Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Now with more beer flavor

Bender's cigar needed a band to be complete.  I thought the Man Skirt Brewing Co. logo would be appropriate.

The finished product will be in full color, but I'm quite happy with how the test print came out.

Maybe a little larger-than-life, but hey, he's a beer dispensing robot from the future.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Give that robot a cigar!

While the PVC cigar was pretty nice, I couldn't come up with a good way to mount it to Bender's face.  Then, again in my pile of junk, I found a set of extendible aluminum legs originally from a set of Rock Band drums.  These would be perfect!  I took apart the plastic clamp part and modified and shortened them to fit properly on Bender's mouth.  I later painted them white to blend in.

You can see here how the plastic clamp passes through Bender's mouth and is secured with the locking ring on the outside.  The cigar is held in place with a locking cam lever.

Quite the smile, yes?  Looks creepy without eyes...

Here's the final cigar.  I built up the shape of the cigar with electrical tape, making a bulge in the middle.  I painted the end red and covered the body with brown fabric tape to make it look like a cigar.  I took apart the picnic tap and painted the parts grey so they would look like the ask on the end of the cigar and perhaps a wisp of smoke.

And here's what he looks like today!  Next up is working on the arms and hands.

Cigar idea, part deux

So that was the first few incarnations of the cigar + faucet dispensing method: the faucet has a hose attached that runs through the cigar and comes out the tip.  Not really the best idea for many reasons.

Finally my brain started working and I installed a picnic tap right in the end of the cigar.  This puts the valve right at the point the beer is being dispensed and has the benefit of being super-simple.  Oh, and it works.

I used some foam to hold everything in place.

The new and improved Bender cigar!  Notice I've swapped out the PVC pipe eyes for something a little more Bender-esque.


Well, brain surgery at least.  Since the electrical version didn't work, we're going back to mechanical beer dispensing methods.  Here I'm attempting to make Bender's antenna function like a tap handle.  This requires some linkage to get down to the lower head where the beer tap lives.  I made up a home made brain auger for the job.

Here is the antenna in the normal position...

And the GIVE ME BEER position.

I made the whole beer dispensing apparatus as a slide-out unit for ease of maintenence and cleaning.  It lives inside a piece of PVC pipe.

The fairly complicated and ineffective first try at linkage.  A cable ran over a pulley and activated the lever.

A later incarnation used a much simpler design, with a steel rod pulling on the lever attached to the tap.  It turns out this didn't work very well, either. On to plan C!

You can see the hinge and magnetic latch I added to Bender's mouth so it swings open to give me access to his noggin.

Epic beer pour fail video

I had the idea to make Bender dispense beer using an electrical switch and a solenoid.  I purchased an NSF-certified solenoid valve and built a Frankenstein-esuqe setup to actuate it via a doorbell button.  My plan was to have the button in one of his fingers and the beer come out another.

It turns out the orafice in the solenoid valve was much too small and convoluted, forcing the CO2 to come out of solution and pouring a glass of foam.  This idea was eventually scrapped.

Getting our color on, part 2

First coat of color getting sprayed on!  I ended up applying 3 coats of latex enamel.

NOW it looks like Bender!  I turned the shoulder donuts from some scrap wood.

Color my, Bender

Time to start getting some paint on Mr. Bender.  I shot the first coats of white latex primer.  I used Kilz, a mildew-resistant primer in the hopes it would be a little tougher in the face of beer than most.

Starting to look like something now!  The eyes are just 4" PVC pipe couplers in there for placeholders.

I found some Velcro straps in my archive of junk and they're perfect for strapping the portable CO2 tank to the keg.

Here's what it looks like in his head - this shot is taken through his mouth.  A tight fit, but everything is safely inside.

And here he is posing with me so you can get a sense of scale.  He's almost life-sized!  He followed me to his first party shortly after this was taken.

In the head department

Time to get back to work on that Bender noggin!  I glued the concrete tube into holes cut in the base.  I cut a notch out of the back for the gauges to sit and hoses to come through.  The whole thing got wet out with polyester resin to waterproof it.

Starting to fiberglass his face.  The spray adhesive held the 'glass pieces in place, then they were wet out with resin.  The entire structure was covered in fiberglass for strength and waterproofing.  The face will make or break the look, so I was careful to double check everything as I went.

The beer is a necessary component of the process.

And here he is all 'glassed in.  He's sitting on top of a lazy Susan made into an impromptu turntable.

At the lathe I turned an antenna.  The top of the head also got a few extra layers of fiberglass, since I figure people will be yanking on the antenna any chance they get.

I've started adding the body filler here to help smooth out some of the lumps and bumps.  I'm not going for perfection, just to get it pretty smooth.

After much filling and sanding, Bender looks like a soldier with a bandaged head would.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The eyes have it!

Getting the eye pod in proportion and in the right part of the head was a challenge.  Technically the head is actually a little short, but when I proportioned it exactly from a picture it looked all wrong.  I guess cartoons don't always translate precisely to real life!

I'm just mocking everything up here, holding the eyes in place with some tape.  Once I had them there I could not stop giggling at it :)

Here is my portable paintball tank and regulator from  This will provide the CO2 pressure to push the beer out of the keg and into your glass.

This is how I originally envisioned the tank and reg would hang.

After that it was time for a little fiberglass work!  I started with the bottom of the tub.

Here it is all wet out with polyester resin.  This should seal it up against water.

It is so tough to get a head in this world.

I chucked up the baseplate for Bender's head on the lathe to turn it precisely round.  MDF is the absolute worst to turn on the lathe.  The dust is a nightmare.

You can see here how the two discs will go together to index the head properly to the body.

I used a 10" concrete form for the head.  It turned out to be almost perfectly to scale with the body.  I drew on Bender's face to give myself a good giggle ;)

Pink foam went on next to block out the neck area and head dome.  I rough cut them into circles and stuck everything together with spray adhesive.

Back to the lathe to shape things out.  I used a coarse autobody rasp to shave the foam down.  I mounted the head dome on an MDF plate and turned that separately.

And here we are after coarse shaping.  Test fitting the keg to make sure it still fits!  It's really starting to look like something now...

Insulation Installation

Time to use the expanding foam to fill the space between the inner and outer liners.  I stuffed a garbage can in the top to keep it round and some foam blocks around the outside to keep things centered.

Next I had to get the spray foam to the bottom of the can somehow.  So I attached a long hose to the nozzle and used a dowel to poke it down to the bottom.  Worked great, and I was able to fill the gap pretty easily.

Here's what it looked like when I was done.  I stuck a keg in there so you can get an idea of the scale.  It's OK that the keg sticks out - the beer is drawn from the bottom, so as long as the lower 18" or so is kept ice cold, we'll get cold beer.

Time to break out the power tools

And so begins construction.  First order of business was to cut the mounting ring off the sump basin.  My trusty jigsaw made short work of that and the mounting lugs.

Next was rough cutting some MDF rings that would serve as the lid and base of Bender's head.  I cut these out with the bandsaw.

I decided that I wanted his body to be insulated, so the ice would last longer.  I needed an inner liner of some sort so I started wandering around my garage.

Ah HA!  A leaf bag funnel was a perfect fit inside.  Now to make it work...

The bottom has to be sealed up so water doesn't seep in there.  I had a disc lying around the shop that was a perfect fit.  I snapped that in place...

Followed by a ring of heavy pink foam insulation.  I used expanding foam to hold everything in place and put a big weight on top to hold it while the foam dried.