Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Improvements to Wings

In one design day Tina had a visitor over from the USA called Jeff, he works at a university doing costume and design. He had recently design and built giant puppets for a promenade performance himself so he has experience with what complications I might come up against when building Kenneth the Sad Caterpillar.
I had had worries over my design for the wings and whether the structure was strong enough as well as what materials I should use and so wanted to discuss my design with him before he left to fly back home the next day. I found this to be a very lucky opportunity for me and would pick his brains for every little detail.
He had designed birds that had a wing span of eight feet that was controlled using sticks, unfortunately he did not had his designs with him so I was able to see for myself. He then drew the design he had used for his wings which turned to be quite similar to my design. He had built a structure for the whole wing because his bird would be flying horizontal where as mine only had a top half wing structure allowing gravity to pull the bottom half down. This was because my butterfly was vertical.
I then explained what the height and wing span I was hoping to get with my butterfly and that it would have the wings moving in a different way to a bird. I was also using sticks to control the wings but I needed something a little strong especially because it was going thirty feet in the air. I wanted to use stainless steel tubes that could be connected together but the weak point when having something that long would always be the join between the two tubes. What I would need to get is one long tube, which turned out that I could not get. The longest tube I could get hold of was eighteen foot; I then had to change the height of my design.
To build the structure of my wings I had been given some long strips of strong plastic which was very flexible. I showed these to Jeff to see whether they were going to be strong enough to hold the wings shape. He though that they were perfect for the job. Having a little flexibility in the wings would be better than having a ridged structure, this would allow the wings to move and bend with the wind without breaking.
I wanted the whole design to be light so I wanted to use a mesh material to make the wings so that the wind could pass through it. Jeff thought the mesh would be the lightest and easiest way to build my wings from and suggested ways of connecting the meshes together. I looked into getting different coloured plastic mesh so I would be able to create a pattern on the wings, this proved difficult because of the price and the colours I wanted. Tina found so cotton mesh that she thought would work for the wings and you could also dye the material to the colour I wanted. This meant that I could tie dye the wings so get the pattern of a butterfly wing.
After having this discussion with Jeff I was more confident with my design and felt comfortable that it would work especially now I had made improvements using Jeff’s knowledge.

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