A serpentine labyrinth of electromechanical instruments plays through a robotic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” by throwing rocks at aluminum keys, slapping them with fake leather, and making them vibrate against marble. Artist and robotics pioneer Neil Mendoza has created a literal Rock Band in his latest installation of DIY instruments. Much like his Electric Knife Orchestra, Mendoza’s multi-pronged apparatus reproduces different sections of a popular song through one of a kind robotic mechanisms designed using Autodesk Fusion 360 and Autodesk Inventor.
There are four core members in Mendoza’s Rock Band: the pinger, the spinner, the slapper, and the buzzer. Each instrument is controlled by a computer running a midi player written in openFrameworks in communication with a Teensy USB-based microcontroller. The first instrument heard in the video is the pinger, a xylophone-like instrument that shoots small rocks at aluminum keys using a set of tightly packed metallic coils called solenoids. Next is the spinner, a device that catapults magnetic hematite at pieces of marble by spinning magnets around using applied motion-stepper motors. The slapper is a relatively simple concept involving a rotating motor that’s been fixed with sample slices of fake leather. As the motor begins to spin, the slabs of leather fan out and smack the side of a rock creating a distinct flapping noise. Then there’s the buzzer, which has to be one of the more bizarre sounding instruments in the ensemble. The device causes the plunger of a solenoid to vibrate against a piece of marble, producing this persistent whining zipper noise.
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Watch it all in action below:
If you ever have the urge to create a pinger of your own, the artist made an Instructables page that shows you how. Neil Mendoza’s Rock Band project was made as part of Autodesk’sartist in residence program. Check out more of Mendoza’s work on his website.