Long distance relationships are tough, but there’s one upside—you can make a really elaborate gift for your significant other without the risk that they'll find out. Redditor gsxr93 used this to his advantage when crafting the perfect birthday present for his girlfriend. “Every summer we spend tons of time hiking and enjoying the outdoors together,” he wrote in an Imgur post. Using this as visual inspiration, he created an automata, or mechanical toy.
An automata is best known as an old-fashion plaything. The unit has one input—typically, it’s a shaft that’s rotated by hand. As it turns, the gears and cams set the toy in motion.
To create his own automata, gsxr93 started by brainstorming the design. “Visualizing how everything would move was a fun challenge,” he said. “It was also the most important part of the project.” YouTube was a big help during this step; he watched how previous projects worked then modified them for his toy. After determining the design, he built it in the program Solidworks. This allowed him to simulate motion and fine-tune the engineering. Once assembled digitally, all of the parts were 3D-printed.
The printing came out better than expected, and there was still more work to be done. But, that didn’t take away from the thrill of it all. “Simulating the project was one of the most exciting aspects of the project, gsxr93 said. “I got to see my ideas come to life. Several tweaks needed to be done to get the movements right and make sure parts were not intersecting.”
Once everything was working properly, the dedicated DIYer painted the tranquil outdoor scene of him and his girlfriend sitting at a lake. At this point, he laments that he used “cheap paint” and made his job a little harder. But the Redditor persevered and eventually got everything working properly, making small adjustments until the very end. “All in all, I’m happy with how it turned out.” And his girlfriend? “She absolutely loved it!”
To create the meaningful mechanical toy, Redditor gsxr93 sketched out a lot of ideas.
Using the program Solidworks, he designed how the automata would work.
Gsxr93 had the parts 3D printed. He then had to assemble them and get the entire thing to move seamlessly.
After getting the parts moving, it came time to paint the toy.
It took some trial and error, but afterwards, the Redditor had a working automata made especially for his girlfriend.
Here it is in motion: