Lightning McQueen Alive--Production Sample - The Lightning McQueen Alive 1:55 scale animated car is a product that I and an associate worked on earlier this year.
One of the most important features of the car is the moving mouth, and my associate created a mouth that has a flexible silicone surround. This allows the mouth, teeth and jaw to move very realistically.
We built three versions of the car, to first prove that the animations could be done and that they looked good, and then to finally squeeze all the animations into one car.
McQueen Alive prototypes - The Mattel-Disney Lightning McQueen Alive toy was prototyped by myself and an associate. He created the mechanical design, including the suspension, eyes, flexible silicone mouth and teeth, and I designed and programmed the animation electronics.
This version has two cars, each demonstrating half of the animations. Car 1 (on the left) has the functional mouth, while Car 2 has working eyes and body lean/wheel steering. In Version 3, we combined everything into a single working prototype.
McQueen Alive prototype, Version 3 - This view shows the miniaturized servos and mechanisms we installed in the car's body. We actually rebuilt micro servos to make them even smaller, so they would fit into the extremely tight internal spaces.
The mouth servo is under the hood; I needed binocular magnifiers to do the electronics installation and soldering.
The production model is a miracle of minaturization--and it doesn't need an external box of electronics to animate it. And, they added working headlights!
McQueen Alive prototype, Version 3 - This third version model was fully functional, with all functions of the proposed product demonstrable in a single car. The car had an animated mouth, working side to side caster steering and body lean, moving eyes, an internal speaker, and motor-driven rear wheels.
The control electronics were the only element that was external to the car's body. A 7 wire umbilical cable connected the car to the electronic control system.
Bruno the Bad Dog, production toy - My primary contributions to this product were to design the sounds and sound system in the truck itself, the hood design, and some mechanism design work.
The small speaker was mounted in a tuned internal chamber to get the most volume, bass response, and efficiency. Special louvers were cut into the hood, to offer minimal resistance to the passage of sound.
The results were startling sound volume, great bass response, and excellent efficiency.
Caster steering system - The truck was steered by the user tugging a plastic chain from side to side; this caused the truck's steering system to caster left and right in the direction of the chain tension. The truck would then turn in the direction the chain was being pulled--sort of like walking a dog. Sort of.
Bruno, growling - The big reveal of this toy was when the chain was pulled back at the right angle, the truck would rear up on its rear wheels, the mouth would open, and an engine revving sound effect would transition into a pretty faithful Rottweiler growl. If you weren't expecting it, it was pretty startling-and loud.
The sound chip had only 3 seconds of capacity, so I used a quarter-second of looped sound for idle and engine run sounds. That left 2.5 seconds for the dramatic rev-to-growl sound--just enough.
Bruno hood with louvers - The twelve louver openings were created with simple shut-offs in the mold. The speaker is directly under the louvers, so it sounds very loud. In fact, it was near the maximum allowable sound level for a toy, so I considered the sound design and speaker system a definite success.
Pixel Chix Year 1 - I designed the basic programming for the first year of this toy, as well as contributing several of the features of the toy; one of my favorites is the Weather Window, which shows you what the weather is like "outside" the house, and influences what the Pixel Chix should wear.
The programming for this toy was difficult to do in a text-based flowchart system; the next year we switched to a visually-based system pioneered by a fellow designer. Thanks, Dom...great job!
Liv Twist & Dance doll--mechanism prototype - This is the prototype mechanism model for the Spin Master Liv doll Twist & Dance series. The objective here was to create a mechanism that gave as much movement as possible to the doll's torso and head when the legs were pushed and pulled.
I worked closely with the sculptor to create a special body shape that could realistically pivot at the hips and torso area.
While the production model's mechanism is somewhat different, this model is the original approved mechanism prototype.
Real Talkin' Bubba production model - A photo of the Real Talkin' Bubba production model. Thanks to advanced programming techniques, the prototype Bubba looked almost exactly like the production model, requiring no umbilical or remote processor.
This made testing very simple, since no extraneous equipment was needed to operate the prototype.
An enhanced try-me mode was added on the fly to production models.
See the flowchart in the "Flowcharts" section to get an idea of how complex this product really is.
Solar Eagle III Hot Wheels car - Because of my interest in solar and alternative energy, i was asked to work with Cal State LA to create a Hot Wheels version of their Solar Eagle III vehicle.
The Hot Wheels version of the Solar Eagle III was very well received by the faculty and students of Cal State L.A., so I think we did our job well. Their car went on to win the 1997 Sunrayce against very tough competition.
Due to the wheel and chassis design, it will always roll straight (unlike a regular Hot Wheels car!).
Solar Eagle III Hot Wheels car - The real car's solar array is made of advanced solar cells that are nearly black, so we used a bit of artistic license here. We created a solar panel color that looks more like a typical solar cell you might find on a roof or a satellite--the blue-silver color of polysilicon.
Fine mold machining gave us the almost-scale grid that shows the individual 4 X 4 inch cells on the top surface of the car.
Our attention to this type of detail was well appreciated by the staff at Cal State L.A.
Legends To Life - CadZZilla - The Boyd Coddington-built CadZZilla was a natural for the Legends To Life product line, as it had several unique features that we could animate.
By using a special multi-pin electrical connector, the car could easily be removed from the base with no trailing wires or connectors. It could be replaced on the base in seconds.
CadZZilla model - I had this model built of fastcast resin to my specifications, and I then designed and installed the animation systems in it. The features included working headlights, taillights/brake lights, instrument and radio lights, exhaust pipes that flash in sync with engine speed, an engine that vibrates in relation to the audio engine note, and remote opening doors and hood.
I worked with our electronics engineer to program the car's functions (this was before I started programming).
CadZZilla-both doors open - The doors on the CadZZilla were designed to be remotely opened only a crack, enough to get a finger in to open them fully, just like the remote-released doors on the full size CadZZilla. This shot shows the doors fully opened.
A special bi-directional gearbox would either open the doors or hood. Magnetic latches held the doors and hood shut.
CadZZilla-doors and hood open - The hood had a remote release very similar to the doors; this shows it almost fully open. The base unit had a four-track tape and deck that read all of the tracks at the same time. The system could switch between tracks to let the user control certain features, or could do it automatically in a demonstration mode. A dedicated audio track could play feature content, such as interviews with the designer, owner, and so on..
CadZZilla-side/rear view - The system was designed to be as flexible as possible with a programmed four-track audio tape, as large-capacity audio chips were still very expensive at the time this project was proposed.
Real sounds from the real car were included on the tape, as complete authenticity was a major point of the whole project.
Legends To Life - Twin Mill - The Twin Mill's working features were twin shaking engines, powered raise and lower of the rear canopy, sequential taillights, and flashing exhaust pipes, as well as the standard L2L audio sound effects.
I proposed, designed and built the Twin Mill L2L animation mechanisms into the prototype model. The twin engines were shaken by a special magnetically linked mechanism through the floor of the base, so there was no visible mechanism or contact.
Legends To Life - Don Prudhomme's Snake - This is Don Prudhomme's Snake, a 1/24 scale animated L2L die-cast car. I designed and built the prototype model.
The body raises briefly to show the engine, with rotating engine parts and blower belt. The Christmas Tree staging lights flash the countdown; then the lights turn green and the Snake pops a wheelie as the rear slicks screech and spin.
The base includes a digitally mastered tape of real dragster sounds, and the animated features can be activated by the tape, or by themselves.
Legends To Life - Kyle Petty's #44 NASCAR Pontiac Grand Prix
Thiunder Tracker front view - This was a small treaded vehicle prototype I built for a proposed product line. I wanted to have a unique feature, so I decided to see if the treads could pivot relative to the body, while still being driven by a common axle.
Thunder Tracker climbing over obstacle - This photo shows the starboard tread assembly pivoting to assist the vehicle in climbing over an obstacle.
As it turned out, the pivoting tread concept did work very well. A pair of wheels on a short arm was added to the rear of the vehicle to control its tendency to pitch up when the treads were under load--the torque of the gearbox would tend to pull the vehicle's nose up, and the wheels stopped this from getting extreme.
Thunder Tracker climbing over obstacle 2 - The tread modules were preloaded by torsion springs to keep the body level when the vehicle was running on flat surfaces. It was possible to build a drive motor into each tread module, but it would have taken too much time.
It would have been a simple matter to control the treads differentially with the two motors to allow turning; control of the motors would be via a wired control or an RF or IR transmitter.
The clear canopy was hinged at its upper rear edge to allow it to pivot upwards.
Luminous parts of the Construx Building System - I contributed the concept of making luminous parts for the Construx building system, as well as the zinc sulfide powder to make them possible. Mixing the luminous powder into clear casting resin made producing the sample parts an easy matter.
This photo is way overexposed to emphasize the luminous bits, but they still did look great in a darkened room. The casting area for the parts looked incredible with the lights off, as every tiny chip and fragment glowed--thousands of them.
Barbie Real Talkin' Pet prototype - This model used radio-control technology to simulate the functionality of the production model. A simple model, the head was moved from side to side via one servo, while the front legs were moved up and down in opposite directions via another servo operating a miter gear differential.
The original model was operated directly by radio control. The real complexity of this product involved programming the production model, which is covered in the Flowcharts For Products section.
AutoChron wireless switch timer - I designed this wall switch timer for my father, who invented and patented it several years ago. The device mounts over a wall switch and turns it on and off automatically by mechanically flipping the switch toggle.
While it's not what I would consider a groundbreaking design, it's at least fairly innocuous. And, it is being made (and sold) now, so it is a production design.
View of timer with battery door open - You can see the backwards C-shaped slide clip that fits over the switch toggle in this shot. That is the way to mchanically disengage the timer from the switch, so you can move the toggle manually.
Preschool Build-A-Vehicle Set - This was a prototype of a modular construction set that let the user mix and match different bodies, wheels, cabs, and other vehicular components to build realistic or fantasy vehicles. Since the proposed material was a structural foam, the vehicle parts were projected to be able to float in water, which enhanced the playpattern as a water toy.
The model was made of foam and styrene, finished to look like molded structural foam.
Micro Explorer prototype - I've always been a big fan of science toys, and I've been able to design and build some concepts that made it to production. I had an idea about a microscope that you could use with prepackaged slides, but was small enough to take with you and look at things anywhere you wanted to.
While you could hold the microscope right against or over something to look at it, I thought it would also be interesting to provide plastic slides that had 16MM film encased in the slides.
Micro Explorer set in case - The film would have really good, color microphotographs of interesting subjects that the microscope could also look at, so you wouldn't have to hunt for subjects to look at when you opened the box.
The stand included with the microscope would hold the slides; since the microscope also had a light, the stand had a little mirror to reflect the light back up through the slides.
You could also make your own slides, as the set came with some blank ones, too.
Micro Explorer prototype set showing all parts - The kids we tested the prototype with went a little nuts, searching for bugs to squash and look at, or dumping out salt shakers to look at the cubical crystals.
It was a little scary. Guess we should have checked to see if they had eaten any candy bars before the test.
But, they really liked the toy, and it was selected for production. Unfortunately, I left the company at that point, and I was not able to design the production toy, which is why it looks kinda...well, um, chunky.
Production toy sample - So, it made it to production, but I still wish that I had had a chance to design the production toy.