and ideas of application behind toys that most people are familiar with, from their design to manufacture. This, in turn, can help people learn the design process and applications with which people can make changes to their original designs.

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